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wtl0715

Need basic questions answered.

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I am on the hunt for a few answers about a specific web site idea. Please keep in mind that I am IT-illiterate. I don't even know the basics, but I'll ask my questions with as much detail as possible. I am in the very beginning stages of a business plan. I am trying to find out if my idea is feasible before I spend too much time researching. The website I'd like to develp involves playing texas hold'em poker online (not for money). Here are a few questions that would help me get started. 1) How difficult would it be to develop a browser-based poker game? Would it be easier to acquire a game that has already been designed than to contract the design of a new one? I would like to see clean graphics, nothing too complicated, and a friendly user-interface. I understand that it is impossible to develop a completely random card-distribution engine, but I would need the cards to be dealt as close to randomly as possible. 2) Would it be possible to host an online tournament with a large number of players in a browser-based game? If so, what sort of maximum capacity could I reasonably expect (ie, 50 players at a time, 20,000 players at a time)? For a large tournament, would it be necessary to have people download my program? 3) What sort of resources would I need to run a large online tournament, keep track of player accounts/logins/playing times/etc? I don't know how the internet operates, even on a basic level, so I need to know if I would have to own a large server or if there are services that allow you to pay for the amount of server space necessary to run a large tournament. 4) What could I expect to spend for this operation (fixed and variable costs)? I realize that any number will be a rough estimate, but I'd like to have some idea of what I would have to pay a professional (or team) to create this website, poker interface, and game. I'd also like to have a rough estimate of what my monthly cost would be to host a large online hold'em tournament (likely a few every day). I'd rather not get into the specifics of the business idea just yet, but a few answers to these would be a great help. Legality is not an issue, but that's just about the only thing I've researched in-depth. If you're able to answer one or more of these questions, please shoot me an email: shaft3407@yahoo.com Thanks in advance, WTL

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No offense, but legality is always a huge issue with something like this. You might have researched it, and hell; you might even have it solved, but it's still the largest financial burden if you're going to make it a business.

That said, I'd imagine it'd be cheaper and more reliable to go with an existing product rebranded for your needs.

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Telastyn,

I'm sure you're absolutely right about legal costs. The basic idea is that no money will ever be charged for any part of the game. It is totally free to use. That is the safest way to eliminate any gambling-related issues. The website will not sell anything, charge fees to play, or acccept a penny from anyone. It is for entertainment purposes only.

The legal issues that are of concern have a lot more to do with copywriting, ownership of the game, domain name issues, etc.

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WT wrote:
>I am in the very beginning stages of a business plan. I am trying to find out if my idea is feasible before I spend too much time researching.

Don't worry about feasibility. Everything is feasible.

>1) How difficult would it be to develop a browser-based poker game?

Shouldn't be difficult.

>Would it be easier to acquire a game that has already been designed than to contract the design of a new one?

There's no magic answer for this one. "It depends." You'll have to do that research, talk to developers.

>2) Would it be possible

Yes. Anything is possible, given enough time and money.

>to host an online tournament with a large number of players in a browser-based game? ... For a large tournament, would it be necessary to have people download my program?

If I was in your shoes, I'd ask these questions of some developer candidates. Just put these into your requirements list and see what comes back. You'll probably get a variety of answers.

>3) What sort of resources would I need to run a large online tournament, keep track of player accounts/logins/playing times/etc? I don't know how the internet operates, even on a basic level, so I need to know if I would have to own a large server or if there are services that allow you to pay for the amount of server space necessary to run a large tournament.

You'd probably need to set up your own server once your user base gets large. But hardware costs are low compared with personnel costs. Personnel counts depend on the size of your user base.

>4) What could I expect to spend for this operation (fixed and variable costs)? ...I'd also like to have a rough estimate of what my monthly cost would be to host a large online hold'em tournament (likely a few every day).

Of course you would. But this is going to require more in-depth research than can be gotten on a public forum. You may have to hire someone to help you arrive at some estimates. (Not me.)

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1. Depends on how much you plan on being involved in the development of it. For you it could be as simple as contractor here is money build it, or I like your poker program here is money, to buy it.

