The Resurrection!

By now you may have heard that I, along with my business partners, have acquired the iNinja Poker Tour. I’ve written a bit about it, but I thought it would be fun to do a little write up here and get some input from friends and family.

When we started Next Level Poker, we had a set of competitive advantages we really believed would help us succeed.

  1. All three of us had the highest standards of integrity and were all familiar with playing tournament poker for at least part of our living. We believed that players would appreciate the things we could offer including great structures, lower rake numbers, and no extra fees for things like trophies and prize packages coming out of the prize pool.
  2. I developed a set of technological solutions that would make our competitors look like dinosaurs. When they were driving across the country with an RFID table or flying a film crew in to film the final table, I could do a solid broadcast out of a backpack using newer technology.
  3. We saw that many tours were doing the same old boring thing. ┬áBasically “Here’s a no-limit holdem tournament with a normal rake and reasonable structure. If we put a guarantee on it, people will come and the casinos will pay us.” We thought that adding fun new things would interest players in trying something new.
  4. We believed that we had skill sets that would allow us to save money by doing most of the work ourselves. We had a writer, a photographer, a lawyer, a tournament director, two players who can do commentary on live streams, and a host of other skills that would allow us to handle everything without paying for outside help.
  5. We had a huge number of friends in the industry who all wanted to support the new tour. We thought these sponsors could help us a great deal with promotion and offer extra prizes and giveaways that would make our events even more fun.
  6. We believed that all these would add up to a tour that could offer a great experience to both the players and the host venue at a much lower price point than many of our competitors.

Some of these things were true. We did have the skill sets to do most things ourselves, though we had to learn a few new things. We were able to offer a lower price point. Players did have fun. After a few hiccups, the technology worked.

Sadly, some of these things were not true. We definitely learned some lessons.

  1. Most players only care about the size of the field and how much glory and cash there will be in winning first place. Value is not nearly as important to the average player as field size. Low rake numbers and good structures are things people say they want, but in reality very few players show up for a tournament based on those things. Our facebook poll showed us this, though our actual experience showed even more how true it was.
  2. Our sponsors are amazing and they are our friends. And they did help make our first event a great experience. But there was little they could do to bring in players. That’s just not what they do. They aren’t in the poker tour promotions business.
  3. Our friends in the poker world were supportive, but that wasn’t something we could count on to bring in players, because as I mentioned earlier, most players only care about field size when making their decision about whether to play a tournament.
  4. While we were able to offer a great experience at a lower price point, the casino doesn’t care how cheap you are if you don’t bring in the players. You have to produce numbers.
  5. While we had the skill sets to handle everything, that didn’t leave us much time for promotion. Without heavy promotion, we weren’t going to generate the buzz that starts the snowball effect that we needed for a large field.

So how do we solve those problems? We are an unknown tour, starting during a time when a new tour has not become successful in many years. The deck was literally stacked against us since without big fields we couldn’t draw players and if we couldn’t draw players we couldn’t generate big fields. We needed that buzz.

The solution fell into our lap.

I was on the pro team with iNinja until the very end of the company. I maintained contact with Issac Tucker after the tour stopped operating and we had a few discussions about us taking over iNinja, but nothing became of it. Until the spring of this year when Issac decided that he wanted the company to continue to operate. It was his baby, his first business, and something he was proud to have built. It bothered him that it was now sitting in the yard growing weeds. He called me again and offered me a deal that was too good to turn down.

And what did iNinja have? They had big fields and a ton of buzz. They had a reputation for creating big prize pools and running “can’t miss” events. They had exactly what we needed. And we had the things that iNinja lacked. Fiscal responsibility, business sense, the ability to run things on a tight budget. It was too good not to take Issac up on his offer.

So now we own iNinja. Issac is no longer part of the business, but he has been a big help in getting things up and running including sending us all of the old graphics, all of his contacts, and offering advice on how to get the deals done with poker rooms.

The future of iNinja looks bright. We have the right people, the right brand, and the right approach. We are going to resurrect the brand from the dead. That’s why we are calling the first year of the tour “The Resurrection”. It is back from the dead and it will be stronger than ever.

I always enjoyed playing iNinja events. They made poker fun. I was tired of the same old grumpy poker players with headphones in their ears folding every hand waiting for aces and telling the bad beat story when they got cracked. iNinja was relentlessly positive. It’s a big lesson we learned from them. While we will continue to offer a great value because we feel like it’s a responsibility to the community that has been so good to us all these years, we will refocus ourselves on fun, promotion, and making sure that people show up to our events and have a great time. iNinja always crushed guarantees. We are going to do everything in our power to make sure that continues.

You can learn more about the resurrection of this amazing brand in my interview with the RecPoker Podcast, in our press release, and in an article written about us in CardPlayer Lifestyle Magazine. Links below. Thank you for your support and we look forward to seeing you at an iNinja event in the near future!

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