10. May 2009 | Category: 50outs
Just today German site PokerOlymp.de published an interview with me about why I stopped working for IntelliPoker and what I think about the current situation. There have been numerous interview requests during recents months but I needed to wait until everything is settled.
The following is a quick and rough translation from German to English:
Jan von Halle finally speaks – The PokerOlymp Exclusive Interview
It’s official: Jan von Halle is no longer responsible for IntelliPoker. Regarding the reasons, rumors and speculations have been circulating for a some time now. In our exclusive interview, Jan von Halle speaks for the first time about the factors that lead to his parting from IntelliPoker.
Jan von Halle founded IntelliPoker.com two years ago with the help of PokerStars and the website has since been attracting an increasing number of users. Prominent writers and in-depth articles on poker have been the trademark of “Intelli” as the page is called in the poker community.
PokerOlymp: Why did you part with IntelliPoker?
I started with the idea to build up a complete online poker portal consisting of the equal components poker school, poker community and poker news. Various promotions like WSOP, PCA and Westspiel-Poker-Tour seats as well as the connection to the PokerStars FPP program should lead to increasing popularity and motivate visitors to switch from their favorite websites to IntelliPoker. At first everything went well and PokerStars and I strived for our mutual goal. IntelliPoker achieved a fantastic success in terms of members, traffic and other key figures.
In spring 2008, a discussion about the future strategic orientation of the site started with PokerStars. This led to the fact that IP was from now on only allowed to feature news related to PokerStars, foreign tournaments, players and sites were all of a sudden taboo for us. I tried to fight with tooth and nails for my intended news policy but I couldn’t prevail. Apart from that, the development and expansion of the website went on, for example the launch of the website in additional languages.
In fall 2008, the next point of discussion occurred: PokerStars had concerns about the (complete and ready) English version of IP because very many PokerStars players would have been attracted and the cost would have been considerable (e.g. the rewards for having successfully completed the quizzes).
Suddenly, a new investment reluctance was perceptible. Therefore the question occurred whether my ambitions were still compatible with those of PokerStars. After intensive discussions, the answer was found in the beginning of 2009: No.
PokerOlymp: When did you decide to leave IntelliPoker?
End of January 2009. After the aforementioned discussions, PokerStars opted for a change in strategy that would redefine the product. It was obvious that I wouldn’t follow this path because I felt it was fundamentally wrong. Thus, PokerStars decided to determine our cooperation.
But I would like to emphasize that this separation took place without the least breach of friendly feeling on either side. I don’t accuse PokerStars of anything; it is their right to decide what to do with their money. In case of a doubt, PokerStars is wiser than I am – you don’t build up such a successful business without coming to the right long-term decisions.
Conversely, there are no allegations against me. The only reasons for separation are different objectives and my refusal to support the new product strategy.
PokerOlymp: How did you personally experience the partly negative coverage in the media and the comments in various forums?
Well, first I have built up quite a tolerance and I can bear criticism. Second, times of uncertainty are always good opportunities for jealous people and minions who come crawling out of their holes. What I had planned and started affected many people, directly and indirectly, and not only in a positive sense. If I had been able to implement my ideas, websites like PokerOlymp.de would have been attacked directly and it certainly would have been much harder for them to maintain their offerings.
In fact, I was a little shocked about the reactions of some “friends” and acquaintances. The wildest rumors have been spread. However, I have also received encouragement, sometimes from quite unexpected sides.
PokerOlymp: How do you assess the current situation and the future of IntelliPoker?
I was well aware that the change in strategy planned by PokerStars would entail a restricted range of content, fewer promotions and associated bonus payouts as well as a reduction of operating costs through staff savings and other measures. Examples are the already initiated staff reductions and the fact that the large office IP moved in no more than a few months ago in 2008 (with all moving and installation costs being explicitly authorized by PokerStars) will soon be abandoned. These examples show why I was not willing to follow them on their new way. Regarding content, I was always ambitioned to expand the content beyond beginners and to add content for advanced players of all game variants because I believe that would have a positive effect on their play and thus on PokerStars. But apparently the idea has now become a distant prospect.
IntelliPoker has often been criticized for being a platform only for beginners and therefore for being a kind of “fish farm”. I had not intended for this to happen. For 2009 I had scheduled serious work to be done to provide content for advanced players.
My opinion is obvious and clear: PokerStars has missed the opportunity to dominate the online information services market after dominating the online poker market and to leave their competitors in the dust. Even the name “IntelliPoker” would have only been an intermediate step towards a large online community under the umbrella of PokerStars.com. Why should users separately visit Pokernews to get updated on the latest poker news, watch EPT live broadcasts on PokerStars.tv, visit 2+2 or PokerStrategy for good poker discussions and PokerOlymp for the best German news?
I any case, the current situation at PokerStars with many separate offers (pokerstars.com, ept.com, pokerstars.tv, intellipoker.com, pokertoday.com etc.) doesn’t seem satisfactory to me. Too much is handled separately and too much work is done twice.
Interestingly, my non-business, private opinion differs from my last statement: The world of poker has become much more interesting and colorful through the many independent and largely self-financed offers. The scenario I recommended and pursued would have clearly been to the disadvantage of those who do not play at PokerStars, who want to retrieve information about what is going on outside the PokerStars universe, or who have a critical attitude towards the site.
PokerOlymp: What do you think about the allegations of various websites that money has been wasted at IntelliPoker? Which of the allegations disturbed you most?
Well, I was disturbed that there are such allegations at all but actually I was not really surprised. My product strategy was ambitious and time was short. I want to treat my employees and subcontractors the same way I want to be treated. I made high demands on my employees and their time and commitment which should be compensated for by providing a positive working atmosphere and a reasonable payment.
