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VIP Club Live: London Raising

ps_news_thn.jpgOne of the more fun jobs at PokerStars is coming up with cool new ways to entertain and reward our players. That plum assignment travels around the company depending on the circumstances, but recently the VIP team on the Isle of Man got their shot.

Their mission: invent a party to bring together PokerStars players from all over the VIP spectrum, from Bronze to SuperNova Elite; in short, have a giant community gathering.

They scratched their heads, drank a bunch of Red Bull, argued back and forth, and then said, "Okay, we got it."

"We're gonna rent a cool venue in London, like a museum or something. We're gonna show a Premier League football match on a big screen. We're going to wine, dine, and beer the attendees. We're going to have video games and give away prizes," they said.


Yeah, we can throw an epic party here

The bosses listened, and said, "But how will you tie this into our products and services?"

The VIP team scurried back to their desks, consumed espresso, and returned...
"We'll... we'll announce the new PokerStars 7 software client there! And put iPad kiosks in the video game room so players can try out the mobile client!"

And light was upon the faces of They Who Make the Decisions and they spake unto the VIP Team, saying, "It is good; go and do."

That's when the serious caffeine consumption started. They called the London Film Museum and asked if PokerStars could have the place to ourselves on Saturday, September 29th. "Sure." The first step in organizing the premier VIP Club Live party was complete.

At some point in there, they came to me and said, "Hey, would you like to present the new client software at the party and be kind of the master of ceremonies?"

"Nah man, I'll just sit here at my desk... and what are you kidding?!?!?"

Fast forward to this past Saturday. I walked in around 8:30am and already the place was humming with activity:


Staff and tour photographer? Check


Chairs? Check


Coffee, croissants, pain au chocolat? Check


Arcade games and iPad kiosks? Check


Video studio? Check


Alien? Check

Then let's bring 'em in. Right around 10:00am the doors were flung and poker players from all over London (and Europe, in fact) came streaming in. They grabbed coffee and sugared substances (10:00am is a brutally early time for the poker community) and started meandering through the exhibits. And I grabbed a few for souvenir photos:


Charlie Chaplin knew how to sneak into a picture

For two hours, they just mingled and matched up faces and screen names ("Wait - you're Simon123? I sort of imagined somebody bigger and meaner with a snarl on his face."). They talked about who they supported in the upcoming Chelsea vs. Arsenal football match (Arsenal was definitely the crowd favourite), and they ate.


So yeah, I totally five-bet him pre with air and he let it go!

Then around noon, we kicked off the ceremonies. I got up onstage, whipped out my camera, and told everybody to smile.


Hello London! You guys look great!

First we celebrated the creation of a 'lifetime achievement award' for players who have reached five million lifetime VPPs. No, that's not a typo: 5,000,000. Which is like 8.5 Porsches in the VIP Store or six round-trips to the moon, or something like that.
We have 32 of those marathon players and we've presented them all with a special TAG-Heuer watch. We'll be shipping out a few more in the near future, so if you're closing in on five million VPPs don't bother about asking for a watch this Christmas.


Don't play poker against people wearing this watch

Then we talked about the new mixed online-live format that the UKIPT is bringing out this month. People will play a regular tournament online during mid-October. Those who reach the final table will play it out live at the UKIPT event in Bristol, England during November.

And finally we were ready for the 'main event' - a 15-minute demonstration of the brand new PokerStars 7 software client, which will be coming out soon. I had a blast giving the demo and I think the players enjoyed it too.


Coming soon to a closed beta near you


Or maybe you'll be going to an EPT event courtesy of us

Of course, I warned them that they were seeing an alpha version of the product and there might be changes before the software got to the store shelves. But on the flip side, we put everybody at the event on the closed beta invitation list; they'll be among the first ones to test out the new software in a few weeks.

The moral is that if you show up at a PokerStars VIP Club Live party, you get more than salmon bagels and sausage rolls (though both were really good).

With the presentation over, it was time to direct the big screen toward the Chelsea/Arsenal match. I mingled with the players some more and got a picture of the guy who won the "Nattiest Dresser at a PokerStars party, Ever" award, going away.


Seriously, who's cooler than this PokerStars player?

And while a big crowd watched the football (and watched Arsenal blow a couple of ridiculously great opportunities to score on their way to a 2-1 defeat at home), others bee-lined for the video arcade room, which had a stunning view out over the Thames.


Wait, what? There's a view of the Thames in this room?

Note in the above picture the waiter bringing around the 'mini fish-and-chips' to provide sustenance for hungry foosballers.


Where's the "Raise" button?!?

And back at the football match, a bunch of forum-inhabiting degens flash-mobbed PokerStars legend "PokerStars Steve D" for an impromptu group photo.


Who are these guys and why did they suddenly crowd around my table?

During the football game, we ran a contest where people tried to predict things such as the time of the first goal scored, who would score it, etc. And there was a separate contest for predict a bunch of statistics about the game. Astonishingly, in that contest, we had a tie with three players correctly predicting seven different game stats (maybe they moonlight as football handicappers). We randomly selected a winner from those three, a young fellow who's normally a $2 sit-and-go player. But now he's got a seat in the Bristol UKIPT main event worth £700 - everybody in the room cheered when I gave him the certificate.

Over in the video games room, we gave away Sunday Million seats to the top performers in the various video games. One of the games was a boxing simulator where you hit the punching bag as hard as you can and the machine (presumably) measures the acceleration of the bag as it flips up. Some PokerStars player (who I want on my side in any street brawl) got, like, the top 15 scores in the game.

As the day wound down, the community shook hands with us and new friends, picked up their styling new t-shirts, and wandered out to the South Bank of the Thames to see what a Saturday evening in London might offer. The arcade games were stored away and the foosball machine (red-spade branded, mind you) was crated up for the next amazing PokerStars event.

Thanks to the Twitterverse, the reviews are already starting to flow in, including this nice one where @neomorf says he thinks the new PokerStars 7 software client (or Liv Boerée, at least) is the #nuts.

Thank you, Neo - we think that PokerStars players are the #nuts. The comment that we heard throughout the day - from the players, from our employees, from the event staff - was what lovely people the players were. Polite, gracious, and a ton of fun to share a day together.

If you missed this party, well, keep your eyes on the website - the next PokerStars VIP Club Live event could be in your town. We want you there.


Not all super-heroes wear capes; Matt, the video guy, part of an amazing team

Postscript: until you've been behind the scenes at one of these events, it's hard to imagine the amount of work that goes into them. A lot of people worked astonishingly hard to make this first event a success and I was proud to be a small part of the effort. I think the players sensed the hard work involved and they were generous with their praise of the event and its organization.

Lee Jones is the head of Home Games at PokerStars and has been involved in the professional poker world for over 25 years. You can read his occasional Twitter-bites at @leehjones.

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