The History of the Winning Poker Network
The Winning Poker Network was one of the first online poker networks ever founded, making its debut back in 2001 under its previous name, MyPokerNetwork.
In 2001, the Winning Poker Network opened its doors and started dealing cards under its initial (and now current) flagship skin, True Poker. They debuted MyPokerNetwork under the Dobrosoft software platform. The small network consisted of a number of smaller rooms including Aloha poker, Casual Poker, DSI poker, Live Action Poker and many more.
At the time of launch, the only other online sites in existence were Paradise Poker, Ultimate Bet, Poker Stars and Party Poker. Early on, Paradise Poker established itself as the predominant leader of online poker, and in just under 2 years had dealt over 177,000,000 hands.
After 4 years on the Dobrosoft platform, True Poker and a handful of smaller skins then moved over to the bigger OnGame network, which at the time consisted of a variety of popular rooms including pokerroom.com. True Poker remained there for two years, before OnGame pulled out of the U.S. market.
Once again, True Poker packed their bags. This time to the Yatahay Network, and instead of keeping their flagship room name, migrated their players to an existing room called True Poker, and shelved True Poker for the time-being.
A few smaller skins of neighboring sportsbooks in San Jose, Costa Rica, were added in 2007 to the Yatahay Network. True Poker was the first online poker site to offer 3D graphics and enjoyed early success in 2002-2003.
As Yatahay’s software became more dated, other US-facing sites such as PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, and Ultimate Bet captured the lion’s share of the market, leaving the Yatahay Network relatively small.
That all began to change in 2011. On April 15th, 2011 the U.S. Department of Justice served indictments to the other sites forcing them to cease operations in the United States. This event is commonly referred to as ‘Black Friday’ in the poker world.
The future looked bright for Yatahay as one of the only remaining poker networks to service U.S. players. Also, in 2011, the Yatahay Network acquired Doyle’s Room, a site founded by Doyle Brunson, the renowned poker player widely considered “the Godfather of Poker”.
However, the network was destined to suffer the same fate as its competitors. On May 23rd, 2011, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Maryland served indictments which led to the closure of 10 internet domain names that included Yatahay Network sites. This event was referred to as ‘Blue Monday’.
Rather than pulling out of the U.S. market, the decision was made to rebrand the network to the Winning Poker Network and to rebuild the network from the ground up.
THE REBUILD: Bringing the greatness of online poker back to the U.S. market.
After Blue Monday, Doyle’s Room opted to leave WPN and the new flagship skin became True Poker, the original name used on the DobroSoft platform.
WPN paid all its players due to the inevitable “run on the banks” that came as a result of the indictments and began the rebuilding process.
At this time, the network appointed a new Chief Executive Officer, Phil Nagy, who had extensive online poker experience.
Having been an avid poker player before the game ever transitioned online, he brought a player’s perspective that proved invaluable to helping to create many of the innovations that lay ahead for the network.
The first order of business was changing software from their dated 3D client into a more functional version that would allow for the kind of growth Nagy envisioned.
In 2011, Yatahay began leasing software from Bulgarian-based software provider IGSoft, which was much more up to date with the day’s competition.
The next move was to create a promotional and tournament schedule to regain the interest of players and incentivize them to come back.
Recognizing that PokerStars, which was the dominant leader of the online poker industry, had built their clientele by progressively increasing the size and scope of their tournament offering in order to attract more players, WPN adopted the same strategy.
In 2019, the Winning Poker Network once again moved platforms, this time to SJH. The new software, based in HTML5, has allowed the network to develop new product ideas 10 times faster than its C++ predecessor.
THE STORY BEHIND OUR LOGO: Changes over the years.
The traditional design using all four poker suits was a mainstay of the True Poker original branding until they transitioned to a cleaner version in 2010.
The redesign happened along with the Winning Poker Network’s resurgence of the brand in 2010. The logos redesign shifted in focus to a precise and timeless expression of clarity.
The current True Poker logo includes a star signifying the companies drive for excellence along with a red spade, the strongest of the suits, to represent the longevity and growth of the company over the years.
LIVE EVENTS: What we’ve hosted away from the virtual felt over the years.
Online poker players have found a home at the Winning Poker Network over the years. But as much as these players have loved WPN’s products and services, it never quenched their desire to also attend land-based or live events.
