It isn't too often that you get to experience the day an entire industry changes. It's even rarer that you get to experience the months of work that go into the day that it gets launched, feel the surge of excitement when it goes live and suddenly thousands of people are using it and saying things like "This is the best thing ever". Okay, so maybe if you work for Apple you might've got used to this sort of thing, but I'm certainly not used to it!
On Tuesday morning, we pushed a new version of the Full Tilt poker software with several new features. Each release generally comes with a big feature, but this one felt extra special. In this release, we pushed Rush Poker. In Rush Poker, instead of picking a table to sit down at, you join a pool of players. The server automatically seats players at tables, and a new hand starts. As soon as you are done with the hand, either by folding or the hand ends, the server picks you up and seats you at a fresh table with other players from the pool. There's one key twist: Quick Fold allows you to fold out of turn. So if you aren't happy with the hand you got dealt, you hit the quick fold button and you get picked up and moved to a new table.
The pace of this game is incredible. On average, players are seeing somewhere between 250-300 hands/hour. To put this in perspective, at a normal 6-max ring game you'd be happy to get something on the order of 90-100 hands/hour, and at a 9-max ring game the pace would be slower yet. If one rush poker table is not enough for you though, you can even multi-table it. So you can open up a table or two to really play a lot of hands.
The reception for the update has been phenomenal. People on 2+2, the largest poker forum on the internet, are normally extremely negative about changes. But with this release, the forum went through a very short stage of dislike posts from the people who hadn't tried Rush Poker yet before exploding into a several-page-long string of posts with reactions ranging from "huh, this is surprisingly fun" to "holy crap this is like poker crack". While not *all* the posts are positive, the tone of the forum is incredibly different from the norm of whiners and complainers claiming they've waited far too long for the things they want to be implemented (not realizing, that it takes a lot of work to implement even some of the "simple" features).
Releasing something like this on the world is an interesting experience. With something like this, you really have no idea whether people are going to love it or hate it. In this particular instance, we really did feel like we had something special going out. Perhaps the biggest innovation since the Sit and Go tournament. I think that like sit and gos, Rush poker is at the very least going to occupy a niche that attracts its own audience of players. It feels like it would be extremely addictive and fun to play, and for those reasons I think it will be a mainstay.
It is amazingly exciting to be part of the online poker industry and observe it through this stage of innovation and competition. The industry is quite young, with online poker really only starting in the late 90's. This is a very exciting time. The top poker sites are starting to reach maturity in terms of basic feature sets and base games. It will be a very interesting year this year, followed up by probably a couple more interesting years as the sites start to experiment.
I must say though ... I'm very jealous of the people playing these games since I am not allowed to play.