Much has been said about the new online poker site, 4Poker. Well, on second thought, scratch that. Not too much has actually been said about the site within the poker media sphere or as part of water cooler talk on social media, and that’s kind of puzzling to me. Rather, much has indeed been said in recent months about the site’s founder, Bryn Kenney. Naturally, there is a lot to say about the longtime poker pro, and rumor has it that there’s even a documentary in the pipeline about him. But the online poker site that he founded, 4Poker, is much more than just a product for him to be the front man for.
As I noted in a recent op-ed, a very talented, experienced team of professionals in the online poker space have collaborated to produce a first-rate online poker offering, and that – for some reason – doesn’t seem to be generating as much buzz as it ought to be.
For a closer look at the online poker site itself, I invite you to check out our 4Poker room review. But that’s not what this particular op-ed is about. I wanted to know more about the people who’ve “made the site happen” and their approach to running an online poker site.
4Poker: Making a Name for Itself
The challenge of any new online poker site, especially in a crowded field that includes numerous household names and legacy operators, is to distinguish themselves and stand out from that aforementioned crowd. Pointedly, over the last few months, the team at 4Poker has produced a dozen top-quality videos that demonstrate what the site is about, how it will operate, and the unique selling points (USPs) that make it different than the other online poker sites out there. I believe those videos are quite instructive as to the team’s overall approach, and they go a long way towards demonstrating the extent to which 4Poker is about far more than “just” Bryn Kenney.
A Model of Openness and Transparency
The first video in the “Inside 4Poker series” features an interview with the company’s CEO, Heath Cram, as well as a shorter secondary chat with their Director of Marketing Tom Lenihan. At almost nine minutes long, that’s about a third of the total length of the 12-part video series. It’s also the most must-see of the lot.
The video series began being released six months ago and on camera they’re talking about how the company started its journey two years prior. So, while they’re a just-launched online poker room, their team has been working on creating 4Poker for 2.5 years now. More than half a dozen of the company’s key employees, from CEO on down to the Directors of Marketing, Legal Affairs, Regulatory Affairs, Customer Experience, Payment Processing, and others feature in the interviews, which were conducted by veteran poker broadcaster Matthew Broughton.
4Poker’s Founding: Going Retro but with a Modern Twist
To bring a good idea to life, it takes enough people who believe in it enough to put their money where their mouths are. Kenney recruited “30-40 professional poker players” as the site’s initial investors. The team of poker industry professionals they recruited has “a combined over 150 years of experience” among them.
4Poker is based out of the Isle of Man, and — perhaps fittingly — the outfit is staffed by a number of ex-PokerStars employees. These are primarily folks who used to work at PokerStars way back in the days when it was a private company owned by the Scheinbergs; i.e., what veterans of our industry call and fondly remember as “the good old days.” Many of those folks took breaks from working in poker, and it would seem that to a degree “they got the band back together” to launch 4Poker.
Much like the 4Poker site has a classic look and feel, so does the team behind it; and they’re working towards propelling the site into prominence with today’s technology. Unlike the early days of Wild West online poker, the industry is now a mature one and there are plenty of excellent sites out there. Thus, the 4Poker team are seeking to distinguish themselves at first primarily by being the most generous with rakeback and deposit bonuses.
4Poker’s Overarching Promise: Players First, Always
It’s no secret that when it comes to online gambling on the whole, the money to be made (by a company) from offering online poker pales in comparison to what they could make from other verticals such as online casino and sports betting. It’s “only natural” then that, as the years have ticked by, more and more online poker sites have become part of a greater online gambling megabrand. The purity of a “poker first” focus and mentality has steadily been eroded, and that’s something I dearly miss from “back in the good old days.”
4Poker, as a standalone online poker site, is by definition different. Its sole focus is poker, and everyone working for the company plays poker and is genuinely passionate about the game. How lovely it will be to not incessantly be cross-sold to other gambling verticals!
The 4Poker team has the luxury and opportunity to “do things right” and truly develop a site that’s “by players and for players.” And that’s precisely what they’re promising to do in a number of key ways that set them apart as an extremely player-friendly site, including:
- A commitment to never charging for making deposits or withdrawals, with ultra-quick transaction processing
- Players will have a voice via the 4Poker 4Forum; this establishes a two-way communication channel where the company can directly respond to and cater to what the players want
- They have a player advisory board acting as the unofficial ombudsman, ensuring that management will staying true to player values
- Enhanced responsible gaming features, including offering self-imposed deposit limits, format exclusion, and self-exclusion periods. Players can also track their spending as they’ll have access to their own profit/loss data.
- They’re launching their flagship 4Poker Series of tournaments with ambitious guarantees and full knowledge they’re likely to miss. The team realizes: if you build it, they will come — and in the meantime, “early adopters will have a sweat at some free money.”
Having watched the Inside 4Poker video series, I couldn’t help but be reminded of when PokerStars released their Inside PokerStars video series about eight years back. It represented the first time an online poker operator took us behind the scenes to give players a greater and fuller understanding of how they operate and their approach to poker.
Reviews of the Inside PokerStars video series were universally positive, and those videos served to win many hearts and minds among poker players. It’s a wonder that no other online poker operator ever produced a bespoke video series about their own brands.
But perhaps most notably and admirably, 4Poker produced their Inside 4Poker series and shared it with the public before even launching! They’ve realized their main challenge that lies ahead, of trying to lure poker players in a mature market. They realize they need to stand out, be transparent, and be crystal clear about what their site will offer players, and the company’s modus operandi.
And the folks behind the scenes have clearly understood the recipe for success. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel. There’s already a formula for what will work. Should they stick to this formula and stay true to their stated principles, I have no doubt that legions of online poker players will find themselves competing at the 4Poker virtual felts in the not too distant future.