WPN has tried to fill the bill by awarding packages to events like the WSOP Main Event in Las Vegas. An even better solution was to offer their own sponsored live events. Here’s a history of these events through the years.
Latin Poker Series
This series originally debuted in 2009 as the Latin Series of Poker (LSOP). However, it was rebranded to the Latin Poker Series in July 2014. The series was designed for players to attend live events each year across various exotic Latin American locations.
One of the highlights of this series was a $500,000 guaranteed tournament in Peru in 2013. In 2014, there was the LPS Millions II in Panama that had a $1 Million guaranteed tourney. There were several Day 1 venues for the LPS Millions II including Panama, Dominican Republic, Colombia, Peru, Brazil, Costa Rica, and Chile.
The Latin Poker Series ended in late 2014, although one of its events, the Punta Cana Poker Classic, lived on for several more years. We have more on that tournament from the Dominican Republic below.
The Punta Cana Poker Classic
The Punta Cana Poker Classic (PCPC) was an annual land-based poker event that took place in the Dominican Republic from 2010 through 2017.
The Winning Poker Network was the main sponsor of the PCPC and awarded lots of full packages via online satellites. The packages included the buy-in, airfare, hotel and unlimited food and drink.
There were two different 5-star locations of the PCPC. For the first six years it was held at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. The final two years it was moved to the Melia Caribe Tropical.
The Punta Cana Poker Classic saw its share of poker celebrities attend over the years, including Doyle Brunson during the first edition. It was attended by Josh Beckley in 2016. He was the 2nd-place finisher in the 2015 WSOP Main Event.
Here’s a look at the guarantee and the final prize pool for each year of the event:
$203,000 final prize pool
$402,149 final prize pool
$522,900 final prize pool
$712,950 final prize pool
$737,685 final prize pool
$824,985 final prize pool
$692,580 final prize pool
$573,000 final prize pool
The Cage Live
In 2018, the decision was made to move away from the Punta Cana Poker Classic and offer players a land-based event on WPN’s home turf of San Jose, Costa Rica. The main reason for the change was the desire to showcase the offices to players, give players a chance to see how their day-to-day operations work, and introduce players to the teams behind bringing them the products, promotions, and support that the network offers.
The Cage Live was thus born. It was based on their online Cage time-based cash game in tourney format that plays every Wednesday night.
The online version lasts exactly five hours, while the Cage Live is a 2-day event with six hours of play on both Saturday and Sunday. The buy-in for the Cage Live is also much larger ($5,250 vs. $1,050). In each version, players battle it out on the felt and have their chips converted to real cash when time expires.
Since the Cage Live buy-in is significant, WPN decided to award packages every Sunday through a special Beast and Sit & Crush Cage Live satellite. At least a couple of $8,340 packages are awarded every week and include the $5,250 buy-in, accommodations at the 5-star Taormina Hotel, airfare and spending cash.
The Cage Live ran six times in 2018 and 2019, offering mostly Hold’em versions but also some PLO ones sprinkled in. WPN representatives are very happy about the response to the Cage Live and the ability to give players a tour of the WPN offices, offering them a peek “behind the curtains”.
Players like the Cage Live poker action, but also love that San Jose is a great party location, something that WPN also promotes in their marketing materials. The Cage Live looks to continue into 2020 and beyond with equal success.
INNOVATION THROUGH PROMOTIONS
With a strong tournament offering, WPN recognized the need to constantly innovate and create new poker products to bolster their game selection. Since 2011, the market share of online poker has decreased year on year.
The Winning Poker network set forth to keep online poker fresh, for both cash games and tournaments, thus offering the promotions listed below.
Unleashed in August 2013, The Beast was the Winning Poker Network’s replacement for its famous Bad Beat Jackpot. In an effort to offer more players the chance to pocket more money on a regular basis, WPN said goodbye to the Bad Beat Jackpot, a concept that was famous across competing sites, and introduced a points race for cash game players, eliminating the element of chance and giving all players the chance to profit. Players who sit down to play in The Beast are awarded points towards a leaderboard, which pays out thousands in cash and tournament seats to the top ranked players. Originally launched as a monthly race, The Beast transitioned to a weekly race, giving players a new chance to profit each and every week. There’s no extra fee to participate in The Beast — the prize pool is funded from the rake WPN already collects. To date, The Beast has paid out over $25 million.
