In early January, PokerUpdate exclusively revealed that Betfair will move its poker operations to the Playtech-powered iPoker network. Just days before the January 22 launch, we sat down with Matt Mowlam, Betfair’s Head of Poker, to discuss the migration.
PokerUpdate: Matt, tells us briefly about your role as Head of Poker. What part did you play in engineering the move to Playtech?
Matt Mowlam: I am responsible for the commercial side of Betfair Poker. That largely encapsulates the go to market strategy for the product and the ongoing marketing of it.
I work with the Product team at Betfair to ensure that we offer the best Poker experience possible to customers. With this week’s launch of our iPoker room (New Betfair Poker), that will run alongside our Ongame room (Classic Betfair Poker), we are introducing a number of features and capabilities that complement the product we have offered for the past two years. Some of the new features are prominent and obvious (such as integrated Speed Poker, new player tables, late tournament registration and larger tournaments prize pools), many are under the hood capabilities that enable us to deliver better and more targeted promotions and communications to our players. Overall, we’re very excited about what we’re launching this week.
PU: What drew you to the platform—added liquidity and superior software? How much of a draw were Playtech’s casino games?
MM: We have always kept a keen eye on Playtech’s product and network, and they have a very successful history behind them. Our customers have given us consistent feedback on what else they would like from Betfair Poker, and the majority of these requests are answered by the launch of our iPoker room.
Relationship-wise, given our successful partnership on Casino, it was an easy decision for us to extend this to Poker also. Playtech’s in house iPoker casino games are definitely a consideration. They are well presented in the client and offer a good range of games that we are confident our players will like.
PU: In September 2012, Betfair announced plans to launch poker platforms on the iPoker network in the Spanish and Italian markets. How have dot.es and do.it operations done?
MM: Our first launch in a ringfenced regional market was last week (Thursday) in Spain. So it’s far too early to judge although of course, we’re delighted to have the product added to our portfolio out there.
We know that many customers in any country want to use more than one product and it’s vital for us to be able to offer a rounded product offering that will make it less necessary for customers to do any part of their online gambling anywhere else.
Poker’s a big part of that and the strength of iPoker in regulated markets is a key reason why we’ve chosen to partner with the network.
PU: How much more cash game and tournament traffic will Betfair players have access to on the iPoker platform compared to the Ongame network? In turn, how much of a boost will guys give the Playtech network?
MM: iPoker undoubtedly offer a larger player base. Importantly, it will also offer the largest recreational player network (a ringfenced network made up of sportsbook operators) which should provide the best games on the net. These recreational networks are important for us since we introduce so many new players to the game and need to ensure they have a positive initial experience when first playing poker.
PU: In the last twelve months, sites and networks have revamped loyalty programs and marketing efforts to attract recreational players instead of high-volume grinders. Also, more operators are acquiring players directly rather than via affiliates. How will you approach player marketing and retention?
MM: Betfair has the great benefit of a strong brand that brings a large amount of traffic to the site direct. Obviously many of these are attracted by our industry-leading sports offering and are then introduced to Poker while on the site. We see this trend continuing in the longer term and we will work to ensure that the product and network is right for players being introduced to the game.
We also attract a large portion of our audience direct to our Poker product, and our affiliates are an important channel for this. I am a believer in affiliates doing the things that operators cannot or will not do – be that providing leading industry news and insight or great poker education programmes,
And there will always be a role for those affiliates that keep exploiting these opportunities.
On the player retention side, it needs to be the right mix of giving a simple value-orientated reward to the most loyal customers (traditionally via our loyalty scheme), as well as providing frequent exciting reasons for customers to return through room promotions and product development. We have the tools to optimize both of these on New Betfair Poker and plan to exploit them to their fullest.
PU: While existing Betfair players will be able to access both the Ongame and iPoker networks into the middle of 2013, new activations will be able to play on iPoker only. What exciting promotions are in store for players?
MM: We’ve got a great suite of promotions in store for launch, the first few of which I can reveal here, but we’ll unveil the next few in the coming weeks – so, I’ll have to ask your readers to come to our site to see what we have in store then.
From launch, Classic Betfair Poker players will be able to take advantage of our introductory $2,000 Bankroll Kickstarter Bonus – the bonus that just keeps on giving, we will also run an action-packed series of free to enter MTT’s featuring $30,000 in added money prize pools and exclusive and much sought after Betfair Poker merchandise.
Post-launch we will have an exciting selection of promotions to suit players of all abilities, preferences and bankrolls. From February 1st, New Betfair Poker customers will be able to take part in our Natural Born Grinders Points Race, where the first prize will be a jaw-dropping $10,000, as well as bi-monthly Speed Poker Races, with $10,000 prize pools, to complement the introduction of the hugely popular Speed Poker games to the Betfair Poker portfolio. Brand new customers to New Betfair Poker can take advantage of an improved welcome proposition including a 200% sign up bonus up to $2,000, access to four Weekly Welcome Freerolls, and invitation to our Area 51 new player tournament, where there will be 51 iPhone 5’s to be won, plus tokens to participate in the $30,000 Big Money MTT Giveaway.
And best of all, this is on top of loyalty rewards from our new and improved New Betfair Poker VIP Club.
PU: From the virtual felt to live action. What’s in store for the London stop of the Betfair Poker LIVE tour, which will be held from January 25 to 27 2013 at the Aspers Casino? Any poker stars to be announced as sponsored Betfair professionals in 2013?
MM: Some of the big names you can expect to see there include Betfair Poker’s Norwegian Ambassador and 2012 WSOP Main Event heroine Elisabeth Hille, as well as our long time Poker Ambassador John ‘kunku wap’ Tabatabai.
For the main event we will be running our classic ‘Terminator’ knockout bounty format where the guaranteed prize pool will be $100,000. Besides the draw of the main event action, there will be a full roster of activities including the Betfair ‘Time-out Turbo Tournament,’ an invitational freeroll for Betfair players that guarantees two packages to Betfair Poker LIVE Prague and a money can’t buy invite to the Betfair Poker Players’ Party.
PU: What are you most excited about for 2013.? What are a few themes and things to look for at Betfair and the online poker industry as whole?
MM:I’m excited for the Poker industry as a whole. Firstly, by the innovation taking place in both product and marketing. That will place choice back into the hands of players and will attract new audiences to the game. Secondly, I look forward to Poker becoming a more mass market product again. The follow-the-leader strategies that many rooms adopted stifled growth, reduced investment for operators and removed the excitement from the game. Now it seems there is real momentum within the industry to start reversing that trend – long may it continue.
PU: Thanks for your time, Matt. We wish you the best of luck with the migration and in your role as Head of Poker.
MM: Thanks for your time also and I look forward to seeing what PokerUpdate’s readers make of New Betfair Poker.