Gaming Strategy
Featured Stories
Legal News Financial News Casino Opening and Remodeling News Gaming Industry Executives Author Home Author Archives Search Articles Subscribe
Newsletter Signup
Stay informed with the
NEW Casino City Times newsletter!
Recent Articles
Kevin Smith

Q &A: Lenny Barshack, Tribeca Tables

31 August 2004

In two years Tribeca Tables has gone from relative obscurity in the online gaming industry to one of the leading providers for Internet poker rooms.

The company is unique in that it relies on the strength of its licensees and doesn't operate its own poker room.

Last week Tribeca announced the addition of its fourth licensee, Blue Square Interactive, which joins Golden Palace, Victor Chandler and Platinum as Tribeca licensees.

IGN talked to Tribeca co-founder Lenny Barshack on Monday about the company's long road to prominence and where that road goes from here. He also talked about the big picture for online poker and why he feels it's a "fad" that could stick around for a long time.

IGN: You announced the Blue Square signing last week, and that continues your focus on getting "quality" licensees rather than sheer quantity.

"The poker space has been dominated by cowboys--and it has worked well for them--but I think there will be a change in the tide, and the more established brands will start to take over the space."

Lenny Barshack: We also wanted to build a business that appealed to large entertainment brands. We have gone through extensive due diligence as part of getting some of our clients, and I am not sure that many of our competitors would have been able to go through as strenuous a process as we did, or be as open as we were during that time.

The poker space has been dominated by cowboys--and it has worked well for them--but I think there will be a change in the tide, and the more established brands will start to take over the space.

IGN: That would play right into the developing situation in the United Kingdom, with the government moving forward to liberalize its gambling laws. Are you ready for what lies ahead if the U.K. market grows as expected in the next two to four years?

LB: We are very excited about where we are positioned right now. From a technology point of view, we have had a chance to step back and look at our reliability and scalability. When we started this out we had a couple sites in mind that we tried to model ourselves after but now we have gotten as big, if not bigger, than most of them and we have had to change our outlook with that somewhat. If we were going to go and do the things we wanted to do in this space we had to rethink the business, and we did that.

We are now thinking much bigger than what we originally thought, and we were already thinking big to begin with. It is kind of funny now to sit and see online casinos live and die by their poker software. Now if a site doesn't make its poker work they are out of business, which never was an issue until the last year or so. The growth has been incredible, but I still think there is a lot of room for growth left.

IGN: How much longer do you see that kind of demand from consumers setting the pace for the industry? Is this just one of those fads or trends an industry goes through or do you think it has some staying power?

LB: Like anything, I am sure it will hit a peak, and maybe even drop off a little bit, but the industry isn't going anywhere and it is here to stay. There might be a lot of players who don't stick with it, but poker has always been a popular game. The Internet has help to introduce it to more players. A lot of college and high school kids now sit around and play home games for fun.

Take a game like golf. For anyone to say golf was as popular as it is now, say, 10 or 15 years ago is crazy. And it probably peaked a few years ago too, but it didn't just go away. You can make the same comparison with poker. Poker hasn't peaked yet, and there is still a lot of room for growth, but it will probably level off at some point. But it will still be a major force.

IGN: You mentioned the "cowboys" running the online poker space. What makes Tribeca different from them?

LB: We are about empowering brands, and I am not in competition with my licensees. We signed a deal with FHM Magazine to run their online poker site, and that is a perfect example of what sets us apart from our competitors. You look at some of the big poker sites that are out there right now--and you can figure out which ones I am talking about--and they are about creating a massive network of sites that all tie into the same back end. Either that or they are licensing out their software to an affiliate and then taking a cut of the action that comes from his site.

Our goal is not so much to overtake the poker space through those means, but instead to get the poker players who are comfortable with a brand like Victor Chandler or Blue Square to bring their business to those sites. Maybe it is even a loyal customer who hasn't ventured online yet to play poker, but when he hears that Victor Chandler is doing it he decides to give it a shot.

I am grateful for the sites that were ahead of the curve and were able to help fuel this enormous growth of poker. They have created awareness in the sector that forced the big guys like Victor Chandler to act and position them in the space. If it weren't for the awareness and demand from the consumers created by those early sites we would have a much harder sell for what we are trying to accomplish now.

IGN: You also recently formed APEX Networks. Was that just part of the growth at Tribeca?

LB: That was part of it. It also was done for legal structure and the cleanliness of the aggregator. We felt that we were pretty clean to being with, but now with APEX in place, there is no doubt who is running the games. We were able to bring on John Shoreman to run APEX, and he is one of the most well respected poker people in all of Europe. He was behind the World's Heads-Up Poker Tournament and has a great reputation.

We have a handful of other major announcements coming down in the next couple of months with some major brands, both in the poker world and out of it, and all these steps were taken to keep us above repute. When you are dealing with major firms like that, they want to make sure everything is in place and as clean as possible before they will run with it.

IGN: You're an accomplished poker player in your own right having made the final table at a World Series Limit Hold'Em event back in the day. A lot of the "old school" players kind of begrudge the way the amateur and online players have taken over poker. What's your take on that?

LB: A lot of these players get so upset when these idiots win but they are so far off base. There probably was no better value in the history of poker for the professional player as there was this year at the World Series of Poker. Take a guy like Doyle Brunson who is easily regarded as the "Grandfather of Poker" and one of the best all-time pros. Doyle's $10,000 entry fee at the World Series was probably worth $50,000-$100,000 because there was so much dead money going around that place.

Poker allows for luck; there is no doubt about it. But as a pro--and I don't consider myself a pro either--you want those guys to sit at your table and put their money down. Most of the time the amateurs are going to create action, and that is what you want when you are playing.

Many serious players are stupid like that. In my regular game, we have a saying when a guy beats you on a hand he had no business in playing and should have folded or something like that. You don't yell at him or go off on him; you just sit there and say, "Thanks for the action." The whole reason for playing poker is for the action. Yeah, a guy might get lucky because he is giving you action, but at least you are getting action from him.

Q &A: Lenny Barshack, Tribeca Tables is republished from
Kevin Smith
Kevin Smith