Sit & Crush
Introduced in December of 2013, Sit & Crush is the Winning Poker Network’s Beast counterpart for Sit & Go and tournament players. While The Beast tracks the top point earners at the cash tables, Sit & Crush does the same for tourney players. The promotion was originally introduced as a monthly leaderboard competition but transitioned to a weekly race to follow in The Beast’s footsteps. To date, Sit & Crush has paid out over $4 million.
MO MO MO PLO
The Winning Poker Network has built a strong following among Pot Limit Omaha Players. So, for Christmas 2015, the network wanted to recognize its player base. The result was MO MO MO PLO, an online poker tournament promotion for Pot Limit Omaha players that features more tournaments, more cash games, and more jackpots, plus the chance to create personal bonuses. The promotion has returned annually every December since launching.
The High Five
Poker and cannabis go together like peanut butter and jelly. So to pay homage to the 420 community, the Winning Poker Network introduced The High Five in November of 2013, a 420-themed online poker series that celebrates all things green. The original series featured a $420k guaranteed Main Event and a courtesy break at 4:20pm ET. Subsequent series have kept both intact, but the most recent High Five, held in September 2019, featured three $420k guaranteed Main Events.
The Online Super Series
Originally introduced as the Winning Poker Network’s online answer to the World Series of Poker, the Online Super Series (OSS for short) packed a number of tournaments into several weeks, offering up millions in guarantees. A Main Event in the $250k or $500k range was common. Eventually, the Winning Poker Network upped the guarantee of the Main Event to $1 million.
Mini Online Super Series
Not to leave micro-stakes players out in the cold, the Winning Poker Network introduced a smaller version of the OSS in November of 2012, packing dozens of tournaments into a schedule that appealed to players with smaller bankrolls. Wildly popular among the poker playing community, the Mini Online Super Series regularly exceeded guaranteed expectations.
After witnessing the success of both the Online Super Series and the Mini Online Super Series, True Poker rolled the two series into one, and then added a Bigger Online Super Series to the mix. The first OSS Cub3d debuted in July, 2016 and since then, the Winning Poker Network has held 7 additional installments of the popular series. OSS Cubed typically features three Main Events — one MOSS, one OSS, and one BOSS. The last several OSS Cub3d series featured $1 million guaranteed tournaments on both the OSS and BOSS schedules.
Freebuy Super Series
Freerolls have been commonplace at online poker sites for nearly two decades now as a means to hook new players. Freerolls usually come with real money prizes, but they’re not that big. For example, freeroll could see a few thousand players compete for $100. In July 2015, the Winning Poker Network invented the Freebuy, a tournament that combines a freeroll with a buy-in tournament. Players pay $0 to enter, but if they’re running low, they can rebuy for real money, or grab an add-on. To introduce Freebuys, the Winning Poker Network created the Freebuy Super Series, a lineup of freebuy tournaments with $150,000 in guarantees. The Freebuy Super Series returns to the Winning Poker Network in October 2019.
Million Dollar Sunday
Before Black Friday back in 2011, big poker was the norm in the United States, with 6-figure and even million-dollar poker tournaments making a regular appearance on the schedule. But when things came crashing down, so too did the guarantees. After Black Friday, it was common for weekly tourneys to top out at $50k or $100k in the United States. But in February of 2015, the Winning Poker Network introduced Million Dollar Sunday, a $1 million poker tournament. The tournament was held rather frequently, and at one point the Winning Poker Network made it a weekly affair, losing hundreds of thousands of dollars each week. Eventually, as the Winning Poker Network grew its player base, the overlays subsided. Eventually, Million Dollar Sunday was rebranded The Sunday Venom.
Million Dollar Jackpots
With the introduction of Jackpot Poker in February of 2017, the Winning Poker Network offered players the chance to win their Million Dollar Sunday seat for pennies on the dollar, simply by sitting down at a Jackpot Poker table. Players choose their buy-in and once all three players are seated, the table spins and the prize is revealed.
World Series of Jackpots
Similar to Million Dollar Jackpots, the Winning Poker Network offered players the chance to win a $12,500 Main Event package for the World Series of Poker through Jackpot Poker games. The result was a huge success, with several players securing their Main Event package through the innovative promotion.
