September 30th, 2019. The happy news arrives from the development team: we are ready for launch. We instantly push out the happy news, within few hours community members and social audiences are informed via social media e-mail and PPC campaigns, that there was no need anymore to wait even only a second longer. The platform, Pokercode, the self-baptized “best poker course ever”, was finally ready to hit the felts. The hype was real, Jan had provided fantastic assets for that ultimate occasion, our common, only, and final goal so close to being reached: Pokercode is going live.
On October 8th, 2019, so one week into the launch of our beloved Netflix-like content platform and “course”, head coach and co-founder Matthias Eibinger, as well as our back then performance marketing guy Adham, visited the Primed Mind and Pokercode headquarters in Vienna in order to see where we’d head. As I already introduced on multiple occasions, we had started, kicked off, and managed Pokercode quite short- and blind-sighted up until the point, focusing literally on nothing else but the massive launch on October 1st, 2019. As anyone who reaches a big goal, the time afterward is not all that easy, especially when there is neither a set followup-plan nor a clear vision we were all combining and building Pokercode with and around. The talks were already leading in the direction of providing ongoing content, continuous improvements, and steady guidance for our Team community, however, any details were still to be figured.
Keep in mind the community feedback had been very mixed, from positive euphoria over to criticism on “half-baked PIO analysis” that was beautifully distributed, but way too shallow. We started to understand our users better (after having had worked on a product for many months and many $, a crucial mistake in hindsight) finally and were happy and thankful for the community’s feedback and trust. It was clear to us, things had to change. Little did we know how much should change in the following months.
Now, imagine all partners, owners, shareholders, Kate, Stefan, Fedor, Matthias, Peter, Jan, me... sitting together in a co-working space in Prague, right during the EPT in December 2019, in order to align. Align on the long-term strategy of Pokercode, align on the direction of the little baby we had grown so carefully and with so much dedication, passion, effort, and will over the last months. It had taken me many, many days to provide a great vision presentation, in order to buy in all the relevant players for the long-term commitment, after having had talks with the guys in advance of it already, to understand motives and align on expectations towards the event. I can clearly remember also the 4.5hrs on the train together with Fedor and Mariella, from Vienna to Prague, where we finetuned the presentation and aligned on the common messaging, and desired outcome of the session. After having had arrived in Prague, only a short shock held us back, when the coworking space seemed closed, and I, when I rechecked my e-mail exchange with the two lovely owners of animikahub, found out I had requested the right date but had inserted the wrong weekday alongside it. Lucky was I that Alex and his lovely wife just hadn’t anticipated our so early visit, with Fedor, Mariella, and me being around 1.5 hours too early, not wanting to check-in anywhere for a sheer few minutes before having to hit the street again so that they could still open the doors for us. Naturally, Fedor fell asleep on the couch first action, even before I had brought some food from the Vietnamese kitchen from right around the corner. Alex and his wife had prepared a lovely buffet with home-made beverages, snacks, fruits, muesli, and so on, and our partners Stefan, Kate, Jan, Peter, and Matthias would arrive at the place shortly after Fedor woke up from his nap again.
The meeting itself was very well enjoyable, and we aligned on being in it for the long run, after having had all those phone calls beforehand, obviously not a surprise. After I had held intense talks with over 30 avid community members the previous months following the launch after Simon had already worked up fantastic follow-up content through “Igor’s Toy Games” after we had promised our community to take in and work in their feedback thoroughly, at least the guiding direction and ideology, that would keep Pokercode up and driving, was obvious for us. Focusing heavily on injecting value and purpose to the community, very simple and problem-oriented products, that solely center around the needs and desires of poker players who want to elevate their game with our help, for a sustainable, fair, and fitting prizing for the audience we had in mind. Advanced poker players, turning Team Pokercode members, ready to finetune and elevate their game, yet full of inconsistent strategies and non-cohesive performances. Struggling poker players, we would finally want to provide the optimal environment to strive in for. Our vision was about to shape.
Pokercode’s vision is to guide like-minded poker players on their personal poker journey by creating the most supportive environments possible by leveraging the power of community.
