1. What is your professional background before becoming involved in online poker?
I was actually working at an advertising agency and my days consisted of managing the internet infrastructure for a major luxury car manufacturer. As a technologist you’ll find that for the most part working in poker is no different than any other higher order tech job. The main differences are the need for constant uptime and personal availability. A solid understanding of the game doesn’t hurt either 🙂
2. How did you find your way into the online poker business?
A recruitment firm actually. I got a call out of the blue because a friend of mine recommended me. Turns out that at the time there were few highly skilled poker technologists, this caused the industry players to branch out and find talent from the general public. I was fortunate that I had a track record of delivering high availability web apps.
3. What was the scope of your position?
I ran the public facing web infrastructure this included all game downloads, affiliate tracking, community portal, and I managed all of the company’s player websites. I lead the group that began the internationalization process for the website and eventually delivered 20 language specific versions of the website.
4. Describe a typical day in the life of a Director of Web Technology.
Keeping everything on the web running. I’d look at what sort of traffic we had in the past 24 hrs and see if any of it was malicious. I’d look at user navigation trends to see if the running promotions were being well received. After those reports are sent out then comes the never ending process of refining and improving the site and visitor experience.
5. How is working in the online poker industry been different than other jobs you’ve worked at?
I’ve never worked in a more progressive industry. Given the amount of money that is on the line at any given time, investment in infrastructure was never a problem.
6. What was the best or most satisfying part of your job?
The caliber of colleagues. I enjoy doing a good job but that can be done in any industry. What makes working in poker software special is that it attracts a pretty smart crowd. It’s the high quality of colleague that in turn provides a fantastic place to work.
7. Conversely, what was the worst or least satisfying party of your job?
The demands for time. This may be less of a problem now but when I started we were scaling up very quickly and customer growth outpaced
internal hiring. I also really enjoyed what I did so there was a deep sense of responsibility for keeping everything running. If left unchecked burnout can be a huge problem.
8. What was the funniest or more bizarre memory you have of working for an online poker company?
Easy, the company Christmas party. Many of the professional players were in attendance and I beat many of them to the final table. But that isn’t where the story ends, my girlfriend at the time got into a Rock Paper Scissors contest with one of the pros and took him for $300.
9. Would you recommend the job to other Directors of Web Technology?
Absolutely, I really had a blast working in poker. I discovered a whole new level of respect for the game and those who play it well. It was one of the best jobs I’ve ever had.
10. What advice would you give someone who wanted to get into the business?
Know the game well. If you are looking to work in poker distinguish yourself by knowing the terminology or even better learn to love playing the game. At the higher levels the gaming companies are looking for more then just a talented technologist.
Chris Hughes was the Director of Web Technology at Full Tilt Poker. He’s been involved in internet technology for over 10 years. Chris’s big internet claim to fame was being the guy to jailbreak the iPhone and was a presenter at the TED 2009 conference. Chris currently works as a technology researcher within an R&D division at a major US telco.