Our very own Managing Director, George McIntosh, had a great interview with Robbie Strazynski from CardPlayer Lifestyle. With a wide variety of topics being touched on, the full interview will captivate your attention from beginning to end.
The full article can be found on the CardPlayer Lifestyle website, but we’re happy to share some of it right here on GreySnowPoker.
Would it be possible to give us a brief timeline of highlights, from conception of starting the room until the actual launch date?
There’s been so many highlights. Because we’re still evolving, every day seems to bring more changes for the better. My first meeting with the Tribe, the People of the Grey Snow, in Oklahoma, was amazing, and so interesting. But from my point of view, from my first day of being appointed Managing Director, I would have to say that my highlight would be bringing on more great people to form the team we have now. Every time someone joins us, the difference is astounding. We’ve got people I’ve worked with previously along with new faces from the poker industry, plus other unrelated sectors. Everyone has made a difference for the better.
On top of that, there’s been many other milestones. To go from just the kernel of an idea of ‘FairPlay’ to then launching a website where we’ve implemented these ideas is fantastic.
When we removed the previous software incumbents from the picture, that was a huge weight off our shoulders. And when we found our current software supplier (RedLark) that was a great step in the right direction.
Little things like payment integration might be a standard part of the development of a gaming site, but for every new payment method we supply, the more people we can attract – and the more we can be seen by new eyes.
From our first day on November 5, we’ve hit so many of our Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)… our first player sign up, our first deposit, our first tournament running, our first cash game table opening, our first tournament not overlaying, etc. These are all great, but so is having feedback, where players are personally telling us that they’re loving the tournaments; how they’re telling their friends to play here; how they love the FairPlay philosophy; that playing at GSP is an antidote to the behemoth institutions that we’re all used to playing on. It’s so pleasing to know that people still feel there’s a place for the little man in the poker-sphere.
To get to where we are today and see what we have done in a matter of months – with such a small team – is flabbergasting!
It seems like the main unique selling point of GreySnowPoker is quite clear: “FairPlay” rake-free cash game play with a fee equivalent to 3% of a player’s stack upon leaving the table. How did you come up with this idea and why do you think it’s a winner?
OK, how long do you have? I could talk for hours on this, but I’ll try to keep it brief! Generally speaking, GSP feel that the online poker culture has changed over the last few years – and not for the better, unfortunately. Sites try to cater to higher rake, with fewer promotions aimed at regulars/grinders, and more quick-hit gambling-type games, while making the games more difficult to beat.
As you’ve already mentioned, we bring you the service fee. I guess this is a somewhat seismic shift within the poker world… but it shouldn’t be. We basically just stood in the shoes of poker beginners and asked ourselves what part of the game could be improved upon – and all roads lead to rake. We sat down with RedLark, our software team, and we carved out what is now the FairPlay model.
So, with FairPlay, during the game itself, nobody pays rake. We thought long and hard about this, and rather than take rake from the pot (like traditional cash games), all players simply pay a 3% fee on everything that they leave the table with when they decide to stop playing. We find that this is not only easier to understand and calculate but it means the same amount of cash is always available to be won while everyone is playing. If nine players sit down at a table with $100 each, the same total of $900 will still be available to be won in a few hours if nobody has left. For heads-up games, two players can sit down with $100 each, and they already know the total service fee will be $6 regardless of how many hands or hours are played.
All in all, it should hopefully lead to a longer time at the table, which should hopefully give players a longer time to learn, and allow for their money to last longer. Coupled with random seating, we think that the playing environment will be more fun, more thrilling, and create a more level playing field than at other sites. FairPlay allows the poker dream to thrive – i.e., players start as beginners from small stakes and work their way up in becoming better poker players with bigger bankrolls.
So tournaments still work the same way as conventionally approached by other online poker sites or is there a difference?
With tournaments, we have decided to leave them as the familiar format, but with our fees being more favorable for the player. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it (just a bit cheaper).
What other features make GreySnowPoker unique versus existing online poker offerings?
The FairPlay philosophy isn’t just about being rake-free. It works on a few levels: pre-play, post-play, and during the game itself. Most of us at GreySnowPoker are poker enthusiasts while some of us have been grinders, so we bring an abundance of knowledge and perspectives to our roles. One thing we noticed was that, in recent years, novices or recreational players were being targeted by more predatory players who were only after their cash, with little or no consideration for the game itself. For a newbie to get fleeced in a matter of minutes leads to a poor experience, and one which they’ll likely not want to repeat. It became obvious that this wasn’t ideal if we want online poker to evolve and grow.