The $5 Million Venom
After a series of successful $1 million Venom tournaments and with a rapidly growing poker network, True Poker held the $5 Million Venom in the summer of 2019. Leading up to the multi-day event, Winning Poker Network sites pumped hundreds of thousands of dollars into marketing the tournament by offering up $0 Step tournaments, helping players secure their seats for free. The result was outstanding and worth the effort. The $5 Million Venom attracted a record number of entries and ultimately paid out a record $6,382,500 in prize money. The network also earned the GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS™ title for the largest cryptocurrency winning jackpot in an online poker tournament with a $1,050,650 Bitcoin payout. In November 2019, the Winning Poker Network hosts the next big tournament — the $6 Million Venom that promises to set new records once again.
TOURNAMENTS: From a $7,500 GTD tourney to $6,000,000 GTD in just 8 years.
In 2011, when the network was being rebranded, the Sunday major consisted of a $55 buy-in $7,500 GTD tournament that at times, wouldn’t reach the guarantee. With the introduction of the Big 10 daily tournament schedule, and a slow but steady traffic increase on the site, WPN set out to bolster its Sunday tournament schedule, and that all started with a Sunday Major.
WPN set its sites on its first $50k GTD tournament in 2012. While this seems like a paltry guarantee compared to today’s standards, at the time and given the current clientele of online poker in the U.S., it was a huge undertaking. They left themselves three months as a leadup time to allow for marketing and satellites, and hosted the $50k GTD event as part of a larger tournament series. Both strategies worked well and became key to their major growth efforts in the years to come.
The tournament was a success and brought enough traffic to start growing the tournament schedule. As the network tournament guarantees grew, so did their ambitions to start hosting major tournaments. Their Sunday major (the Sunday Special) grew to a weekly $125k GTD tournament and was supported by other big tournaments including the $100,000 GTD Warm-up and the $50k GTD High Roller.
With their regular weekly schedule in full swing, the network set its eyes on its biggest endeavor yet, and something that had not been seen since before Black Friday, a $1,000,000 GTD tournament. In order to accomplish this, Nagy and his team incorporated the same principles they used years before when attempting to run their first $50k GTD tournament. They allowed for a 6-month lead-up time for ample opportunity to market the tournament and for players to qualify via satellite.
In December of 2014, WPN launched the first Million Dollar Sunday, but they were forced to cancel the event due to DDoS attacks from an unknown perpetrator. Nevertheless, the tournament was on pace to meet its guarantee before the time of cancellation, and the rescheduled event in early 2016 was a huge success. The tournaments have been a staple of the Winning Poker Network ever since. WPN has successfully hosted over 25 of them in their history.
After a series of successful $1 million Venom tournaments and with a rapidly growing poker network, True Poker held the $5 Million Venom in the summer of 2019. Leading up to the multi-day event, Winning Poker Network sites pumped hundreds of thousands of dollars into marketing the tournament by offering up $0 Step tournaments, helping players secure their seats for free. The result was outstanding and worth the effort. The $5 Million Venom attracted a record number of entries and ultimately paid out a record $6,382,500 in prize money. The network also earned the GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS™ title for the largest cryptocurrency winning jackpot in an online poker tournament with a $1,050,650 Bitcoin payout.
The Biggest Poker Tournament Online Ever Hosted By A US-Facing Site
In November of 2019 the Winning Poker Network once again continued to push the envelope with an even bigger Venom tournament, this time with a $6 million guarantee. Once again, the tourney well-surpassed all expectations and the guarantee with 2,696 total entrants, creating a $6,740,000 prize pool. The first-place winner walked away with $1,039,982.
CRYPTOCURRENCY: The Game Changer
With a strong tournament schedule, cash games available at a wide range of stakes, and an extensive range of promotions, the Winning Poker Network had little trouble piquing the interests of poker players. Yet challenges remained, especially pertaining to payment processing.
With a strong tournament schedule, cash games available at a wide range of stakes, and an extensive range of promotions, the Winning Poker Network had little trouble piquing the interests of poker players. Yet challenges remained, especially pertaining to payment processing.
