In the upcoming months staff of bitcoingamblingexpert.com will be hosting a series of interviews with influencers and executives in the Bitcoin and cryptocurrency gambling world. We will ask them questions about their personal life, their business life and their view on cryptocurrency! This article is the first in that series and features Phil Nagy of the Winning Poker Network (WPN). WPN contains brands like Americas Cardroom, YaPoker, Black Chip Poker and True Poker and we had the opportunity to meet some of their great employees in person during last month’s iGB Live conference in Amsterdam. During that meetup we immediately noticed their love for cryptocurrency, so yes, it crossed our minds to save the best for last. But why do that if you have the possibility to start the series with one of the best (and US friendly) Bitcoin poker networks available on the internet?
Who is Phil Nagy? Please tell us something about your background.
I worked in the newspaper business back in Southern California for years before I got in the online gaming business. I had the opportunity to buy one of the first online poker sites (pokershootout) back in the industry’s infancy. That business translated into my moving to Costa Rica and working within the gaming industry.
How and when did you first come into contact with WPN?
After I came to Costa Rica, I ended up working as a sales manager in the sportsbook industry. I was approached with the possibility of steering the ship at WPN and felt that was a better fit for me as I’ve always been an avid poker player. I took over the CEO position back in 2011 and haven’t looked back.
What’s the story behind the name WPN and its brands Americas Cardroom, Black Chip Poker, True Poker and YaPoker?
Funny story there. We rebranded the Yatahay Network to the Winning Poker Network back in 2012. We’d been floating around different names that would be a better fit. The year before, Charlie Sheen had his famous meltdown which provided a few catch phrases that really caught on. “Winning” was one of them that the whole world was saying, and I myself liked it, so it stuck and we decided to go with it.
Black Chip Poker was a skin we absorbed when we were growing back in the early days of the rebranded network, and the name came with it. True Poker was one of the first-ever poker rooms that came over from Yatahay. It’s one of the oldest and most trusted names in the industry, so we were happy to carry on with its solid brand.
YaPoker is a new property we created to better service our Spanish speaking clientele from Latin and South America which directly translates into “PokerNow”. Seemed catchy to me.
How does an average working day look as WPN CEO?
Nowadays, it’s great, as I get to focus on the type of work that I enjoy doing like planning and creating new product ideas, but it wasn’t always this way. Early last year our office took on a new management philosophy called ‘Scrum Agile’. This system that was originally created for software development gives our different teams a lot more freedom to make their own decisions while still being held accountable, without me micro-managing everything.
Agile has provided tremendous results in our business, and the whole office is not only more productive, but excited about what they’re doing as they get to implement their own ideas.
How do you unwind from a busy day at the office?
Drinks, lots of drinks. No, I’m just kidding. Actually I have a couple kids at home so my unwinding involves a lot of video games and afterschool activities. I love it though, it’s just a different kind of fun than back in the days before I had a family.
What is driving you? What motivates you?
I really want the work I do to live up to our brand, which is ‘Winning’. If anyone is in it to win it, it’s me. We have grown tremendously over the past 5 or 6 years, to a point that we’re already much bigger than anyone ever thought we would be. But I’m just not the kind of person to sit back and enjoy the success we’ve already achieved as a company.
There’s a lot of talk when it comes to the online poker industry about it being on the decline and that the glory days of online poker are over. I disagree. We strive to make poker great again and develop new products to keep customers interested. For example, no one said that we could do $1,000,000 guaranteed tournaments. We re-introduced them to the US market a few years ago and the number of them we’ve ran has increased every year.
Can you name a person who has had a tremendous impact on you as a leader? Why and how did this person impact your life?
Truthfully, I feel like one of my strengths is the ability to recognize the little pieces of greatness in everyone and learn as much as I can from everyone I encounter in my life. I’ve learned countless things that I’ve incorporated into my dealings as a CEO from those who work for me in the trenches to other CEOs.
