BOOKS I MEDIA
I ONLINE I TOU~~;\tf~1\~\ljEi\rrSl TRAVEL
Profiles in Profitability
If you were a part of the great Internet
boom of the late-'90s-or knew someone who was afflicted-then you've
seen Patrick Selin's office before. On the
third story of a building abutting
Stockholm's Central Train Station, the
corridors are bathed in natural sunlight.
Young, smiling employees-people who
haven't yet had their love for the workplace battered out of them-scurry quietly across the hardwood floors, amidst
workstations with ergonomically sophisticated chairs and vintage pinball
machines. There is an energy in the air,
perhaps owing to Selin's recent appearance on the cover of Dagens Industri,
Sweden's answer to the Wall St. Journal.
This is a company to watch. What separates this business, however, from nearly
every Internet startup is a profit model
that actually works. More, accurately, a
profit model that rocks. This is the
home of PokerRoom.com, one of the
most popular cardrooms on the Web.
"There is a saying in Sweden," says
Selin, company president and CEO, a
round-faced man whose eyes always
seem to smile from behind his glasses.
"No tree grows to heaven." It's his typically modest way of telling me that the
incredible growth enjoyed by online
poker can't continue at its current levels. Citing the statistics to prove it, Selin
tells me that the virtual cardroom industry grew by 630 percent in 2003, only to
drop to a relatively paltry 154 percent in
2004. An estimated $lO-biliion was
wagered in online poker games last year.
These are the kinds of numbers that
make PokerRoom-actually a full-service
casino offering blackjack, roulette, even
pai gow-the 19th-most profitable business in Sweden. Under the guidance of
Selin, a veteran of the Internet banking
industry, the site grabbed somewhere in
the neighborhood of five percent of the
market, making it the fifth-most trafficked poker game on the Web. Their
goal-through a darkly funny advertising campaign incorporating print and
viral media-is to be number three by
Ironically, no one who plays on
A screen shot from
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PokerRoom is actually Swedish: While
the country has no law against running
an Internet gambling business, its citizens are strictly forbidden from participating in the action. Most of the site's
3.2 million players come from America,
England, and Canada.
Poker and the
It's nearly impossible to watch an
evening news broadcast without some
mention of a blog, perhaps the only
development threatening to unseat
poker from its spot as the most hyped
pop culture phenomenon in the world.
That these worlds were destined to
intersect should come as no surprise.
Daniel Negreanu has a blog (www.full
does Paul Phillips (extempore.livejournal
.com). Many amateurs have started their
own blogs, detailing what they hope
will be a journey from novice hacker to
celebrated pro. Poker writer Mike Paulle
posted reports from this year's WSOP on
his blog at PokerPages (www.poker
pages.com/blog). If the fact that Paulle's
"blogging" looks virtually identical to
what he used to do under the banner of
"reporting" leaves you confused as to
exactly what separates a blog from, say,
regularly updating a Web site, you are
Perhaps the most interesting entrant
into the poker blogosphere, although its
not specifically a poker blog, is the newly
launched Oddjack (www.oddjack.com).
brought to you by Gawker Media, the
network of affiliated bloggers responsible
for Gawker (www.gawker.com). Defamer
(www.defamer.com). and Fleshbot
(www.fleshbot.com). sites dedicated to
a whimsical and edgy look at all of the
nutty things our society manages to
obsess on, like Paris Hilton, Lindsay
Lohan, Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan.
Oddjack attacks the world of gambling
with similar vengeance, unafraid to toss
13 JUN 2005
WSOP: More Kamikaze
Here:s all update from
blogger Pckeratl about a casn iame he
stum.bled UPCHlin the
S!alne ••• GGnie
onto a (a~ll
playing S25/$5Q Nt il!lairtSt
Ant-cni-oEsfalldiari, Ptdl Laak.
and some Ul1fet:Og.fiUiJbles.
t\ad a Uttle less than $3k. in
front cf her. "",hkh made tier
tht" shorter loot not
sl1Ortt:st)st3:cks, laak was ttre
front of him ••• noo he was
talkifl'g it up lfke atlsct
(falling right into h£:<rgarne, fll
my opinioo} .,. tak.ing only the
OCGlstGna! bre3k to make out
A screenshot from
ruthless barbs at its prey. A recent
report from an early event at this year's
WSOP included observations like "Don't
bet on Devilfish [David Ulliott] making
the final table in this one. He looks like
he was up all night tossing back lagers
with his mates," and "Chris Moneymaker
made his first appearance. No sign of
the harlot that broke up his first marriage." Ouch.O
Jonathan Grotenstein is co-author of
Poker: The Real Deal with Phil Gordon.
His new history of the World Series of
Poker, All In, will hit the bookshelves
later this year.
PartyPoker Goes Public
Online poker made its way into the mainstream media news headlines in late-June,
when PartyGaming PLC,the company behind PartyPoker.com, hit the London Stock
Exchange,immediately cracked the FTSE100 index, and saw share prices rise by 11 percent in the first day of trading. This despite concern that regulators in the United States,
where about 87 percent of the Gibraltar, England-basedcompany's income is derived,
might soon attempt to prohibit or restrict online gaming on this side of the pond.
PartyGaming opened on Monday, June 27, at an offer price of 116 pence ($2.12
American), and rose to 129 pence ($2.35) by the end of the day. The listing is the
biggest to hit the London Stock Exchange in five years. PartyGaming claims to have a
55 percent share of the worldwide online gaming market, and poker accounted for 92
percent of PartyGaming's revenue in 2004.
An estimated $70-billion was vvagered
in online poker games last year.