In the aftermath of Black Friday and Blue Monday, making a deposit at an online poker site was no easy task, even for avid poker players. In many regions, players were forced to contend with banking restriction that were complicated, arbitrary, and constantly subject to change. Prospective depositors in the US market and several other regions could not always count on the convenience of payment methods like credit cards and debit cards.
In jurisdictions where online poker remained fully legal, many players also faced difficultly funding their accounts. With a patchwork of regulations to contend with, it wasn’t uncommon for payment processors and card issuers to err on the side of caution and reject payments, much to the dismay of potential poker players. Even players who had easily funded their account in the recent past could face difficulty using the same card in the future.
While rejected deposits certainly frustrated players who were forced to miss out on the excitement of a particular tournament or time-limited promotion, the then-current poker climate was more problematic for players hoping to claim their winnings. Withdrawals were at the mercy of international postal services, banks that asked too many questions, and other intermediaries who could leave players in the lurch for weeks, forcing them wonder if they would ever be paid.
Like most internet gaming sites, the Winning Poker Network did welcome the use of third-party electronic wallets, but this proved to be little more than a stopgap measure. Unfortunately, these services were slow, inconvenient, and expensive to use. And although diehard poker players were willing to use these services, they only did so due to the lack of alternatives. Convincing casual players to jump through countless hoops and put their trust in these unfamiliar services was a markedly harder sell.
In late 2014, the Winning Poker Network found a solution to the payment processing issues that continued to plague the industry. WPN had decided to embrace the blockchain and welcome bitcoin. As a decentralized digital currency with no central bank or intermediaries to answer to, this peer to peer payment method was arguably the perfect match for poker.
Yet when WPN accepted their first cryptocurrency transaction in January of 2015, Bitcoin wasn’t a household name. The fledging blockchain asset did command its share of headlines thanks to its rapid rise in price a year earlier, but it remained little more than a curiosity even among tech savvy internet poker players. Still, the Winning Poker Network was quick to embrace Bitcoin since it solved many of its payment issue in one fell swoop.
With Bitcoin, players at WPN sites could finally fund their accounts or claim their winning in a matter of minutes rather than having to wait days or weeks. Thanks to the reliability of the decentralized networks, deposits were no longer dependent on arcane regulations or the whims of intermediaries. Finally players would be able bring their bankrolls to the table and cash out their profits with forsaking convenience, speed, privacy, security or affordability.
Given the popularity of cryptocurrencies around the world in general, and among the online gaming community in particular, the Winning Poker Network dramatically increased its support for crypto rather quickly. Not only did WPN sites begin heavily promoting Bitcoin in late 2017, but the Winning Poker Network started accepting 60 different cryptocurrency options, giving players unprecedented flexibility.
In 2019, the Winning Poker Network doesn’t just accept Bitcoin, Litecoin, Ripple, Dash, Steem, Ethereum, Eos, Digi Byte, DogeCoin, PotCoin, Blackcoin, and dozens of other cryptocurrencies. In just a few short years, cryptocurrencies have come to represent the bulk of WPN’s business. Cryptocurrencies have gone from making up 2% of the transactions on the Winning Poker Network in 2015 to 60% of all transactions just four years later. Even though conventional payment methods are still accepted, the percentage of crypto transactions continue to grow rapidly in 2019.
For the convenience of players, all WPN cash games and tournaments are run exclusively using US dollars. The network automatically converts payments to or from US dollars when players deposit or cash out, meaning no one is forced to worry about crypto volatility while playing.
On Wednesday, July 24, 2019, WPN made crypto and poker history by setting the GUINNESS WORLD RECORD™ title for the largest cryptocurrency winning jackpot in an online poker tournament. After the conclusion of the network’s multi-day $5 Million Venom tournament, WPN promptly paid the event winner his $1,050,560 prize by bitcoin.
With a final prize pool of $6,382,500, WPN’s $5 Million Venom also had the distinction of being the biggest tournament ever hosted by a US-facing poker site. The Winning Poker Network’s support for dozens of cryptocurrency options allowed players to participate in the tournament with ease and was instrumental in the overwhelming success of the event. The network expects to build on the $5 Million Venom’s enormous popularity when it hosts its first ever $6 Million Venom beginning on Wednesday, November 27, 2019.
Yet the popularity of cryptocurrencies at the Winning Poker Network isn’t reserved for big events. WPN welcomes players of all financial means and skillsets to play in their tournaments and cash games at any time of the day or night.
