“Can anyone in the industry remember a time when any poker room had to operate during a full-blown war in their country?” begins Ruslan Bangert, CEO of PokerMatch International, in an experience that, in his own words, needs to be described and recorded for history.
In an article entitled ‘How does an online poker room function during the war and how our activities can be useful,’ Bangert touches upon a distinct alteration of focus from that date in late February.
“Ukraine is a crucial market for the PokerMatch brand. In the first days of the war there was a 73 per cent loss of revenue” he continues, with chat rooms in player support services suspended, communication with players moved to email and measures taken to ensure employee safety.
This latter point included a package of actions being introduced, such as moving to a safer region, relocating some individuals to other countries and organising financial aid.
“For the first two weeks of the war, the business was in fact running on its own,” Bangert explains. “All the processes in the company had originally been organised in a way that enabled it to go on for a long time without active participation of people, if the situation required it.
“And it did. At the same time, it is impossible not to note the resilience of the team, which continued to perform its duties.
“Meetings were simply cancelled, and the business went into survival mode from the usual development mode.
“The support staff tried to help players in between sheltering in bomb shelters, and some important conversations were held to the sound of air-raid sirens.
“After two weeks, the number of active players began to increase. This is primarily thanks to the fact that many have moved to safer regions and have started to return to their usual way of life. At the moment, most of the daily active unique players have returned to the game.
“All global promotions have been stopped and major tournament series have been cancelled. The company has focused on humanitarian aid for Ukraine and private offers to those players who have actively returned to the game.
“…we are certainly not talking about new regions and expansion”
“In terms of developing new features, firstly, we’ve added the option to transfer money for humanitarian aid to the country directly from the player’s personal profile on the website.
“In other words, every PokerMatch player can now use the Cashier to cash out directly to help their country.”
Furthermore, Bangert, who stated that the three to four week mark saw the company “gradually” return to long-term planning and the release of new technical developments, also touched upon the necessity of ensuring support for the economy and its people.
“There’s also an interesting point about working during a war,” he adds. “I have come across many discussions about the idea that all men should take up weapons and go fight in wartime. I don’t agree with that.”
PokerMatch, which raised funds for the Ukraine humanitarian effort by hosting a special charity poker tournament, notes that “despite enormous financial support from many countries” there are still “large local needs from small groups of people in Ukraine” that this global support does not reach.
Taking a brief look forward, Bangert touches upon the challenges of setting long-term goals in place amid the struggles that have been, and continued to be, encountered.
“As for the PokerMatch brand’s long-term planning and business goals, we are certainly not talking about new regions and expansion at the moment,” he concludes.
“On the contrary, the brand has stopped serving player accounts from Russia and has frozen plans to enter the Indian market.
“This strategy is also highly dependent on how global events unfold. But one thing is certain: even during a wartime, an individual adapts to the new conditions in three to four weeks, and they begin to strive to return, at least a little bit, to the way of life from which they were ruthlessly yanked out.
“In the near future, PokerMatch will bring back online chats for its players and will slightly increase the guarantees in tournaments.
“Also, a major new release has already been introduced in the casino section – now there are missions for players, which they can activate, complete, and get rewards.
“It’s worth noting that one very global strategic process has been resumed by the company, but it’s too early to tell. In general, the work goes on.”