There are a number of reasons we started this site, but I would cite the single most important reason of all being our love for the game of poker. There is a saying that to be successful in anything you attempt you have to have a love for it, and in that regard we are very fortunate to have been able to build a thriving community of free poker players.
That said, and as the previous article stated, building a poker site of any size is no small feat and not for the faint of heart. Consider the size and scale of most well known online gaming companies (poker or otherwise) and the vast pool of resources they often have at there disposal: big financial backing, large marketing budgets, teams of developers and designers and much more. To think that we built NoPayPOKER a few years ago armed with nothing but a few programming books and and a willingness to learn is, in hindsight, quite a testament to that love for the game itself.
So anyway, the dirty truth is that the original software was begun by our CTO (it’s easy to be a CTO when you are the only one doing it) waaaay back in 2005 after discovering poker for the first time with friends and due to increased television coverage. A few months of learning the game from some beginner books and with friends led to a quick foray into the online poker landscape. Starting first at Pokerroom.com (now closed for business) he played his first multi-table tournament for $20+2 and came 7th our of 165 players to net a quick and easy $170 payout. Wow, he thought, this game is an easy road to riches! Zoom forward about six months later and with new accounts at both PartyPoker.com and AbsolutePoker.com the beginners luck seemed to have worn off and, though not a terribly bad poker player, the net reality of the situation was more money spent than won and a bank balance few hundred dollars worse off. But for better or worse financially our resident tech guru had discovered a game like no other and was now gripped by the poker craze taking much of the US by storm thanks to the online fervor and T.V exposure. Suddenly names like Chris MoneyMaker and the World Series Of Poker were everywhere.
From amongst all this a new poker site was born (CardCrusade, see previous blog entry), died, and yet another was born from the ashes: NoPayPOKER. Aware of the fact that paid poker sites were a massive and unwieldy beast requiring a large amount of investment NoPayPOKER was therefore an attempt to salvage the previous effort of CardCrusade and still make something fun and different within the poker community. Free poker was not really considered a serious concept at the time, but with some background in advertising it seemed a pretty nice idea to make a 50-50 split of advertising revenues between the site and the players and see just how far that model would go. And so it was 3 months later in November of 2007 that NoPayPOKER launched and, much to our delight, is still going strong.
Certainly much has changed in those 3 short years. The top paid poker sites of those days are no longer the leaders of today, and in that short period of time a number of free and subscription based sites similar in concept to NoPayPOKER have also surfaced and closed. The advantages of running the free site over a paid, and the reasons we made the site to begin with though are (basically):
- No need to exclude US players from playing after the gambling laws changed in that country since NoPayPOKER is free
- No associated costs or administration issues related to payment processing and fraud
- An implicit leniency on the part of the players in terms of software and service quality shortcomings which naturally inherent when the whole technology is being made and maintained by 1-2 people (it’s free don’t complain!)
- An unexplored niche area of the industry without too many competitors
- A true sense of satisfaction in having people cash out their winnings knowing they didn’t have to pay anything out of their own pocket
On the flip side, and little know to us at the time, some unique disadvantages of the model turned out to be:
- A lot of work! It might be free but essentially it’s the same basic operation (albeit on a smaller scale) as a large well funded and resourced site. Think: server maintenance, software development, bug fixing, ad network management, customer support, website, administration tools, reporting tools, processing payouts, promotion management, player moderation…trust me the list goes on and on like you would not believe.
- Maintaining enough traffic and advertising revenue to keep the tournament payouts and prizes at a reasonable level for a free site during the worst recession in 70 years.
Zoom forward another 3 years and NoPayPOKER has evolved in to quite a different monster. Sure, the original advantages still stand true for the most part, but now there is more direct competition and higher expectations from the players in respect to both quality of service and the amount they can win. Wow, you just can’t please these people can you!? Inline with this though NoPayPOKER has adapted and introduced a good number of new features and innovative additions to the service along with increasing the overall quality of service and payouts. For example we now have bounty games, a great private tournament creation interface, social features, premium features, a fun bonus chip system, and a completely skin-able software UI. On top of this we have recently partnered with some big paid sites to bring even bigger payouts and freerolls. The results of our labors are evident through the continued increase of players and cash outs, so it seems like something we are doing is right.
Over the next few months our players can expect to see even more changes, such as detailed member statistics and foreign language versions of the software. We are still as dedicated as ever to helping our players learn the game or, for the more experienced players, use our site as practice ground or welcome break from the paid sites where the risk is greater. Whatever your reason for playing (to make money, to make friends, to improve your game) we welcome you and hope that your experience is both enjoyable and profitable.