2. yes, I would expect you could handle maybe 10K(though that is probably on the high side) concurrent users per server poker is a fairly low bandwidth game after all. On as many servers as you are willing to pay for.

3. Multiple servers hopefully in multiple real data centers with real bandwidth. More than that gets fuzzy since we don't know what kind of resources are consumed by your hypothetical game.

4. As far as costs go say Db server + web server. Go someplace managed since you aren't an IT guy, + bandwidth overages so that would make it right around 700+ per a set of servers.

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Quote:
Original post by wtl0715
I understand that it is impossible to develop a completely random card-distribution engine, but I would need the cards to be dealt as close to randomly as possible.
The good news is that working in a multiplayer setting as you are describing earns you some serious advantages in this respect. Also, with no money on the table to be won or lost, you really don't have to worry too terribly much about coming up with a number generator that can defeat scrutiny from seasoned pros. Nobody is going to lose their house if something goes wrong, and someone can predict the next number to come up. To do 'good enough' is pretty simple.
Quote:
Original post by wtl0715
2) Would it be possible to host an online tournament with a large number of players in a browser-based game? If so, what sort of maximum capacity could I reasonably expect (ie, 50 players at a time, 20,000 players at a time)? For a large tournament, would it be necessary to have people download my program?
Depending on how it is architected, it may very well not be necessary to have your program downloaded. A Java applet or a flash program can handle this sort of task pretty trivially. Also, the requirements in terms of server/bandwidth for a card game is pretty trivial.
Quote:
Original post by wtl0715
3) What sort of resources would I need to run a large online tournament, keep track of player accounts/logins/playing times/etc?
A single decent machine could likely handle this pretty easily. Generally what is going to happen is that you'll be renting the machine itself, and the people from whom you'll rent it from will deal with maintainance, data storage, and provisions of the network connection. You'll pay based on the quality of machine, and the amount of bandwidth it soaks up [the amount of data you sent to your clients].
Quote:
Original post by wtl0715
4) What could I expect to spend for this operation (fixed and variable costs)?
The costs associated with hosting is going to be a per-month thing, so whether your machine is grinding on data 24/7, or you use it twice a day, the machine cost will be the same. You'll pay a fixed per-month amount for a per-month bandwidth budget too. As far as cost is concerned, it really depends on who hosts your machine. There are some really stable providers, who you will want to look into if you want your poker game to survive a nuclear holocaust [which you'll be paying plenty for], and there are some really crumby ones that may not provide you with quite the service. There is a big range. Again as before though, nobody is going to lose their house if something goes wrong, so paying for hosting that offers ~100% stability in all cases may not be worth the cost.

A project like this is actually pretty simple, from a programming standpoint. Texas hold-em is not a complicated thing. One or two decent programmers could likely knock it out in a few days/weeks, and make it pretty good. If you want it to be bulletproof, look into licensing, or expect a longer dev cycle.

If you want to mix in some AI players, expect some heavier computing cost. AI for games of chance is some nasty stuff. To make it any good, you'll be looking at many times the server power compared to what you have for just a straight multiple human player game.

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Guys, I appreciate the info. I'm not looking for anything terribly complicated. The basic outline is that I want to keep track of the amount of time each player spends actively playing. No cash will change hands, but players will be able to win cash and prizes with the points they rack up (determined by playing time). Tournaments will pay out in the form of points, prizes or cash. Once they rack up a certain amount of points, they can go into table-games and use the points to play agoinst other players with points.

I'm not very concerned with beautiful graphics. When it comes to poker, simple is usually the best interface. I need people unfamiliar with poker to understand how to play quickly.

As I mentioned before, I'm in the brainstorming phase right now, so I'm looking for any reason that this won't work. As Tom mentioned, anything is possible with enough money. It is important to understand that I may not have much in the way of investment money.

-WTL

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Quote:
Original post by wtl0715It is important to understand that I may not have much in the way of investment money.

Not for us, it isn't.
It takes money to make money.
If you can't afford to do the research necessary to write your business plan now, wait a few years and do it when you can afford it.
Good luck!

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Quote:

No cash will change hands, but players will be able to win cash and prizes with the points they rack up (determined by playing time). Tournaments will pay out in the form of points, prizes or cash.