Despite the alignment on the overarching values and philosophy, we struggled to act accordingly. Naturally, the launch hype was over, and “business as usual” was going on. We paid healthy taxes for our first (and winning) inaugural year, we worked up the platform completely in german so our users could switch. This one was a funny one by the way since it took me around 12hrs/day for two weeks straight to do it. Keep in mind it was only the first 10hrs of content, so it is an insane accomplishment we are still somewhat holding up the nowadays’ pace with translating all weekly fresh Pokercode content to german all the time. It was actually two weeks in Cyprus, I had booked them through a nice hotel deal in order to play some live series. In those two weeks, I saw the ocean a hefty one time. The rest of the time I spent in my room, occasionally missing out on dinner, lunch, or breakfast, locking myself up to work up those freaking SRT files, translating it all bit by bit, piece by piece, phrase by phrase, to german. It was an insane grind. Little understanding it needs, that I could not perform at my best at the tables, shooting bullets after bullets in all events, crippling my bankroll and net worth solidly.
At the same time, we were about to work up French, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian subtitles as well as some other platform improvements, such as avatar and salutation tweaks. In hindsight, many of those efforts were unsystematic and also a little bit headless. Just because two guys on Instagram ask about it, it doesn’t mean Russian subtitles should make it to the top spot in your priority list.
During May and June, we were still not able to truly turn our vision into our mission. Even though we had just launched our fantastic partnership with the GGPoker Network in May 2020, we still were (and are until today) focusing 90%+ of our time and efforts into our project of heart, into our true passion, which is to professionally accompany our Team Pokercode journey. We consider ourselves to mainly do this by teaching, guiding and accompanying, currently thorough our coaching, Rangeviewer, and community package. However, also having a positive impact on our community’s online gaming experience is just a fantastic opportunity for us to inject purpose and value, all amidst providing our Team Members the environment we are truly convinced of.
Still, the “course” had launched in October, members numbers had been steady but still not increasing, and we were not super clear in our minds on what to do with it. At least in hindsight, it seems like it, because we were already aware we didn’t want to “sell the blue magic pill” anymore through a one-off lifetime license that should revolutionize your poker skill, we were already confident that our product offerings needed change, in order to align our values and vision of accompanying like-minded poker enthusiasts from all over the world, through a sustainable, supportive, and ever-growing and ever-evolving community experience.
So, when the covid crisis hit, we got even more requests by people reaching out, whether we would finally provide some discount, or the chance of paying in installments, or of introducing some subscription model in order to make our offerings more accessible. We always wanted to be able to do that, but engineering is not a trivial thing, things happen, and back at the time the team was still working super hard on finally implementing our long-planned Rangeviewer (which is insane and a true game-changer for anyone, in my opinion), so we didn’t know exactly what to do. After all, it led us to a decision I am not proud of having made, but at least am happy about the learnings we could draw from it. Within those three months of running a 50% off lifetime license to Pokercode, we did indeed see huge traction towards the campaign, but it never felt good. This inner radar should’ve held us back from doing it in the first place already, being in it for the long run, staying patient for another month until we could finally launch our subscription model or instalments for payments. However, we did not find that strength and did not rely on that inner path back then, and resigned under the “pressure” of the fantastic numbers, alongside peer pressure of people requesting for us to open up in the midst of a global poker boom and epidemic. I am super happy that at some point we finally could not bear to discount or fantastic product to such an extent anymore, and I am happily announcing that we will not do such transaction-oriented campaigns ever again to such an extent. It is just not fair to all our other Team Pokercode Members.
Summer 2020 was pure madness. After Pokercode powered by GGPoker had directly jumped into the first-ever online WSOPC series, many more crucial and fantastic events would happen. First of all, the WSOP Online was announced by the GGPN together with the WSOP. We would host the first-ever World Series Of Poker, online, together with the GGPN and WSOP, on Pokercode powered by GGPoker. Boom. We came up with the “ROAD TO WSOP” promotion for our Pokercode powered by GGPoker players, shedding out over $40k only to our exclusive and small community, in the four weeks prior to the WSOP already. Those freerolls and leaderboards were insane, and we were very happy about the positive impact we could have on our community’s poker careers.
On top, our Rangeviewer launched start of August. The Rangeviewer is an insane game-changer for Pokercode as a product, and for our community, as a value addition to the environment, we present and offer. It lets you click through invaluable GTO solutions in an extremely user-friendly manner, thus making it easier to study preflop ranges than ever. A spot, everyone perceives so easy, still you see everyone make those mistakes in the most important street you play in any hand.
Simultaneously, we had started and pushed through our Grindhouse project, which is the sickest project ever and we are truly proud of it. Check it out on pokercode.com/grindhouse or on our youtube channel. You will find all the information there.
