POKER LIFESTYLE

Interview with WPT Global President Alex Scott

Alex Scott

Over the course of my 45-minute discussion with WPT Global President Alex Scott, he talks about a host of online poker topics, including:

  • The goals of WPT Global’s owners
  • To what end company ownership is prepared to invest big, allow tournament overlays, etc.
  • Alex’s front-and-center role as company President and spokesperson
  • The type of feedback the company is getting from players, and what they do with said feedback
  • The company structure and how it’s grown to over 100 employees since starting up in late 2021
  • The poker game products offered on WPT Global and which additional ones they’re developing internally
  • Online poker security, “bug bounties”, and the nuts and bolts of how online poker software functions
  • Alex sharing his honest and open praise and thoughts about competitor companies in the online poker space.

Alex Scott Interview (Summarized Transcript)

For this interview, I have the pleasure of speaking with an old friend, someone I’ve known for over seven years now. It’s Alex Scott, the President of WPT Global.

Alex has a couple of decades under his belt in the poker industry, with previous stints at the World Poker Tour, PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, Microgaming, and now at the helm of operations at WPT Global. Some of you might remember that Alex has also contributed a couple articles to Cardplayer Lifestyle before… but here’s perhaps a little-known nugget – he’s also the author of the book What I know About Poker published way back in 2010. Well, I suppose it’s time to learn the answer to that question. Alex, thanks for joining me 😊

WPT Global Profitability and Mission Statement

You said in an interview on the Chip Race Podcast that part of the reason you agreed to take this job is you saw that “ownership was willing to spend tens of millions of dollars to make WPT Global a success”. To the best of your estimation, what could you speak to as the approach of company ownership besides obviously aiming to turn a profit and make money? The online casino vertical, for instance, is known to be far more lucrative than online poker. So, what’s the overarching goal?

AS: The owners of WPT Global play high-stakes poker very regularly and are genuinely passionate about the game, unlike the owners of many of our current competitors in the space. Many online poker site owners don’t even know what to do with their poker businesses right now; case in point, Entain is looking for a buyer with partypoker.

Our founders want to contribute to the growth of the game and want to improve the way online poker is played. They’re prepared to invest heavily in that happening. Our owners have already spent a LOT more than €20 million in the pursuit of these goals.

What can you tell us about WPT Global’s ownership? Whomever is sitting at the top of the mountain seems to prefer being out of the spotlight. Why is that, considering that their goals are genuinely noble and honorable?

AS: There’s no nefarious reasons for their wishing to remain private. I think it’s inevitable that there will be more transparency in the future, as we enter more regulated markets, this is something that will eventually be required. But for now, they prefer to remain anonymous, and that’s their decision which I will respect and a trust I won’t break.

There seems to be a repeated refrain from the company that “we love overlays”. You guys are offering 100% rakeback this month (March 2024)… obviously that’s something that players love hearing. Plus, a company with a start-up mentality naturally understands that there’s a need to spend money in order to achieve growth. Nevertheless, at some point, the startup needs to actually make money. So, in your estimation, as WPT Global continues its quest to become the #1 online poker site, for how much longer are we going to hear that you guys “love overlays”? 😊

AS: I think you’re going to be hearing that for quite some time to come. Our goal is to be the best value place to play poker online. We’ll soon be starting a loyalty program, and we’re going to continue throwing money at our big tournaments. Whatever kind of player you are, whatever you’re interested in, there’s going to be a lot of value for you. Our goal is to give away more this year than any of our competitors. That’s how we believe we will stand out in a crowded marketplace; players need to feel this in their pockets!

WPT Global Ownership and Alex Scott’s Role

Well, while the owners out of the spotlight – YOU are certainly in it. You started out as employee #7, as the General Manager of WPT Global, and now you’ve been promoted to President; YOU are the face of the site. As such, you’ve really been doing a good bit of media lately – I’ve read interviews you’ve done on at least half a dozen other poker media sites, plus a few poker podcasts. What have you enjoyed most and what have you found to be most challenging about this new public-facing role?

AS: Years ago, before I had any sort of public-facing role, I used to get really nervous before doing any sort of public speaking. But the more I’ve done it, the more I’ve gotten used to it. But the easiest part of it has been speaking to poker players, because I’m a poker player myself. I understand poker players; I used to make most of my income from playing poker.

When it comes to doing media, the harder ones to do are video or audio ones like these, where I have to answer off the cuff without having had much time to prepare for the questions in advance. I’m more comfortable with the written word, but I do think that podcasts and video interviews end up resonating authentically, as the interviewers don’t necessarily “take it as easy on you”.

One of the good things about the role I have is that I’m the President of WPT Global. I can say what I want. I don’t need approval, or to have my answered reviewed by a compliance team.

You told Chad Holloway at PokerNews that “I’m excited to hear more from players about what we can do better and how we can improve – I know players won’t hold back on this!” Can you give any examples of player feedback you’ve gotten recently that’s made you go “hm; interesting” or “oh, crap, we really need to do better”… and what actions that has perhaps led to internally at WPT Global?

AS: I’ve been engaging regularly with players, especially our VIPs. One of the questions I’m getting asked most often is “when are you coming to our country?” For instance, many players want us to enter the UK market. Unfortunately, in addition to being one of the most competitive markets, its also one of the most heavily regulated.

For WPT Global, as a business, we do our cost benefit analysis re: how much time, effort, and money would need to be invested to enter the UK market. While that’s of course a goal of ours down the line (somewhere between 6 months to 5 years from now), we’ve prioritized other opportunities higher for business and growth reasons. These include investing efforts in the Canada, Mexico and Brazil markets.

The US markets are also appealing of course, but we’ve prioritized them even lower for regulatory reasons. Obviously, I hope the regulatory situation changes soon in that regard to enable us to make moves there more quickly.