What GSP has in place is simple. When you’re in the lobby and you want to observe a cash game table, all the players are anonymous. There is no username and a generic avatar so you have no way of telling who the players are at the table you’re watching. You can watch and study the gameplay, but you have no idea who anyone is.
When you then decide you want to play at a cash table, our FairPlay lobby seats everybody randomly at any table and at any seat (once you’ve chosen the stake). Only then will you see your fellow opponents’ identities. Because we also prohibit the use of any third-party software and seating scripts, no one player has that edge.
But there’s even more we do, thanks to our cashback scheme. Every time you sit at a table, 1% of your buy-in is awarded to you in points, which can be instantly converted back to cash. It’s the same rate for everyone; no special treatment. In reality it just means your service fee is only 2% rather than 3%. The value you get from playing at GreySnowPoker is incomparable to anything else out there.
As GreySnowPoker was launched by the Ioway Tribe of Oklahoma, principle objectives of the company are “to promote Native American culture and community, increase awareness of the Tribe, and support the rights of North America’s indigenous people.” Can you detail a few practical ways in which the company hopes to achieve these aims?
We want to support the Ioway, so profits we make from the site will go back to the Tribe as well as charities associated with the Native American peoples. In addition to this, we would like our players to learn more about this extraordinary culture. I can’t necessarily give you specifics right now, but I just know it’s something that we’re keen to make something of. I’m just a guy from Wales – and I’m in a unique situation to be linked with a culture that respects both tradition and land. I guess I’m a bit of a hippy at heart and essentially GreySnowPoker is about inclusivity. We’re obviously all about the poker but if we can encourage our players to discover more about the Native American communities then we’ll do what we can to help.
If you take a look at our tournament lobby and cash game tables, they are actually named after some GreySnow phrases. Our logo, the eagle, is of huge significance to the Ioway Tribe and the indigenous people as a whole. It’s only a small step, but going forward we want to do more when it comes to connecting with our players. We’ll hopefully have tournament prizes of meeting the Tribe in Perkins, Oklahoma, or bringing the players to experience a Powwow, for example. I’d love to do something like this, and so much more.
What made GreySnowPoker seek out a gaming license specifically from the Isle of Man Gambling Supervision Commission?
The issuing of the IOM license was actually before my time. That said, having lived on the Isle of Man and worked with PokerStars for nearly a decade, it would have been my first choice anyway. It is the most respected license that a gaming site can hold. An IOM gaming license carries weight. Our players benefit from us holding this license because of the high standards that it upholds and what we adhere to. It reflects the high standards we put on ourselves and the importance we put on the safety and security of our players. In my opinion, it’s the first place any gaming site should look to if they are to be taken seriously by the poker community. Of course, as we grow we will be applying for other licenses along the way.
The site went live in early November. Has traffic been within your expected range thus far?
It’s probably testament to our collective knowledge and experience of online poker, but when it comes to our projections for traffic and registrations, we pretty much nailed it. In fact, we ‘re doing better than expected and should easily hit our 6-month target much sooner than expected. A lot of this traffic, naturally, comes from our affiliates, but I also think there is still room for word-of-mouth marketing in the poker world.
It’s not just about traffic and signups though. We need to make sure we engage with our players and retain their interest. That’s where our great poker room management team have come up with a tourney schedule to die for no matter where you are in the world.
The whispers will get louder and louder. Our voice is getting heard thanks to the poker community taking to us and FairPlay – and wanting to help us succeed, and urging us on. We don’t want to let down the loyal players who have supported us from the outset, so we’ll continue to listen to – and evolve for – our players.
What poker variants do you currently offer besides No-limit Hold’em and what is the range of stakes someone can play for? Are there plans to eventually add in all the variants offered by the larger online poker sites and to offer nosebleed stakes?
As we say on the site, “We’re not the biggest – and that’s our strength. We give you poker how it should be played; simplified and stripped back.” Having said that, we will expand our games and variants over time but for now we’re happy offering Omaha and Hold’em to our players with stakes ranging from $0.01/0.02 to $50/100. This meets most expectations but the offerings will inevitably grow as we continue to listen to our players. For example, we recognize that people do like the buzz of the Spin&Go style formats, so we will be launching something similar in the very near future.