I am not a lawyer, but as soon as cash or something redeemable as cash comes into play this:

Quote:

That is the safest way to eliminate any gambling-related issues. The website will not sell anything, charge fees to play, or acccept a penny from anyone. It is for entertainment purposes only.


becomes not quite accurate.


Personally, I think the safer and generally more business-friendly sort of approach would be to have a totally free poker room that was supported by ads. No (less) legal entanglement, better revenue stream, fairly novel, easy ways to provide user/view statistics...

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I think I didn't make myself clear. What I meant was that I'm not interested in spending hundreds of thousands of dollars. The thing I liked about this idea was the fact that it seemed that it could possibly launch with a less substantial upfront investment than most other game websites.

"If you can't afford to do the research necessary to write your business plan now, wait a few years and do it when you can afford it."

When it comes time to put together a business plan, assuming I haven't found any major potential problems and fully believe in the idea, I'll invest what is necessary. I'd rather learn what I can for free before I start spending money on research.

-WTL

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Quote:
Original post by wtl0715

As I mentioned before, I'm in the brainstorming phase right now, so I'm looking for any reason that this won't work.


As a more serious point: Why should it work?

There are plenty of card sites and card applications. They are the first thing that is shipped with every OS.

There are sites which organize tournaments for real money, where people earn their living. There are sites which host hundreds of thousands of games.

There are games which go well beyond the card games to cater to completely different demographic (the likes of Puzzle Pirates).

All of them have top notch graphics, professional maintainence staff, solid income, company running them, etc...

Forget the technical details - why would I want to visit your site?

PS: there's video games industry (often just 'games'), and there's gaming industry.

Those two are very important not to mix up. One is frags and annoying teenagers. The other is mafia, billions in bucks, and close clutches of government. And you're eyeing the later one.

Even if it may not seem like it's harmless, online games have come into legal issues for providing casino-like activities.

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Telastyn,

I only know North Carolina law as I'm a police officer (living with an ALE agent who specializes in gambling) in NC, but I believe it closely resembles the new federal law as it pertains to gambling.

The important question is whether it falls under the legal definition of gambling. NC adopted the fed's definition of gambling. To paraphrase: in order for an activity to be considered gambling, three elements must exist. 1) consideration 2) chance 3) prize

"N.C.G.S. 14-292 - Except as provided in Chapter 18C of the General Statutes or in Part 2 of this Article, any person or organization that operates any game of chance or any person who plays at or bets on any game of chance at which any money, property or other thing of value is bet, whether the same be in stake or not, shall be guilty of a Class 2 misdemeanor."

The two types of games that are excluded from the definition of gambling are "not pay-for-play" games as well as "games that pay out in the form of free turns or games." Mine, obviously, would fall under "not pay-for-play."

The new federal law that deals with internet gambling is concerned almost exclusively with the funding of gaming accounts. To my knowledge, there were no changes made to the definition of gambling. If there are any differences between NC law and federal law that I'm not aware of, I'd appreciate the info.

-WTL

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Which is the gambling specific bits.

I was thinking more along the lines of laws regarding contests, the entanglement regarding payment of players (and identifying them accurately), inevitable legal gripes from players who think they've been unfairly not paid, having to deal with bots, collusion...

Everything becomes far more simple when you can arbitrarily ban people. If you ban people in a paying contest, then comes the gripes that it's in some way rigged. A site 'just for fun' nobody much cares about.

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Quote:
Original post by wtl0715

The two types of games that are excluded from the definition of gambling are "not pay-for-play" games as well as "games that pay out in the form of free turns or games." Mine, obviously, would fall under "not pay-for-play."


I'll give you a real example.

In a free-to-play game, operator wanted to have random drawing for their players (who had an account) for real prizes (copies of their game). This had to be changed into a competition (draw some fan art, submit that), since otherwise they'd be in conflict with certain gambling laws. In later case, it would be classified as competition. Part of the problem apparently involved the winners having their travel expenses covered to travel to the fan fest where the prizes were handed out.

So I'll definitely say it's a very tricky issue, especially since you will need to consider international laws.

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