3 Minutes Read
With his sharp suit and trademark smile, the innovator extraordinaire and marketing genius – 9stacks co-founder Pratik Kumar (cover image) is certainly planning to be a mainstay in the Indian poker circuit and is one of the key personnel behind the grand success of the site`s #LFGVegas promotion.
The postgraduate from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kharagpur, Pratik was an integral part of the founding team of Zivame and then joined Nykaa as Chief Marketing Officer. He then went on to start his own consulting firm Green Giraffes and at present heads the marketing team at 9stacks.
A skilled poker player himself, his love for the mind sport and his understanding that experiencing the extravaganza, i.e., the World Series of Poker (WSOP) in Las Vegas, is every poker aficionado’s ultimate dream, led to the inception of the idea for #LFGVegas and the subsequent promotion. Initially expecting to take about 20 Indians to Vegas, the success of the promotion saw 42 players qualifying for an all-expenses paid trip to the poker extravaganza. The 9stacks team along with Kumar took 25 players as part of the #9stacksTeamIndia and the rest as they say is history!
The success of this endeavor has convinced Pratik that 9stacks will be able to take more than 200 Indian poker players to WSOP in 2019!
In this PokerGuru Industry Talk, we sat down with the man himself who happily spills the beans on the promotion, its inception and its execution process. Pratik speaks at length about his debut experience at Las Vegas, attending WSOP with Team India, plans about revamping the UI/UX of the website and the next big promotion – Poker Grand Prix which will offer multiple packages to Melbourne, Czech Republic, Macau, Colombo and many others! Here are the excerpts.
Hi Pratik and thank you for speaking with PokerGuru. Kudos on taking the largest contingent of Indian players to Las Vegas for WSOP 2018. Please tell us about the inception of the idea.
The genesis of the idea came from a discussion that we, the co-founders, were having. I was telling my co-founders about how every poker player (including me) dreams to be able to see WSOP and possibly play there. We see hundreds of WSOP videos and wonder how it is to be part of it. That’s when we decided that we should launch a promotion which helps players fulfil this dream.
Few things we decided were – the promotion should be rewarding for our loyal players, the promotion should be very doable, and a player should not compete against other players on a leaderboard for limited seats but compete against oneself. That’s how #LFGVegas came about.
How many players did 9stacks target to take to WSOP? How was the response?
Our target was to get 20 players to go to WSOP. We got 42 people who qualified for the Vegas package!
We have heard rave reviews for #LFGVegas promotion. Were there any roadblocks in hosting a promotion of this magnitude?
We didn’t have roadblocks but we did take time to make the community believe that it’s very doable promotion with a great value to players. The only way to convince others was to do it ourselves first. I did the promotion in one month while there was hardly any action on the medium and high stakes tables. When I started the grind, Sanjay (Taneja) joined me and then he did it in a month too. That was followed by super-fast “Sehwag”ish grind by Vishal (Tulsyan) who did it in record time. That’s when the news spread about the promotion and then many people joined in.
How was the experience with the 9stacks Team India in Las Vegas?
It was an amazing experience in Las Vegas with the 9stacks Team India. It was a first time to Vegas for a lot of people including me. The whole Indian poker community in Vegas while the experienced pros were extremely helpful in guiding other players through super value tournaments, and in general help on what to do, where to eat etc.
Each morning was about where the action is and who all are playing. Each evening was about status updates, who made it to the next day, bad beat stories etc. In between all this, there were fun moments at slots, roulettes and parties.
Please share some key moments with 9stacks Team India during WSOP 2018.
There were a lot of them – Nishant and Rughani’s run in the main event, Mayank Jaggi hitting final table in Wynn, Sanjay Taneja’s deep run in Little One for One Drop and a few others hitting ITM in other tournaments. And then there were a lot of things that happened away from the tables, but what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas!
This truly was a historic WSOP for Indian poker with 9stacks qualifiers Nishant Sharma and Vivek Rughani’s incredible Main Event performance. Views?
