I set up some tournaments on my little skin on the MPN network the other day.
It had been a long night before that day in the office as I misguidedly went for cocktails with David Lappin and his lady, Saron, and sat up talking utter shite until about 2am before barrelling into the office at 8am with yesterday’s make-up on my face and a strange, yeasty smell about my person.

HangoverI set up 185 centroll tournaments, and it took me six hours, at which point I realised I had set them up incorrectly, and had to delete the lot and start again.
After I’d done it a 2nd time, I realised I’d set them up incorrectly again… I’d intended to have a 2c add-on instead of 1c.
In the end, I chose, for my own sanity, to leave the tournaments as they were. Estimated cost to my business – €23.

Meh. If the boss reads this he can have it out of my bankroll; I’ll give him a pony and he can keep the change.

I love the image of myself as a bastion of glowing morality, but truthfully, I was hungover, almost blind from tournament set-up tilt and the cost of my mistake was miniscule.
Literally, no one would care.
Had I told my boss about my mistake he probably would have replied “you’ve just wasted €50 of my time telling me about it, get the fuck out of my office”.

It’s a common meme within business that making a mistake creates a potential opportunity to promote; it’s proven that a customer with a well-handled complaint is likely to be more engaged with your brand than a customer with no complaint at all.

That’s lovely to know, but there has to be a fiscal event horizon for a business where the financial cost of rectifying the mistake in the best and fairest way becomes heavier than the non-tangible rewards for doing so, and so “best and fairest” becomes “as close to best and fair as we can go without spending megabucks”.Money Man

You may be aware of a recent cock-up on Party Poker in the $5300buyin/$5milly gtd online event.
Actually, maybe you’re not, unless you sniff around Poker Twitter quite a lot, because I couldn’t find any online articles about it outside this one from a content affiliate that doesn’t appear to promote Party, and this one from my Twitter friend and steak snob, Alex Weldon.

The highlights are:

  • Somebody was hungover at PartyPoker when they set up the online €5300 buyin tourney and glitched the clock meaning it ran circa 60 (90?) mins over scheduled clock-stop.
  • Ambassadors starting shitting needles at 3/4am, they woke up a poker manager, the clock was stopped.
  • In the morning, Party (with input from high-level players) took the decision to roll back the scheduled clock-stop time, reducing the remaining chipstacks to the count at the advertised end of play and giving back chips to the players that busted within the extra hour of play.
  • They also compensated all players involved to the tune of around $350 each, totalling about $25k according to poor, beleaguered Patrick Leonard on Twitter.

There was, perhaps understandably, some rage about it, although far less than I thought there might be given the large buyin and guarantee.

I attribute this to one or more of the following reasons:

  • The solution reached by the PartyPoker team actually is the most EV neutral for the players in a way that I am not smart enough to understand, so they’re all chill about it. They play $5k tourneys daily, so they really couldn’t care less.
  • The players involved don’t want to piss PartyPoker off for a variety of staking/backing/media deal reasons that I’m too much of a nobody to understand.
  • The affected players are kind and understanding people and recognise that a mistake can be made by a person responsible for administrating this kind of thing, and have chosen to dissolve their feelings of frustration with a nice massage and a good book.

I don’t play $5k tourneys, so you might wonder what my interest in this is, and I have one word: principle.

Fairness Calvin and Hobbes

I want to know that Party Poker resolved the mistake in the best and fairest way and not the best and fairest way with an eye on their profit margin.

So… what were their options?

  • Laugh it off and just say “fuck all of yous”: terrible for PR, encourages immediate negative media blow-up and, to be fair, not something Party have demonstrated a tendency towards in the past. Terrible option, but very cheap in the short term.
  • Cancel Day 1A entirely and run it again from scratch: Guaranteed to incite rage from chip leaders, and offers sick advantage to players that busted earlier than the beginning unscheduled time. Another, equally terrible option, but again, cheap in the short term for an online comp.
  • Do what they did: Seemingly enough for players bankrolled for the tournament buyin (or staked). Apparently an “EV Neutral” decision; not sure how that works emotionally for any recreational satty qualifiers who got their rare godrun moment in that hour, but ALL operators definitely chat more about caring about recs than actually caring about them. Fair to middling option.
  • Cancel the whole tournament, refund buyins and hide from the world which is almost certainly an option allowed within terms and conditions. Bad option, as clearly not fair to players and terrible for operator reputation in the long term.
  • Force Day1b and 1c to play the extra hour (again, no doubt covered within T+Cs), let the chipped up players keep their stacks and enter the busted players equally into Day 1B and 1C. Good for players, but at $5k a head, enough to give the finance team a sweaty heart attack. Fair to middling option.
  • Extend levels for 1b and 1c, refund busted stacks the ICM value of their stacks at the moment the tournament started to overrun and put the equal amount of chips in play on both later flights by increasing chipstacks by that %. Technically difficult, ludicrously expensive and a dangerous precedent to set, opening the door to deliberate software attacks to profit from this rule. Seems like best option for players in short term, but crushing to business and potentially to long-term integrity of every online operator, so overall, it’s still a bad option.

I can’t think of any more, and I certainly cannot think of one that is good for everybody.
Sometimes there is no way to keep everybody happy after a mistake, especially when the mistake happens in a super high-profile arena.

The best solution is – set up your online tournaments properly, ya dumb shits. However, who could seriously suggest that this was done deliberately or maliciously? Only a complete idiot would think that!
A human-being made this mistake; one person, with a job and kids and hobbies, an individual person like you and me.oops key

Only those of us who have never made a mistake at work can call that person out, so I can’t… can you, really?
Maybe the effect of this is that Party will look closely at their processes with regards setting up/monitoring large buyin and prizepool tournaments and hopefully all other operators will think about it too.

Party Poker have done a lot to breath life into the declining poker industry, and when juggling so many balls, one is bound to get dropped occasionally.
It’s not an excuse, but it’s a reasonable explanation, and if we’re not prepared to accept it as players, then nor should we take advantage of any of the multitude of good stuff Party have been doing recently.

We cannot have it both ways.

What depressed me most (although surprised me none) is the lack of official communication from Party on the topic. Maybe I missed it? If there is any that you know of, please link me.
There seems to be a general attitude, across all brands, in all industries, of keeping quiet about fuck-ups, and I think it’s a bad plan, most obviously within gambling.

The people want answers, and I felt bloody sorry for PlenoPads, the monkey that everyone attacked because they know they’re getting no juice from the organ-grinder. Even then, he only seemed to wade in after Doug Polk tweeted about it to his army of sycophantic followers.

SilenceI’d be making more of an issue out of this if Party had behaved unusually, but they have not; silence following a fuck-up seems to be the strategy from all operators, including the one I work for.

As a player, I don’t think that’s good enough, and all I can do is promise to continue to go hoarse at meetings trying to get this attitude changed.
My belief is that if, as an operator, I want the attention when I’m crowing about something good I do, I should directly take the heat when I fuck up.

Honesty and transparency are the cornerstones of a healthy gaming industry, it’s no good poker operators dodging responsibility because there are not enough complaints, or the story doesn’t make a splash in the (content affiliate) industry media.

I was taught that you can be proud of a mistake if you were trying something exceptional and you learn from it – both of these conditions apply to Party here… so why the radio silence? Because it’s industry standard.

I see this business culture of silence in gaming as a bigger problem than an accidental mess-up with a tournament clock followed by a stable and reasonable resolution, a bigger problem by a VERY large margin.