About WPT Global and Its Poker Offerings

Back in August 2022, when I last interviewed you, you mentioned that “all our staff work remotely”. Since then, however, the company has doubled; even tripled in size. Is there now a company headquarters that most employees work out of or is it still “decentralized”?

AS: We’re still completely decentralized. We all work fully remote. It means we can attract the best staff, wherever in the world they might be located. People don’t need to take a year off to explore the world; they can do that while working for us, so long as they can maintain an internet connection.

OK, so WPT Global isn’t just a couple dozen employees anymore; it’s over 100. What would you say have been the biggest changes/improvements in day-to-day company operations as a result of this growth? And what sort of challenges come along with that growth?

AS: Obviously as you grow, you can accomplish more. We’ve had to scale up customer support significantly because we have many more players than 18 months ago. We’ve had to scale up our multi-lingual personnel, to better service players around the world. Our online security team continues to grow; that numbers around 50 people now and they operate on the network level.

A challenge we’ve had is just fostering good trust, rapport, and a collegial atmosphere, as there’s no office where we all gather together, have lunch together, and randomly bump into each other. So it’s more of a conscious effort that we undertake using digital tools, staff tournaments, etc.

Again, back in August 2022, I noted that at the time WPT Global offered No Limit Hold’em and Short Deck (6+ Hold’em). I asked if there were plans to add any other poker variants in the near future. Since then, you’ve added Pot Limit Omaha and Progressive jackpot spin and gos (called Global Spins). You had mentioned that, like me, you personally love mixed games… Plus, I know that protecting the poker ecology is so very important to you and the company. I think you’d agree that spreading fixed limit games does a lot to protect player bankrolls over time. So, what other non-Hold’em games are you guys hoping to unveil in the near future?

AS: Yes, indeed; I am personally a big fan of mixed games, but even with that we need to look at things through correct prioritization as a business. Which poker offerings will net us the highest volume? We’re continuing to develop these internally. Some new offerings you’ll have seen elsewhere before, but we’ll also be innovating new, exciting twists and action-packed features for poker that you won’t have seen before. We think our players will like them a lot once they debut.

Again, personally, I’d love to see mixed games and more fixed limit games on WPT Global, but unless that’s something that becomes demanded by our player pool, it can’t be a priority for us right now.

Online Poker Security

You told Barry Carter at PokerStrategy: “At WPT Global we probably incentivize player reports more than anywhere else, because of RIP (Rewarding Integrity in Poker), our whistleblowing program for game integrity violations. This program has paid out hundreds of thousands of dollars to players who have brought verifiable evidence of wrongdoing. These high-value reports have helped us to improve our tools and detect problems earlier, before cheaters can scale their operation to cause real damage.” Please talk some more about this “bug bounty” stuff.

AS: There are two aspects to this from our perspective. Yes, it functions as a “bug bounty”, where someone comes, demonstrates a flaw in our software, and we will reward them for that. It’s a way for people to report stuff to us proactively.

In addition, we want the RIP to function as a deterrent. We want to scare off groups of people who cheat. We want members of that group to be worried that one of their fellow members may betray them and come to us to rat them out and collect the reward.

If you’re in a cheating group and have fallen out with your partners, why don’t you just whistleblow and come to us. We’ll reward you for it very generously because you’ve helped us take apart that ring of cheaters. Indeed, we’ve given out over $100,000 worth of rewards already.

The overwhelming majority of online poker players just sort of “take for granted” that they log on to a site and begin playing. They compete, try to win. When they do, they cash out some winnings; end of story. Beyond that basic understanding of “how to drive the car”, what aspects of “how the car actually works/functions” do you wish was more widespread as far as player knowledge? Why?

AS: Most online poker software is quite old, and obviously software development capabilities have improved dramatically since then. Much of what’s out there in terms of online poker software was built back before mobile phones were even a thing; back when dial-up internet was more of a thing, in fact.

Cloud-based development is standard nowadays rather than having your own proprietary servers on-site and maintaining them yourselves. We built WPT Global ‘s software to function utilizing services like Amazon Web Services or Google Cloud. That offers an added layer of security of protection, and lessens the likelihood of too much downtime. So all the legacy online poker companies are working to keep up with the pace of change, and keep their software updated.

“Security-wise, we saw a case recently around Christmastime with the GGpoker superuser where cybersecurity was breached. This is because old, out-of-date software was not patched. The best cybersecurity practices of today were not followed when developing that software. If they had been, this would not have happened.”

Using cloud-based servers and more modern infrastructure from the get-go, WPT Global can employ a “big data” model of cybersecurity, which gives us a bit of an advantage over legacy online poker operators that still utilize older methodologies with their own servers.

Conclusion

Alex, to end off this interview, I’m going to name some online poker sites and I’d like for you to please think of something nice to say about each of them:

Unibet Poker: “They have some great people working there and some nice representatives.”

partypoker: “They have a great brand.”

ACR: “No. I have nothing nice to say about those guys… They’re not afraid to look stupid.”

888poker: “They’re trying their best.”

PokerStars: “Their heart is in the right place.”

GGpoker: “They’re very ambitious.”

Thanks again, Alex Scott, for joining me today, and thanks to everyone for tuning in. I’m Robbie Strazynski, and we’ll see you next time on Cardplayer Lifestyle.

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Written By.

Robbie Strazynski

Robbie founded Cardplayerlifestyle.com in 2009. A veteran member of the poker media corps, in addition to writing and video presenting, Robbie has hosted multiple poker podcasts over the years, including Top Pair, the Red Chip Poker Podcast, The Orbit, and the CardsChat Podcast. In 2019, Robbie translated the autobiography of Poker Hall of Famer Eli […]

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