Nishant (Sharma) and Vivek’s (Rughani) run in the Main Event was truly very inspiring for the Indian poker community. We did #LFGVegas to give a platform to Indian poker players to compete and win at the international level. Nishant and Vivek did exactly that. Their performance will inspire many poker players to participate and win in international poker tournaments and bring in the “poker boom”.
We’ve heard about 9stacks’ plans to send over 200 players for next WSOP! Please share the plan and give us insight of what players can expect in future?
I was talking to a player who missed out on Vegas this year and was telling him that we plan to take 100 players to Vegas next year. His reaction was – the number will be upwards of 150! We are definitely looking forward to a 150-200 9stacks Team India contingent for WSOP next year. Right away, we are announcing a big promotion for the next 3 months – Poker Grand Prix. Players can accumulate our stack up points by playing and win multiple packages to Melbourne, Czech Republic, Macau, Colombo etc. 9stacks will continue to bring positive promotions for our players and help them get exposure to global poker festivals and tournaments.
While most online websites are focusing mainly on big guaranteed tournaments, 9stacks focused on 1 promotion for 3 months. Please share your views on the same?
Our core focus is our loyalty points system. Players spend hours grinding on sites every day and we believe that they should benefit from the grind (irrespective of whether they win or lose). A 3-month promotion helps us give better value to players, while players themselves benefit by pacing their grind based on their bankroll and the stakes they play. Having said that, we will be doing big guaranteed tournaments from time to time. However, we would want to be the tortoise than the hare when it comes to that.
Also please tell us your views on the high guaranteed tournaments being organized frequently.
High guaranteed tournaments are attracting more and more new players and helping the community grow. As long as the GTDs are getting crushed (or close to getting crushed) on a consistent basis, it’s a very good thing.
What are your views on the current poker ecosystem in the country?
Poker is growing at a rapid pace in India. Aggressive promotions, high guaranteed tournaments, poker leagues on television and amazing scores by Indian players in international tournaments are some of the factors fueling the growth. However, we as poker operators, need to reach out to more and more poker enthusiasts and establish poker as the preferred mind sport.
What are your views on different poker leagues like GPL India, PSL and Match IPL?
Poker in general is an individual sport. However, the poker leagues do make it interesting by bringing in a concept of a team sport. These leagues also help in advocating poker as a sport.
The UI and design of 9stacks website seems quite casual and unlike other online sites. Is this deliberate? Can players expect to see UI/UX and layout getting revised/changed in future?
When we were doing our first design, the UI/UX focus was to make the on-boarding of first time users less intimidating (users who have either played on free money apps like Zynga or have only played live). Also, make the mobile experience smooth. In doing this we did initially miss a trick or two for the desktop power users (users who multi-table). We have taken feedback of the users and are incorporating those changes which should go live in the coming few days.
Having said that, we will keep evolving the designs iteratively and mix it up with a few experiments with an intention to improve the overall user experience across all devices.
What can the players and the community expect in future from 9stacks?
Super value promotions and packages to play at international poker destinations is something we will continue to do. Apart from this, we launched our skill dashboard for a select few users. Now players can look through all the hands they have played and analyze their game (e.g. starting hands, position, pre-flop actions like 3-bet, check etc.). And all this will be free for our loyalty club members!
What is your primary objective at 9stacks? Where do you see 9stacks after 1 year (around WSOP 2019)?
There are a couple of objectives that we are focused on. We want to be the platform that gives global exposure to all budding players while providing maximum value for their grind. We also want 9stacks to be the go-to platform for first time players with a clean and simple UI/UX.
The goal is set for 200 players as part of 9stacks Team India going to WSOP next year and winning a handful of bracelets.
Any parting words or anything you would like to add?
If you missed out on the #LFGVegas, you cannot miss the 9stacks Poker Grand Prix!!!
And with that, Kumar signs off!