Monday, February 02, 2009

Social Engineering

Every time I go to Vegas, I'm fascinated by the social engineering aspect of the town. I noticed it immediately when I touched down for the very first time. At terminal 2, the walk to baggage claim is ridiculously short, and there is NOTHING to keep you in the airport. The limos are right outside the door, but you have to walk to get to a regular cab or shuttle. The ride to The Strip takes you through the main terminal, around the airport, and down a couple more streets... when you could hit the MGM from the end of the runway with a well-placed loogie.

The casinos are easy to walk into, but hard to find your way out of. Hotel elevators are tucked into corners and hallways, and sometimes the walk to your room takes longer than the cab ride from the airport (New York New York, I'm looking at you). Taking a cab anywhere is at least a $10 fare, and every casino is easy to drive away from, but a maze to get into, which I'm convinced is to jack up cab fares.

And of course, the games are set to lure you in and keep you around. How many times can a slot machine JUST miss the jackpot? Sure, you and I know it's programmed in, but it still elicits gasps and groans from onlookers and players alike. Why wouldn't you play craps? There are 11 numbers that either win you money or do no harm, and only 1 that hurts you. If nothing else, flashing lights and bright colours are pretty.

If you DO win big, there are a plethora of ways to reinvest your winnings into the city of lost wages. Boutique stores, 5-star restaurants, high-class peelers, sports car rentals, top-shelf entertainment and top-shelf booze.

Last night, as I clicked "sign me up for another super turbo luckfest" for the 2nd time, I started thinking about the online poker equivalents.

I know some of compared the big MTT structures between online rooms, and SnG structure, and even luckbox structures. But has anyone looked at them from the other side, outside of rake? I know I haven't... yet.

When Full Tilt added the "sign me up for another ..." pop-up a couple updates ago, I was amazed it had taken so long. You get knocked out of a game on the 3rd hand by some donkey who runner-runnered an inside straight draw over your flopped set after refusing to fold bottom pair, and you've got a bit of tilt. Damn straight you're going to play another when presented that automatic option.

But what about the games? Only a portion of the decision-making when offering these games was "what kind of structure will attract the most people?" It was far more likely, "what kind of structure will suck up the most money without anyone noticing?"

We consider 12 minute blind levels online to be generous. 15 minutes might as well be 2 hours of live play! But is it really? Or have we just been led to believe that 10 minutes is a perfectly acceptable amount of time for a level on a screen?

Tilt also only recently added simultaneous SnG registration at the same level. Before, one wouldn't open until the current one filled. So multi-tabling just got easier.

Those red broadcasts about when the big MTTs are starting, or when the satellites for the really big ones are starting also serve their purpose of luring people over.

Double, or even triple, player points during certain times. Promotions that encourage multiple ring games.

But back to the games themselves. What makes a 9-man super turbo remotely attractive? It's a coin flip followed by a coin flip followed by praying people go out long enough for your "stack" to last. Rationally, we should stay away from them, but they fill up in seconds and are over in 15 minutes. That's right, an entire game started and finished in the length of time a "really generous" blind level takes in an MTT.

Some games have antes, others don't. Some allow a lot of play early on, while others seem to start 3 levels later.

Say what you will about setup hands and bad beats encouraging the donkeys to play more, but these sites are making a killing on their own analyses and marketing. They give people what they want, or at least a close enough facsimile that it goes unnoticed that the juice % is up a bit, or the bulk of the oustings happen in the second hour, when the blind structures goes a bit wonky for a bit, so people feel like they got their money's worth and play again tomorrow.

In the end, it always seems much easier to log in to the online rooms than it is to log out of them.


BamBam said...

An excellent perspective.

OhCaptain said...

Just like buying milk and bread at the grocery story. You have to walk for miles past everything else just to get what you need.

Most industries that survive by selling goods and services to humans do these types of marketing. Casinos are just really good at it.