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Playtech Poker - Part 2 of our interview with Geoff Hall

You were also involved in the development of the new Playtech online poker rooms.

Q: What exactly was your role in the development of the new Playtech online poker rooms?

A: I organized and managed a team of experienced poker players which assisted in the development of the poker software as well as advising Playtech on programming guidelines needed for general issues such as marketing and anti-collusion.

Q: If you would compare the new Playtech poker rooms to established brands like PartyPoker.com or PokerStars.com, do you think Playtech has the potential to become a major player in online poker? Or has Playtech missed an opportunity by introducing their poker software only recently, compared to brands like Microgaming and Cryptologic/Wagerlogic who are already operating online poker rooms successfully for a long time?

A: I feel that Playtech are in the position whereby they have to draw players from other sites due to them starting later than most of their competitors. Although this increases the difficulty of the task in hand, Playtech have got the benefit of having a huge database of players from their existing clients and are renowned for their high quality of software graphics. If you couple this with the extensive programming knowledge that they possess then I believe that it will just be a matter of time before Playtech become a major force in the online poker industry.

Q: One of your specific assignments in the Playtech poker project was poker collusion. How bad is the problem of collusion in online poker in general, and what specific measures has Playtech implemented to minimize this problem in their poker software?

A: Collusion is apparent at most levels of online poker and is performed in various degrees online. Some collusion cannot be detected by players at the table so it is important that these types are identified by a support team who has access to all of the hands played.

The team at Playtech consists of highly experienced poker professionals who analyze any suspicious play that is brought to their attention either by players’ complaints or a special software program that has been devised.

I cannot be too specific but I can say that the collusion detection methods involve both the analysis of play as well as incorporating mathematical calculations to construct a player profile. There are also several other factors, common to colluders, that are interpreted by the program and these are added to specific cases in order to create a full picture of a particular player, or players.

Q: How does customer service respond to reports of collusion?  If multiple sites use the software, is it different on each site, or do they all report to the same call center?

A: They all report to the same call center and each site corresponds with the players after receiving our analysis.  We do not talk directly to the players so all communication from players is done via their respective website.

Q: Why does your site care about stopping collusion?  After all, these people pay the rake just like the rest of the players.

A: We feel that players deserve a fair chance when they play on our sites.  Collusion is a form of cheating or getting an unfair advantage over other players and our aim is to stop these players from using unfair tactics.  Yes, we still receive rake from these players but we feel that it is far more important to eliminate this style of play so that regular players can enjoy the games without the fear of being cheated.

Q: What is done when players are caught?

A: We have to be certain that players are colluding and this may take several occurrences before we are satisfied beyond any reasonable doubt.  Depending on the frequency or type of collusion that has been performed we will take various actions and steps to warn the player leading to blocking the player's account if the collusion is serious or persists. 

Q: Did you enjoy working for Playtech, and are you involved in any current or planned projects with regard to Playtech's poker rooms?

A: Yes, my involvement with Playtech has been very enjoyable mainly due to their high motivation aimed at this project as well as the great atmosphere that exists within the team. We have come a long way, since we first started, and I realize that there is still a fair way to go. Knowing that you have the backing of a large and successful online organization gives you the confidence to look more optimistically at the future. My current plans are to keep up the involvement with the current team in order to provide the best poker software out there.

The future …? No definite plans as yet, I have to keep my options open due to my other activities and the possible feedback that comes from them, but I would like to think that Playtech will always play a part in my future considerations.

This interview continues with Part 3 - Future projects.

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