The writing was on the wall following their withdrawal from the New Jersey market and the subsequent trimming of their Nevada staff, but the announcement on Friday that Ultimate Poker would be shutting down its online poker room in Nevada still came as a shock.
Ultimate Poker’s shutdown was first reported by Howard Stutz of the Las Vegas Review-Journal and was later confirmed by Ultimate Poker on their website:
We regret to inform you that Ultimate Poker will cease online poker operations in Nevada effective Monday November 17 at 12PM (Noon) PST upon complying with all necessary gaming regulatory requirements.
WE ARE NO LONGER ACCEPTING NEW DEPOSITS OR REGISTRATIONS.
And with a simple statement, the 19-month sojourn of the United State’s first licensed online poker room came to an end. Players can request their balances and find out more information at UltimatePoker.com.
The story behind Ultimate Poker’s demise was anything but simple.
Too many mistakes beginning with the name
When Station Casinos and Fertitta Interactive settled on the name Ultimate Poker a collective groan could be heard emanating from the poker world.
The choice of Ultimate Poker should have been a major red flag in terms of the company’s tone-deafness to online poker.
Sure, the name makes sense as a tie-in for the Fertitta owned Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) brand, but in the poker world the word “Ultimate” is synonymous with cheating, and was generally thought to be off-limits.
The company also took a huge risk by using proprietary software in lieu of partnering with a proven online poker provider as most of their competitors had done.
It was also a major gamble to launch before they were truly ready in order to get what they perceived was a first-mover advantage. Coupled with the use of proprietary software (developed in house by CyberArts, which Fertitta Interactive purchased back in 2011) their strict adherence to an accelerated launch may have sealed their fate before they even dealt a hand of online poker on April 30, 2013.
Ultimate Poker did get a nice initial and somewhat sustained advantage by being “first” in Nevada, but in the end the company’s software shortcomings proved insurmountable.
All along Ultimate Poker thought big and rolled the dice on a number of large gambles, and when you take big risks sometimes they backfire ,and the company’s decision to not focus enough attention on their product (their online poker software) was a very big gamble.
Most people wanted them to succeed
Even though the company’s software was noticeably lacking virtually everyone was rooting for Ultimate Poker to succeed.
One of the reasons Ultimate Poker had such goodwill in the poker community was their concerted effort to hire proven industry people as well as giving people like Terrence Chan and Jason Somerville a chance to shine.
While the company eventually failed, the general consensus is Ultimate Gaming’s staff acquitted themselves remarkably well.
Ultimate Poker had an excellent customer support team, provided excellent channels of communication with the poker community, and was extremely innovative on a number of fronts.
Unfortunately, the company’s overarching missteps and their risk-taking mentioned above cancelled out most of the good these people did, and the company’s financial struggles (and rumored infighting) meant most of the original UP staff was long gone before Friday’s announcement.
Ultimate Poker and its ambassadors tried hard to create a unique, entertaining poker environment and I’m proud of the steps we made.
— Dan O’Brien (@DanOBrienPoker) November 14, 2014
RIP UltimatePoker. thanks for the memories, the opportunity, and the sweet leprechaun avatar. http://t.co/xj6n0NP4xK
— Jason Somerville (@JasonSomerville) November 14, 2014
Ultimate Poker did not deserve that ending. But old platform & regulation makes overcoming dysfunctional retention market very, very hard. — Kim Lund (@InfiniteEdgeKim) November 14, 2014
Sad to see Ultimate Poker go. Good people lost their jobs today. Being first in a new environment isn’t easy and sure, they made mistakes.
— Lance Bradley (@Lance_Bradley) November 14, 2014
Re Ultimate closure, NVGCB chair told me: “[T]he interactive poker environment in the US, at least for legal … operators, is not optimal.”
— Chris Krafcik (@CKrafcik) November 14, 2014
Ultimate Poker’s advantage was its undoing. They beat everyone to the market in NV but their product was clearly rushed. Many shortcomings
— Adam Small (@AdamLoebSmall) November 14, 2014
I believe that Ultimate Poker lost $30m to $50m (acquisition, development, operations & marketing) I wish I’d have half of it for GPI
— Alexandre Dreyfus (@alex_dreyfus) November 14, 2014
(1/2) Sad day for online poker w/closing of @UltimatePoker. Shows you that hiring good ppl (they did – a lot) isn’t enough. Product matters
— John Caldwell (@ScheckTwit) November 14, 2014
(2/2) also shows you that building and retaining a user base from zero, like making a pair in holdem, is hard. GG & WP to many good ppl
— John Caldwell (@ScheckTwit) November 14, 2014
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