I had the opportunity to sit down with LiveAce CEO Adam Stein-Sapir today and ask him some questions about LiveAce.com. You can see my initial story about the company here. I got a lot of the questions from questions and concerns raised in different posts I have seen about the company and from people I know who are involved in the poker community.
Adam Stein-Sapir’s career history
One of the first things I covered with Adam Stein-Sapir was his business background. After many companies in the poker industry have failed because of bad leadership having a CEO with a strong business sense becomes exceptionally important. Mr. Stein brings this in spades as he graduated with an MBA from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. Upon graduation he went to work in New York, and has worked in high level positions in prestigious market companies before starting his own company with a business partner that he had worked with and met back in school. He still owns this business, and should provide some comfort to players that he can run a successful business and has history doing it over a long period of time in a very competitive industry, that being the financial sector.
Reasoning behind LiveAce and difference form other sites
Upon Black Friday happening he saw a hole in the market that was waiting for the right company to fill it. LiveAce tries to fill that hole of a legal US gaming site that allows its users to receive money on a daily basis if they so choose. The way LiveAce does this is by working with the sweepstakes based laws already in place in each individual state. This allows LiveAce to be legal in 31 different states and the District of Columbia, but also means that will not be moving to new states unless some change in the law that state already has in place is enacted.“We are not a gambling site.” This quote kind of sums up how LiveAce is able to do what it is doing, and why competitors such as Merge Gaming, Bovada, and others are illegal in the U.S., in the eyes of the LiveAce CEO, and why Mr. Stein-Sapir’s site isn’t. Even if they became legal, or poker became legalized on a federal level which Mr. Stein-Sapir thinks is a “significant” distance in the future, LiveAce isn’t worried, because it provides services to a different type of clientele, because it is completely free to play. To better support his point he noted that LiveAce still boasts an impressive contingent of Nevada players despite there being legalized poker already available within the state.
The business model and player pool
The business model for LiveAce is going to be very organic with a heavy emphasis on friend referrals and social attention. This is why they have the prefilled tweets and Facebook posts and you can also get extra chips by having your friend try out the site. This does not mean that they are trying to go the Zynga route, as there are many differences in the hopes for both of those sites. LiveAce is exceptionally interested in making sure that they don’t have to put advertisers on their site, because they do not want to annoy customers. This of course is a hope, but outside events will really determine if they are able to keep this dream a reality. It is a very important thing to Mr. Stein-Sapir though, because not annoying customers and making sure everyone enjoys themselves is how he sees his business growing the most.
Considering little money is going to be coming from advertisers, it’s no surprise that the premium membership, which costs $20/month, is the most important aspect to the site. The CEO thinks that this isn’t out of the question though as the membership offers something that recreational players and serious players alike will enjoy. The customer avatars will attract the recreational players, while the hand history feature will attract the more serious player that would like to track his or her play. The increased refill on chips combined with the 1,600 chips free a month also adds more value for both types of players. Chip sales are also going to be a revenue booster, but there is a cap on how many chips you can buy per month, to keep the game accessible to those who want it, and I would imagine to keep inflation under control, which will be discussed later in the interview.
The biggest feature that LiveAce offers that isn’t seen on other sites is the “hand maker” calculator. This is a HUD that will tell you how likely you are to make a strong hand on the turn or river. Adam Stein-Sapir is really touting this feature as something that makes the premium membership worth it alone, without all the other benefits. He says that this was something that no site pre-Black Friday offered, and he doesn’t think any place really offers it now either, but he wasn’t sure. This feature is something that they are exceptionally happy about, because it brings a new dynamic to the game, and in reality, it is a really interesting wrinkle.
LiveAce also hopes that providing a competitive place to play where your only goal is to beat the best players is something that they can provide. Unlike other sites, you do not have to worry about beating rake, and so according to Adam Stein-Sapir “low stakes games are going to be beatable, because you don’t have to worry about beating the house, which has the highest win rate.” He also hopes that this will encourage people who think the rake is too high at other sites to seriously consider LiveAce, even if they wouldn’t have considered a site like ClubWPT, because of the ability to win money on a daily basis.
Game offerings and stakes
LiveAce doesn’t plan on offering tournaments in the future, but they are open to adding other ring games, as people request them. The reason tournaments aren’t offered is because it doesn’t allow people to play as little or as much as they want, because once you start the tournament you are not able to leave your computer, and this is a major concern for LiveAce, as they really want to make this site as player friendly as possible. Also another disadvantage of tournaments that was important to Adam was that only 10%, and sometimes less, of the field actually win a prize. Adam wants to make it so that you can win every day, and enjoy your experience more.
LiveAce said that they will add games as customers request them if they can tell there is a serious interest to support these games. The stakes are also something that will be increased as the player base demands it. This however isn’t much of a concern right now as there have been few games above 2/4 according to Mr. Stein-Sapir. They currently offer up to 10/25 chips and he expects that this will be enough to keep people happy for a pretty long period of time.
Concerns about the auctions and gameplay surrounding that consideration
A major issue that players have been thinking about and discussing at length is the fact that inflation is going to grip these auctions by force and soon you will not be able to make money at all. Mr. Stein-Sapir doesn’t see this being a problem though as he thinks the number of chips coming out of play each day will keep the bids low enough. He made a point that you may see the lowest bid accepted, but you don’t see the time where someone bids 10,000 chips for $50, which takes all of these chips out of play. It’s an interesting dynamic that a lot of people haven’t been paying attention to as most of the attention gets paid to the lowest LC/$ rate. These two things have to be taken together though, because they are pretty important to how high inflation will actually go. Even if the basement increases, if the percent of winners continues to be high, which the CEO indicated that it was, then everything will be fine, and a normal market rate will become the most prevalent.
On this same note, any player worried about chip dumping should feel a little bit better as Mr. Stein-Sapir confirmed that before each withdraw is processed the play of the individual is confirmed to be legitimate. This decreases the likelihood of successful chip dumping by a significant margin. To further combat the thought of this even happening no heads-up tables will be created, similar to what some other sites have done recently to combat network wide chips dumping. Another interesting point is that: “The community is self-policing, and we have already investigated and banned players for things that are reported, including chip dumping and chat and user name abuse.” This quote shows the dedication and seriousness that the site takes complaints from customers and this kind of attitude is something US customers will be really happy to see.
“We are excited and hope that we are bringing something that players didn’t have previously. We want to offer the most competitive ring games in a way that is fun, and legal. If you haven’t signed up already, I would strongly suggest you do so that you can get in and start winning.”
If you want to get in on the fun you can follow the link to LiveAce.com. They also have a Twitter and Facebook page, as well as having an official 2+2 thread that they find very important and look into any questions, comment or concerns posted by players.