Recently, we reported that Lee Jones, the former Poker Room Manager on PokerStars, signed with Cake Poker. The agreement marks a coup of sorts for the USA-friendly site, the flagship member of a network that also includes Doyle’s Room, Poker Host, and Sportsbook.com, just to name a few. Poker News Daily sat down with Jones for an exclusive look at his role and the future of the site.
Poker News Daily: Congratulations on your new role with Cake Poker. Tell our readers what responsibilities you’ll be assuming.
Jones: My official title is Card Room Manager. One of my most important roles will be acting as a player advocate. You’re going to see me at live events, I’ll be playing on the site, and I’ll be hosting tournaments. I’ll also have an internal role where I’ll be consulting on tournaments and the client software. I’ve spent the last few days working with them. They’re great folks and we’re having a good time together. I’m benefiting from their perspective and they’re benefiting from mine. It’s a great opportunity for me and I hope I’ll be able to contribute a lot to Cake.
PND: You left CardRunners in February after serving as the poker training site’s Chief Operating Officer. How did you find your way to Cake Poker?
Jones: It’s a small business that we’re all in. I was talking to Nat Arem about something completely unrelated and he suggested that Cake Poker might be a good fit. One thing led to another and we got started from there.
PND: What made Cake Poker an appealing online poker site to sign with?
Jones: They were already on my radar because I was really impressed with an enterprise that could develop critical mass under the shade of PokerStars and Full Tilt. I thought they had something because it’s a tough business to break into.
PND: From what we’ve heard from players, Cake Poker could use a new software client. Do you agree?
Jones: We are working on it right now. We consider the client to be our weakest link. That came up in the initial conversation I had with Cake Poker’s senior management. My professional background is in software, so I’m really sensitive to that. We talked early on and agreed that the client is behind the times. I’ve seen what’s under development. There are people actively working very hard on a new client and I think it’s going to be state of the art when it comes out. It’s crucial to get the client up to standing with what PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker offer.
PND: After leaving PokerStars, you worked with the European Poker Tour for one year and then with CardRunners for one year. Are you looking forward to settling down with Cake Poker?
Jones: I am enthusiastic about this. It’s interesting coming from PokerStars, which we grew from a small into a big company. It’s fun being back in a small company and seeing if we can do this again. I spent 25 years in Silicon Valley and you’d see that with guys over and over. The fun part is growing the small company and seeing what you can do differently. You can look back on things that you did right and can do better. The staff here is great and a lot of them have strong industry experience.
PND: What will it take for Cake Poker to be on the same level as PokerStars in the eyes of players?
Jones: We’re coming up with a unique rewards program. We’ve got things like the Gold Cards and Gold Chips programs, but over the next year, you’ll see it expand into something that’s completely different than anything else in the business. Once we roll that out, it will blow people’s minds in how it affects the whole industry.
We are also departing from PokerStars’ path in some ways, but ones we think are good for the players. For example, we permit players to change their screen name every week. I advocated something similar to that in a blog post a couple of years ago. We allow tracking software only for monitoring your own results, not “fish finding,” if you will.
In short, we’re emphasizing poker as entertainment. That’s a very different model than Full Tilt, for example. They have a really strong brand message of playing against the pros. Our message is a different one and we think that’s good for us. Let’s not forget that poker is a game. In some respects, the only reason you play with money is because it’s a component that makes the game interesting. To many of us, it’s not about the money; it’s about the competition, the math, and the psychological battles. Money can quite literally be a way of keeping score.
PND: Talk about the importance of providing top-notch customer service, which you helped instill at PokerStars.
Jones: If you don’t respect what PokerStars did before, during, and after my tenure, you’re not paying attention, but there’s nothing in the world that says they’re the only ones that can do that. I worked at IBM for years and people said no one could surpass them; nothing is guaranteed. PokerStars is number one and Full Tilt is number two, but good ideas, good people, hard work, and executing plans – no one has a corner on that market. The beauty of the honest business world is that if we provide good customer service and a great player experience, we can advance. We are going to do that.