AGILE SCRUM METHODOLOGY
The Winning Poker Network works in the Scrum Agile management methodology which differs from the traditional management methods used by competitors in the online poker industry.
CEO Phil Nagy recognized the need to adopt a management style shift when he found himself micromanaging every decision, big or small. Agile methodology relies on individual teams and trusts that each are specialized within their pertaining field.
Each team consists of a Product Owner, who has the vision for the product of value that they are responsible for delivering to the stakeholder or company. The product owner then passes down the vision of the product to the team members.
Each team has a Scrum Master, who decides with the team what tasks should be accomplished within each sprint (a pre-determined amount of time). The Winning Poker Network works in two-week sprints, at which point each team is expected to present what they’ve accomplished over that two-week period, for feedback from the stakeholders and other teams within the company.
With such short sprint times, it allows teams to “fail fast”. Meaning if they are on the wrong track, they’ve only spent a short amount of time working on the product before they can be pointed in the right direction.
Alternatively, Scrum Agile allows for complete transparency in that every team knows what the other is working on. Teams are graded on the number of story points they accomplish. A story point is a unit that measures the amount of time certain tasks would take. Units are predetermined by the teams.
WPN staff have embraced the new methodology, which allows them more independence to try different things and gauge their effectiveness by presenting the product’s results by looking at key performance indicators for each project.
THE FLOPS: No sweet without the sour.
Sit & Go 2.0
WPN dubbed it the Next Evolution of Poker, but to be frank, it was the next evolution of a game that nobody played. After a year long development and marketing effort, WPN found out the hard way that it’s pretty tough to make Sit & Go’s exciting. The game was discontinued after just over a year of gameplay.
6 Plus Poker
WPN thought that 6 Plus was the next big game that everyone would want to play. From cash games to tournaments, WPN made it a priority to have it available in the lobby. It just didn’t get going. Despite still being a popular growing game in Asia, the game was delisted on WPN during the software change in mid-2019.
Flying Bucks Promotion
Who doesn’t like free money? At least that was the theory. WPN tried the Flying Bucks promotion which launched a flying avatar on the screen, rewarding random amounts of cash to the first player at the table who clicked on it. Unfortunately, since many of the random amounts were small, and the avatar distracting, it was removed shortly after its first run after players voiced their displeasure.
In 2011, the network moved offices to occupy a smaller floor on a neighboring building and hired more support staff to better accommodate the players. At this point the player pools remained relatively small, and while staff size had doubled from approximately 15 to 30, the employee headcount remained small.
After the rebranding of the network to WPN, traffic began to grow exponentially and so did the need for more bodies. More support staff were added, new teams were created, and existing teams were expanded, including a social media department, support, email marketing, affiliates, web, development, and security.
In late 2017, the full floor designated for the WPN could no longer effectively accommodate the staff that had been brought on to help cultivate the network. WPN then leased an entire office building and had a total staff count of over 350.
While the new office had been expected to be the long-term home of WPN, space quickly became a problem after hiring 50 more employees. An opportunity arose to acquire an office space that would accommodate twice the staff, allowing for a permanent location that would allow the network to effectively service players and partners from around the world.
From their humble beginning of just 15 people, the Winning Poker Network now has over 350 employees worldwide and the tally continues to grow.
THE WPN STAFF: The people behind the team.
The Winning Poker Network has had dramatic personnel growth since 2001, currently having 400 employees in various locations around the globe. Some of the specialized fields include IT, Security, Marketing, Product Development and Human Resources. And most of the staff have degree levels ranging from Bachelor’s to PhD.
WPN management believes people = talent. That’s why company employees have benefits, just like Fortune 500 companies. The diversity of the staff is also impressive with many different cultures, languages and ethnicities.
Finally, WPN encourages employees to grow outside of work and develop their interests. A recent survey listed some of the most popular hobbies as follows: cooking, photography, video games, reading and athletics.
STORMY THE MASCOT
In 2019, The Winning Poker Network recognized their customers needed something to identify with. This was especially true since their Social Media presence had grown to be the second most followed in the online poker world. As a result, Stormy the Mascot was recruited.
As you can see in the photos below from Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram over the years, Stormy has been one busy bird.