At 8:24 PM here on the Isle of Man on Thursday, June 13th, 2013, PokerStars reached a mind-blowing milestone in our corporate history (and really in the history of poker) - we dealt our one hundred billionth hand of poker. Let me write t...
At 8:24 PM here on the Isle of Man on Thursday, June 13th, 2013, PokerStars reached a mind-blowing milestone in our corporate history (and really in the history of poker) - we dealt our one hundred billionth hand of poker. Let me write that number out for you:
I won't try to draw any real world parallels, but suffice it to say few of us can wrap our heads around a number like that.
But I'm not here to talk about the size of the number; I want to talk about running the 100 billionth hand and how it's a proxy for how we got there in the first place.
Annnnd we're there.
I had the supreme honor of being the host for that hand. I got to tell the players what was happening, who won what, and so forth. But that was the easy part. Behind the scenes (where I was lucky enough to be), it was like Mission Control at an Apollo rocket launch.* My 30" monitor was covered with windows - three separate chat windows, my "script" for hosting the hand and, of course, the client itself.
*That's an exaggeration, obviously. But if all our people had been wearing white shirts, dark ties, and black-rimmed glasses, it might have looked somewhat similar.
One of those chat windows was a 20-way IM chat among many of the key staff members. The software developers, the CRM (Customer Relations Management) folks, the poker room management people, the tournaments people, customer support...
A note from the head of the poker room saying that we have over 250,000 real money players on the site...
See, as far as our 407,000 customers on PokerStars at that moment were concerned, it was just another day at the playground. Well, not just another day; it's not every day that we deal our 100 billionth hand of poker and give away a million dollars in half an hour. But our customers expected that our games would run just as smoothly and continuously as they have for almost 12 years now.
We had to make sure that the tsunami of poker players didn't cause any glitches.
"OLTP-MAIN is creeping up in the monitor"
One of our servers is beginning to show a little strain under the record crowds. The database team wants to be sure that the number of transactions doesn't affect the march toward 100 billion and asks the poker room to take down the play money Zoom games.
"PM Zoom is killed - last hands being dealt now..."
The poker room takes down the play money Zoom games; as soon as the big hand is over, they'll be brought back up.
The customer support manager chats that he'll get the message to our support representatives so they can answer the emails ("Hey - where'd our Zoom games go?!?!?").
As the counter on the client spins up, the chat actually slows - things are going according to plan. At 8:24pm the counter in the software client lobby counts down those last few hundreds of thousands of hands and then the message flashes up on the client:
The Milestone hand #100,000,000,000 is being dealt at Euryalos XI
The Million Dollar Hand
The poker world and Twitter explode with the news while, in the meantime, there is "guarded optimism" in the IM chat.
"Here we go"
At the PokerStars office, people crowd around monitors, the CEO whips out his phone to take a picture of the table...
And, just as planned, the table pauses. I go to the chat box at Euryalos XI and type (actually copy/paste from the script):
Hi all - Welcome all to the final step in the Road to 100 Billion.
And we're off. I don't watch the IM chat - I'm too busy chatting at the table - but they had paused dealing at the table, and everybody is watching as the observer count at the table climbs to 20,000; 30,000; 40,000... by the time we actually deal the hand, 67,000 observers are watching a single hand of poker. That is approaching the capacity of Manchester United's Old Trafford. Visualize Old Trafford almost full of poker fans breathlessly watching the turn of a river card.
The hand goes off exactly as planned. A low-stakes poker player call