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Bitcoins, Social Responsibility and “Infinivision”: InfinitiPoker’s Plan to Shake Up Online Poker

Infiniti Poker, currently in beta testing,  plans to go fully live at the end of the month.
 
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Infiniti Poker, currently in beta testing, plans to go fully live at the end of the month.

In the course of a long conversation I had with Michael Hajduk, InfinitiPoker CEO and self-described “entrepreneur and visionary,” he maps out his plans for Infiniti and why he believes he will create “the new paradigm of online gaming” and a platform “more exciting than PokerStars.”

Bold claims. First off I asked him exactly what the state of play was with Infiniti’s launch. His response: “I told my IT team I wanted a launch by Oct 21st … that’s my birthday” (he later admits that his hope of a 40th birthday present launch is unlikely and the actual date will be closer to the end of the month).

When Infiniti does finally launch it will be a red letter day for Michael, who first had the idea for his site over three years ago. He enjoyed live poker, mainly home games with his friends, and decided to try out online poker. He was disappointed by the experience.

“There are so many elements that make [online poker] like real poker, but the one element that is missing is the visual,” he says. “Why can’t we create a site where the two worlds come together?”

Infinivision: Webcam Tables with a Twist

The result is Infinivision tables: Selected tables on the site where players can connect with their webcams.

The idea may not be new—888 has had webcam tables for over a year, and was not the {n:pokerview-back-merge-gaming:pioneer of the concept}—but Infinivision comes with something new.

Along with the standard overhead view where all the players can be seen, there is also what Hajduk calls “Peripheral Resolution Interface” view, or PRI.

Here, players get a view similar to what they would see at a real table. As Michael explains it, the focus is on the player you choose to look at, but you have a peripheral lower resolution view of the players to their immediate left and right.

“You don’t need the computer to do anything more than what the human eye is capable of doing,” Michael adds.

Infinivision are not operational on the beta site yet, and Michael chose not to provide screenshots of the PRI feature for this article.

Infiniti Connected

Michael laments the fact that his old home games gradually broke up. His friends “got older, got married and moved apart,” he says. He intends that Infiniti Connected—web cam enabled private tables—will provide old friends with an opportunity to regain the joys of their youth as they chatted over a beer and a game of poker.

The concept matches 888’s private Home Games, although Michael wants to take the idea further: to “corporate functions, women’s leagues, bar leagues and so on,” he says.

As Michael tells it, sponsored Infiniti Pro Gavin Smith joined the team because he was attracted by the social gaming vision. He will host a weekly tournament in his Infiniti Connected private room. Unlike playing with the pros on other sites, at Infiniti you will be able to chat with them exactly like you would do in a live event.

As the site gains traction Michael has big plans to recruit other celebrities, both from the poker world and beyond.

Bitcoin for US Players

Michael is keen to give US players an option to play on the site. To this end all players will have the option of depositing with Bitcoin, the decentralized digital currency. US players will be restricted to making Bitcoin deposits, while elsewhere players will have the usual range of deposit and withdrawal options alongside Bitcoin.

Infiniti’s advice is that this will not contravene US Federal law. Mike sees Bitcoin as the safest possible option for concerned US players: “In the worst case scenarion, if [the DOJ] seize our domain name your Bitcoin will be safe because there’s no central authority controlling the currency and thus it cannot be frozen by any third party.”

Michael has partnered with a leading online Bitcoin wallet to create an interface that is “really friendly” with “quick payout times,” he claims.

Infiniti is not the first site to accept Bitcoins. Mobile poker mini-network Switch Poker also accepts bitcoins, and various bitcoin-only sites exist, the most notable Seals with Clubs. But with pros like Gavin Smith signed up, InfinitiPoker will certainly be the most high-profile site to offer the digital currency.

Infiniti has hired PriceWaterhouseCoopers to set up the financial structures and Mike is adamant that “customer funds will be held in separate accounts.” I asked him about the use of trust funds and was told that he would seriously consider the option post-launch.

A phrase Michael used repeatedly during our conversation was, “it’s all about consumer confidence.” On that subject we discussed security and collusion issues at length. An industry leading company has been contracted to provide third party security and, aware of the risks faced by new companies, Michael will have an internal team actively monitoring for collusion issues.

Gaming for Good

Michael and his wife Jo-Anne are determined that their new enterprise will be a force for good in society:

Through the combination of our Infiniti Connected social networking platform and our association with Profit 4 Purpose, L3C, a social benefit enterprise, we intend to introduce the next standard of social responsibility with our “Gaming for Good” campaign. Through this alignment, Infiniti Poker will be empowered to do its part in giving back to the global community and helping to provide sustainable funding for various social business enterprise endeavours that benefit humanity.

Through their in-house charity project conceived by Jo-Anne and called the “Pay it Forward” initiative, Infiniti plans to hold themed tournaments on a weekly and monthly basis where the tournament fees go to a specific project.

Rather than simply ship a cheque, Michael and his wife want to personalise the donation. Their vision is that they will deliver each cheque personally as a surprise donation to whichever project the tournament has supported.

The tournaments will be promoted with an email to their player base which includes a link to a video and a story about the current project they are supporting.

Just Connect

To Michael, Infiniti Poker is “all about the connections, charity connections, meeting people, seeing old friends.” But will it be a hit?

It’s no easy task gaining traction and building liquidity on a brand new online poker network, as other recently new launches have learned.

Bitcoin support is still a niche option at best, although US players starved for choice in the market could certainly find it appealing, especially a website committed to securely handling funds.

New sites are rightly looked at with skepticism from the poker playing community which has been burned so many times in the past by fly-by-night operations. But a lot has been spent here with the technology and serious investment money raised, and its endorsement from popular Canadian poker pro Gavin Smith could go a long way in assuring players of the site’s legitimacy.

With features like private tables and the unique webcam tech, carving out its own niche among recreational and low volume players certainly seems feasible, much like small but successful PKR maintains its independent poker network with unique player-friendly presentation.

But Michael has a much grander vision for InfinitiPoker, no less than taking on the current market leaders at their own game. For this, the team have a daunting task ahead, and it will take continued investment in their new software platform and marketing to gain widespread traction.

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