Our next thought was, well, the implementation of the subscription model is so stuck and still pending, we should ramp off at least something in the meantime, basically celebrating intensely the launch of our Rangeviwer and the hosting of the WSOP 2020. After our coaches Fedor, Matthias, and Simon had already done the “February Challenge” previously the same year for our community exclusively, where they even more closely accompanied our community by giving live coachings for many weeks straight, the “Academy” was our idea to accompany any aspiring MTT player throughout the course of the WSOP 2020. So, we offered a fantastically valuable coaching package for €199 one-off, in order to receive full access to weekly live sessions for nine weeks straight, including coachings by Fedor, Matthias, Simon, Elliot Roe, health coach Casper Jespersen, Steffen 'Go0se.core!' Sontheimer and Claas 'ssicK_OnE' Segebrecht. The content was invaluable, and the community truly hyped. However, also here there was a bitter-sweet taste that came with it. Even though we offered discounted access to our already existing Pokercode members, still not everyone could participate. So, we had to hold back the most valuable content from our early adopters and Day 1 members, which just didn’t feel right. So, towards the end of it, we could already anticipate the long-wished-for launch of our subscription model and had to make some important decisions.
Imagine being in our position: You had launched a “masterclass” which you felt provided so much value but was turning dormant more and more over time. Imagine, having just put out the Academy as an additional coaching package. Imagine sitting on the Rangeviewer now finally. Imagine having a vivid community, but having done so much stuff, literally all at once, basically spread all over the place. What would you do?
There were hefty internal discussions. The coaches were very motivated to teach the community on a regular basis, so this was a fact and something we should be utterly grateful for. On the other side, you have the community split into, back then still “masterclass”, soon-to-be “Pokercode” members, you have the academy members, and you have the ones who joined both. Now, what would you do?
Happily, and that’s why I would call it a breakthrough in product development, and thus the best decision we ever made, we basically got ourselves back to crucially important questions: What problem do we actually want to solve? What do we want to provide? Soon it would be clear that offering a “masterclass” alongside some “academy” was just a bad idea. How are you supposed to offer two products at once, both aiming to provide value for aspiring MTT players? For us, it creates a conflict of interest we would never want to wholeheartedly live with. Having to split the community and keeping up multiple products that all serve the same purpose, just didn’t make any sense. I am truly happy and thankful that sooner or later everyone within our team had made that realization, and we were about to clear the table and make the most important decision.
In order to make everyone happy and be super fair to every member of our community, this is what we wanted to do, and eventually ended up doing:
On top of, we extended the academy for another month, being yet again very generous to our community, communicating the discussion and decision clearly and transparently within our community.
After this insane summer, combining the Rangeviewer Launch with the Grindhouse project, the WSOP with the “Academy”, now it was finally time to step in to smooth sailing mode. We had made the wise decision to only provide one product, one environment, for any aspiring MTT player, hence would relaunch the Pokercode as a subscription model, prized in a fair way and thus making Pokercode as accessible and available as never before, so it was time to implement. In order to celebrate, and pay our toll to the ones who had joined the “masterclass” as well as “academy” back then already, we were anticipating and preparing the relaunch of what we would nowadays call the Pokercode, which should be exactly that, your optimal environment to study, train and progress in tournament poker.
For that occasion, we launched our Black Box Limited Collection and made a final campaign, where we offered Pokercode for a lifetime access for the absolute last chance ever.
The next day, it was early November and Black Friday/Cyber Monday madness, we literally launched the Pokercode with a big online party. Everything had come together, we finally felt that we had arrived where we had always wanted to.
One open question might be there still: What happened to the “masterclass”, hence lifetime-access members? Well, exactly that. We offered and promised them lifetime access to the Pokercode. We promised them infinite value for their early support, trust and contribution. Simply, because anything else would not have felt right. Anything else would have been against our visions and values. Keep in mind anyways, that this is just the start.
Thanks for reading the first 5 blog posts of mine, let me know what you think and if you enjoyed it! Also for me, it is truly nice to recap the whole story, and Pokercode almost two years in the making. We are still as hyped and passionate as ever, and cannot wait to share what we are up to, which is a lot.
Greetings from Klosterneuburg near Vienna,
Johannes from the Pokercode-Team
Pokercode CEO & Co-Founder
This was the fifth and final part of "Pokercode Origins". Stay tuned for more "Inside the Pokercode" where we try to share insights and provide behind-the-scenes disclosure of how Pokercode truly is built and works. Subscribe to our YouTube channel and follow along as we take you back to our origins and show you behind-the-scenes footage!
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