So while there isn’t one person in particular, I do have a quote I’ve found very useful.
“To get the best fruit, sometimes you have to go out on a limb, but sometimes you have to prune the tree.” A colleague I respect a great deal gave me that one. It’s really been helpful in keeping me in check when gauging the growth of our business.
How do you differentiate WPN and its brands from your competitors?
Well, first and foremost we are one of the only remaining online poker networks that service the United States. One of the reasons we’ve been so successful is that players know they will always get paid with us.
As a poker player myself, I always felt it right to treat my customers how I’d want to be treated. In recent years especially, many of our competitors have continually gauged players’ profits by reducing the benefits of loyalty programs and increasing rake. We’ve continued to offer one of the best rewards programs in the industry while offering extra incentives through weekly rake races for both Sit & Go and cash game players. This along with continual other promotions help keep our players happy.
Looking back, what has been the highlight of the last year?
I think the highlight is running 11 consecutive $1,000,000 weekly tournaments. We started in early 2018 and gave our customers a reason to come back week after week for life-changing money. That really put us on the map in terms of peaking player interest.
What are your future plans for WPN?
We’ve got a ton going on. On August 5th we’re launching our next 4-week long tournament series that includes another three $1,000,000 tournaments. We’re also in the middle of moving offices and preparing the launch of the new software.
The new offices will allow us to grow the way we want to and bring on more people. The new software platform will allow us to develop new games and concepts at a pace we’ve never been able to before. This will lead to a ton of new products that will really shake things up in the industry. We’re coming into a really exciting time for online poker.
What and how was your first experience with cryptocurrency?
We were one of the first online poker networks to start accepting Bitcoin back in early 2015. Back then it accounted for roughly 2% of our overall business. When I saw the ease at which players could move money and how cost effective it was for both the player and us as an operator, I knew we were onto something.
We decided to go full-court press on Bitcoin. It was all new to the gambling industry so we had to develop our own processes from scratch, from everything to security, portfolio management and customer service protocols.
It’s done wonders for us and literally now accounts for 60% of our business. It’s brought our processing costs down over 10%, and increased our player value dramatically. And now we accept over 60 different cryptocurrencies for both deposits and withdrawals, being the only online poker network to do so.
What is your opinion about the current state of cryptocurrency?
There’s a ton of bad press out there right now and obviously that’s been reflected in the recent bear market trend. Still, I strongly believe that blockchain technology and cryptocurrency is the future, and that the best is still to come.
Anything that threatens the status quo and especially how we’ve conducted business for decades is obviously going to face some resistance. Here we have a technology that allows us to send limitless money around the world in seconds, while cutting out the middleman and saving huge money with virtually no fees. It’s a game-changer and just too practical to be called a bubble.
It may be a bumpy road to mass-adoption, but I think it will get there and change the way we move money in the future.
What is your favorite cryptocurrency? Can you explain why?
I honestly can’t say I have one, which is also why we offer over 60 cryptocurrencies on our network as opposed to just one. I have no idea which cryptocurrencies will emerge as the leader and which ones will fall by the wayside when it all shakes out, so I wanted to give our customers the option to back the ones they believe in.
How do you see cryptocurrency in 5 years?
I think that the industry will be a lot more streamlined within the next 5 years. I think that certain cryptocurrencies will emerge as the leaders and that a ton of projects that have popped up over the past year during the hype will become obsolete through both regulation and lack of value.
But I do think that it will be adopted by both regular consumers and the business community alike. You’re already seeing it.
Is there anything else you would love to share with us?
Sounds like a perfect time for a shameless plug. There are a couple things going on at the network that I think your players will really take an interest in. The first is the 200% cryptocurrency bonus up to $1,000 for first time depositors.
We’ve also got our 4-week-long tournament series called the OSS Cub3d from August 5th to September 2nd that features 3 * $1,000,000 GTD events. It’s a great time to check us out.
Many thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule to answer our questions. We only have one last question left. Where can we find the WPN poker brands?