In this day and age of online poker, players want immediate assistance if they encounter any sort of problems. As such, what sort of technical and player support do you offer? 24/7 live chat? Email/phone? Multi-lingual?
Eventually we will have all of the above. You’re right, people want (and expect) 24/7 service. I know if I am on any site and I have a problem, I expect to either find a 24-hour number or live chat. We have staff dotted all over the globe, so we’re already in a position where we can answer emails as soon as they come in. Currently our site is available in a few languages, but our email communication is only available in English. As our player-base grows and as the geography of our players expands, we will try to cater to everyone in real time and in their own language.
What currencies and payment methods do you accept for deposits/withdrawals, and would you at any point consider accepting cryptocurrency or facilitating cryptocurrency gameplay?
The payments methods we offer right now are Neteller, Skrill, MuchBetter, and NeoSurf. We’re on the verge of going live with Visa & Mastercard plus Interac (for Canada) but we will always be vigilant and keep adding new payment methods when necessary.
I’m a big believer in crypto for online gaming and have looked into a few possibilities such as CasinoCoin, which has been developed by ex-PokerStars and online casino execs primarily for online poker & casino use. These guys are pushing for regulation when it comes to crypto in gaming. Blockchain is quick, secure, and transparent with no chargebacks, so it’s perfect for online gaming operators like GreySnowPoker, especially in markets where banks prohibit gaming transactions.
Can you give our readers some details as to your Player Loyalty program? Is it focused on rewarding high-volume play with rakeback-like incentives or rather focused on more of the “recreational player model” that we’ve seen as of late from some of the world’s leading online poker rooms?
Our aim is not to offer special ‘rakeback’ deals to one group of players over another, but we will do what we can to ensure great service to players that love playing on the site. Essentially, we are all about being a level playing field and not giving special treatment to one player profile.
As it happens, our loyalty program of 1% cashback is so f**ing good that everybody wins! Every time you sit at a cash table, 1% of your buy-in (one-third of your service fee) is awarded back to you in comp points, which can instantly be converted to cash. So it’s not about volume or hours played or hands played or winning or losing. It’s merely us saying “whatever you want to sit down and play with at a cash game, you’ll get 1% back even before you’ve played a hand” – this in effect means that the service fee becomes 2%, not 3%.
Towards the end of November, I noticed that you opened an official support thread on the 2+2 forums. Interestingly, some of the larger rooms, like partypoker and PokerStars are specifically pulling back from being active there. What made you decide to take that step in terms of your initial marketing?
Call us old fashioned, but we want to connect with our players. I hate to repeat myself, but we want to hear from our fans and our critics alike. We want to answer any questions that people may have about the site. We’re new; of course people will want (or even need) answers. For example, we understand that FairPlay may well be met with some cynicism or at least some curiosity. We want to address any concerns people have. 2+2 is still the go-to poker forum site. Transparency and integrity are big deals to us. The least we can do is try and convey our passion for the site and for poker with like-minded poker brains. If we want the site to evolve for our players, why wouldn’t we have a 2+2 account?
You’re still a very young site, with a potentially bright future ahead. Let’s pretend that you had the attention of everyone in the entire poker industry – players and operators alike – for the next 60 seconds. What message(s) would you like to share with them before we let you go?
I’m not one to discredit other online poker sites, but we’ve gone back to the old-skool. This love of poker has been noticeable by its absence with the big sites. In a nutshell, let’s get back to why we fell in love with poker. I want poker to grow in popularity, and I want GSP to be part of the next generation of poker. We need the new players to become fans and to learn the skills. Poker needs to be creating the next champions. The best athletes in the world aren’t the best because they get paid the most, they’re the best in spite of their salary; because they would do it for free. We need to encourage more Serenas and LeBrons, not stifle them. GreySnowPoker will attract and nurture players to create champions.
We start as we mean to go on. Poker needs to be more user friendly, to be open and transparent and honest. We’re cutting out the bad and replacing with the good, without alienating our experts, our great poker community, and our fantastic ambassadors. Expert or beginner, so long as you love poker and you love the thrill of the game, GSP will be there to encourage poker while discouraging unethical play.
If you want to read the full article you can do so by tapping/clicking on this link: https://cardplayerlifestyle.com/interview-with-george-mcintosh-managing-director-at-greysnowpoker/