You should know that it’s by far not as easy as it seems, according to the motto: “Here are the millions, now do as you please”. PokerStars has sophisticated and detailed requirements for setting up budgets and forecasts, and everything must be presented and approved accordingly.
Two of the much discussed examples: a pool table in the office and a physiotherapist who gives a back and shoulder massage to all employees once per week for 20 minutes each. Both have lead to discussions and irritations (and thus may have been politically questionable). Still, I don’t really understand the uproar: Who still thinks that you have to sit alone in your room and that communication between colleagues is unnecessary and that work should be exclusive subject of every conversation is living in the working environment of yesterday. And to keep employees, who voluntarily work 12 or 14 hours per day and often spend their weekends in the office (or the media rooms during tournaments), in good health with the aid of a physiotherapist is both adequately and wisely invested money. My take.
I’m more disappointed about the 2 to 3 people who spread false and outrageous stories to pursue their own interests. Fortunately and thanks to my good relationship with the top management of PokerStars no harm was done, but time will tell whether the people mentioned have done themselves a disservice in the long term.
PokerOlymp: Who will take over the management at IntelliPoker?
Ultimately PokerStars. When I used to lead the company my decisions were subject to approval by PokerStars, but after that me and my team and I developed and implemented everything autonomously. PokerStars will be much more directly involved in the future.
PokerOlymp: What impact does your parting with IntelliPoker have on your wife Katja Thater? Will she continue to play for PokerStars?
This topic has also been subject to many wild speculations. This was worsened because Katja neither played the EPT Deauville nor the EPT Copenhagen. The background was that Katja was, as already agreed upon in 2008, not sponsored for these two tournaments. Additionally, Katja was actually not invited to attend the TV cashgame “German High Rollers”, probably because of her aversion to No-Limit Hold’em. Regarding cashgame, Katja plays almost exclusively Pot-Limit Omaha, Limit Hold’em and Mixed Games.
Katja’s contract was recently renewed for another year. This should stop all further speculations.
PokerOlymp: What future plans do you have? Will you work as a consultant at IntelliPoker, will you manage another poker website or will you concentrate on playing poker?
At the moment I concentrate on playing poker. I want to improve my game and try to catch up on the state of the art. I also try to find answers to various questions concerning game strategy, bankroll management, tournament selection and so on.
That sounds strange for someone who has just built up a poker school for over 2 years. Indeed, the business side caused so much work that I had very little contact with the actual poker content. For example, I almost never participated in the trainings on IntelliPoker, except when it came to technical reviews and analyses.
My time as a consultant at IP is already over, after the decision in late January I was still present for a few weeks to pass on my knowledge. Only 4 weeks are left before the WSOP will start and meanwhile some minor tournaments will take place, like the PokerOlymp Open, in which I will of course be taking part (Katja cannot come, she will play the RPT in Moscow).
There are several ideas and also a few requests with which I will deal after the WSOP. Until then, I suppose I am, so to speak, on “vacation”. So, if you have something for me …
PokerOlymp: You achieved excellent results at last year’s WSOP. What are your plans for the WSOP 2009?
This year, I would like to keep it flexible. All I can say now is that Katja and I will leave for Vegas on May 28. I will probably play many of the smaller and medium-sized events and I will try to qualify for the 10,000 events via satellites. I am much more optimistic than last year, I improved my NL play and I try to practice H.O.R.S.E. and 8-game regularly.
Katja has already won a WSOP qualifier for the main event (but would play that tournament anyway) and I will also try to win one or more packages online, which I would use for the various 10k events.
This year I won’t have last year’s stress. I won’t try to play as much poker as I can in a short period of time and I will be much more relaxed. The “Luckbox” villa will be our accommodation during the WSOP and we’re looking forward to a fun time with many good and nice players.
I was already prewarned that this year’s money game in the Villa could be “The Settlers of Catan”, which I’ve never played before – let’s see if in the end I will be able to remember what a Royal Flush is …
PokerOlymp: Will you participate in the H.O.R.S.E. event once again?
Most likely I won’t take part in the 50k. Last year I had a deal with myself, because I absolutely wanted to play this tournament once in my life: If my balance was positive at the start of the tournament for the entire WSOP, I would play. This was the case after my four cashes and so I bought in which, unfortunately, made my balance negative.
This year will be similar, but with the modification that a somehow positive balance won’t be enough. The complete buy-in will already have to be won. However, I will take part in the $2,500 satellites, and thus try to win a seat.
PokerOlymp: Will you revive your 50outs.com blog?
I’ve been thinking about that. On one hand I would like to write again, as I will travel a lot and I think I there’s a lot to report and to share, on the other hand I wonder who should still be interested in all that. As a poker player, I am one out of many, not the best, not the most successful and certainly not the best writer, especially in English. In addition, a poker blog appears to be rather out-of-fashion (especially after my time with IntelliPoker).
I will definitly write so-called micro-blogs as Twitter updates (www.twitter.com/50outs), which can also be viewed on my website www.50outs.com and on Facebook.
PokerOlymp: Thank you for the interview.
Update: just this morning I won my WSOP-package on PokerStars. I played a bunch of step1 tournaments (about 30) to try out my multi-tabling capabilties with about 10 open each time. From there I somehow managed to win only 1 step4 ticket (yeah, I know…) and used that to play the step4A exit to the $650 qualifier. In those weekly qualifiers I somehow have good success, from about 10 I played (lifetime) I won a package about 6 times. Obv variance is my bitch in those.
Anyway, after Katja won her package three weeks ago now I got mine. We did a small celebration dance at 3am here, considering my dancing skills, if we would start doing those in life-tournaments after winning key hands, we’d be world famous in no time :D. Will play some more qualifieres and steps, every package stands for playing another of those 10k championship events now.
With that, bye for now.
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