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Kevin Smith

Tulsa Businessman Hopes to Score with 'Games of Skill'

8 November 2000

Come December a new website for skilled gamers will go live and it could be the start of something big in the United States. plans to launch its interactive site in the next month and is armed with a unique U.S. patent which the proprietors or hoping will make it a hot spot among online card players and other bettors.

Mega Internet Tournaments has secured the patent rights, which could open up a lot of avenues for the firm. The patent gives them ownership for a computer program that enables users to play against a computer in games of skill in a tournament format over the Internet.

Right now the company is using that patent to prepare for the launch of a site that will allow players to play in hearts and spades tournaments as well as trivia contests for cash prizes.

The company plans to have 15-20 various games of skill offered in tournament format within the first 12 months of operation.

According to company founder John Stephenson, the open-ended patent could lead to further opportunities for the company down the line. "It pretty much covers every thing from fooze ball on up," says Stephenson.

In the meantime though, Stephenson says his firm will stick to getting the three games it has been working on in the last six months up and running.

What is truly unique about Stephenson's site is he is doing all of this right in the comfort of his Tulsa, Oak., offices. His site, which will require players to pay an entry fee and will pay out rewards and cash prizes to its best players.

Sound like gambling?

Not according to Stephenson and his attorneys.

Mega Internet Tournaments has set up a system which Stephenson feels is fool proof within the U.S. courts.

"This is no different than the U.S. Open golf tournament or a fishing tournament," Stephenson explains. "These are games of skill and we have it set up in the tournament format, so we are able to get around a lot of gambling laws, because technically this isn't gambling. At least no more than a bass tournament."

Under his system, players pay a $5 entry fee for a round. A round consists of either five hands in a card game or 10 questions in trivia.

And like a golf or fishing tournament, players can start at different levels of play. There are bronze, silver, gold and platinum levels for beginners to much more advanced players. Participants play their respective games at each level and earn points based on how well they play.

"We have some very creative and elaborate point systems," says Stephenson.

Players who reach a high enough point total are entered into the sites ranking system for each level. Those players who are good enough to crack the rankings are then rewarded with a cash pay-out.

At the end of each month, the top two players in each category advance to a playoff tournament. Pay-outs in the tournaments will start at $10,000 and will reach $100,000 by the third month of operation.

With grand prizes that big, Stephenson said his firm pushed for the patent in large part to keep players on the up-and-up.

The patent creates a system in which players compete against each other for rankings and prizes, but actually play against the computer. It is one player vs. the computer. This, Stephenson says, will prevent collusion.

"A lot of times the players will get together and decide whose turn it is to win this time," he says. "They can even e-mail each other and share what kind of cards they have been dealt. They each take turn winning and then split the money."

Stephenson admits that while player collusion won't be a problem, once players realize how the system works, they may also turn a skeptical eyebrow upward. But, while the players will be playing against the computer, it doesn't mean they won't be able to win.

"They don't have to worry about that," he says. "We don't make any money unless people play, and people won't play if they can't win."

The programs are set up to play differently for each level and not to win every time.

"We aren't dealing with slot machines here," he adds. "People will still have to use some skill in winning."

Although the site has big plans in its future, with $100,000 grand prizes, Stephenson and his people have done the math and know what kind of hits they need to generate that kind of money for prizes.

Considering its unique setup, which enables players to participate 24 hours a day, the firm has a target of daily users in mind.

"We hope to get an average of 40 players (a day) in the first month," says Stephenson. "We then hope to double that in the second and third months."

In addition to the big grand prizes as a result of the play-for-pay section, the site also offers a free-play area. Stephenson says the area is designed to allow players to try new games and get themselves familiar with the programs before they decide to play for money.

"Nobody is going to play for money a game they aren't familiar with," says Stephenson. "It allows them to do it at their leisure and get comfortable before they have to put money into to."

For Stephenson, the launch of the site is the end of a long road, and the beginning of another.

Three years ago he started working on the project on a part-time basis. He has been working full time on developing the site for the last year-and-a-half. He got into the "gambling" business after seeing it through a marketer's eyes. Stephenson was part of a team which helped Native American tribes get their casinos up and running and marketable to the public. In was in those business associations where he saw the opportunity to branch off into his own firm.

And as the live launch of his new site gets closer, Stephenson may soon get to see the fruits of his labor.

He says that he has already had contact with some cruise lines about a partnership on their ships. The possibilities seem limitless for Stephenson and his patent, but time will tell whether his new site soars to the heights he is hoping.

Tulsa Businessman Hopes to Score with 'Games of Skill' is republished from
Kevin Smith
Kevin Smith