Kirill Ushakov — Managing Partner of PokerTON
Interviewer — Polina Vishnevskaya
- Could you tell us about yourself and your experience?
Previously, I was a Lead Engineer on Russia-1 and Russia-24 TV channels, and at the same time I was a professional online poker player. In 2014 I ended my career as an online poker player. I also had an offline experience in a Moscow coffee shop. This year I have been participating in various telegram projects, and for the last six months in Free TON and PokerTON projects.
- Why did you choose Free TON poker? How did you get the idea to create this project?
I’m just a managing partner. I have a friend, a non-public person, a founder from Israel from the gaming industry, who at first wanted to start a poker project, but he was convinced that it should be done with Free TON. And since he knows that I played poker professionally, he told me his idea and offered to become a manager.
At first I thought that it would be a bot, but he assured me that it was a full-fledged poker: you go through Telegram and a web application opens. I liked the idea. So poker is back in my life and it makes me very happy.
- Are there any restrictions, special licenses for this particular type of activity?
We have already received Curaçao license. Now we are at the final stage of its legal registration — all bureaucratic matters drag on for a very long time. This license allows you to provide gaming services around the world. Telegram is not blocked anywhere, so we work completely legally, without restrictions.
- What about statistics? How many users does PokerTON have now, and do you have a plan for how to attract more?
There are already more than 15 thousand users. We have started to actively attract users for the last 2 months. Since October we are the official partners of Free TON. The main mechanic of attracting users is through channel and chat administrators. We invite them to host a free private tournament for subscribers.
For example, for a chat of 1 000 people, we allocate a prize fund of 100-200 Tons. We inform the administrator, he makes a post, saying: «Guys, come on! PokerTON, Free TON is the future. Invite your friends …» Everyone comes in, plays, gets tokens. Someone takes it up right away, someone continues to play.
We also follow the classic mechanics: now we are testing integration with YouTube bloggers and TikTok. But the main attraction of users takes place in Telegram. We are also now agreeing to transfer funds to the PokerTON wallet in one click to start playing. So we are developing this system, helping it to take shape.
- I’m wondering how much of the Crystals you play every day?
Since July, we run a free tournament (freeroll) daily with a prize pool of 100 Tons, and every Sunday — 500 Tons. This means that every week we give away 1,100 tokens at free tournaments. In total on freerolls we played about 25,000 Tones. In the last Sunday tournament, for example, there were 1,200 people, and in the daily — on average 450. For comparison, the very first had 17.
- Is there a target amount specifically for Crystals?
We have a target for users — at least 100 thousand people. As for the Crystals, we will continue — at least 100 daily, and 500 on Sunday. Then, perhaps, we will add more free tournaments. Plus, bloggers on Twitch and YouTube work very well — they play in free tournaments with their subscribers, gradually drawing people into the world of Free TON.
- How difficult is it to develop this project? What difficulties did you face besides advertising and promotion?
We had a very cold, hard start. Many did not want to cooperate with us. I said, «We pay money to distribute money,» and even that was not an argument. Plus, everyone needs traffic. There are still many updates to be made on the platform. Some have already been in line for six months. I had no idea that some technical things can be done for so long, although they seem simple to me. I think that too big difficulties will not arise. We have a good team, a good job. Only Telegram and only Free TON — together we will win!
- Do you plan to develop elsewhere, on other platforms?
We are not getting into classic topics related to installing applications yet — there are big players taking their places. Our strength lies in something else: you enter the Telegram pokerton bot, press the «Start» button, play poker — and a full-fledged web application is loaded. If you enter from your phone, then this is WebView Telegram (interface), from a computer — it opens in a browser, and you get a full-fledged poker room. Blocks are bypassed, which makes entry easier: one-button onboarding.
By the way, those who are not in the subject of poker think that it is like roulette or casino. But in fact, this is a platform, and we get our income by collecting rake — commission from the raffled pot — 4.5%.
In general, everything is decided by personal skill. I have a best friend, a professional poker player, who has been exclusively poker for 10 years and wins at this distance. On the short, you can lose, there really is an element of luck. But on a long distance — a month, two, and even more so a year — a professional will win 100% against a non-professional. Poker is environmentally friendly, a game of intelligence. I don’t know why in some countries poker is considered a prohibited activity.
- It will be interesting to watch your development. I noticed that you are still involved in E-sport … How do you manage to combine two ideas, and could you tell us about your plans in this regard?
Someone suggested in Friton-floodilka, let’s, they say, let’s play something, for example, Counter-Strike 1.6. Poker TON knocked out the prize pool — 100 or 150 tokens. Then again they decided to get together and thought: hmm, but you can develop PokerTON through E-sport. A young audience is ready to accept new things, it is easier for us to instill in them a love for the brand. This generation of paperwork may not hold up soon — everything is electronic.
We haven’t really thought about how to make esports friends with PokerTON, but I think we will have some kind of collaboration. At E-sport, we now have a tournament with a Counter-Strike and Dota prize pool every week. Again, participation is free. In a month, we brought more than 1000 new users to Friton, distributed tokens to them, and they learned about Telegram. There are already more than 300 thousand views on the records of streamers whom we invite — they themselves play these tournaments, tell and invite their subscribers to the next tournament.
Now we are planning to move to a more professional level. If earlier we did everything ourselves, now we are already starting to cooperate with organizations that carry out everything on a turnkey basis — they connect streamers, administer, do marketing, invite top teams.
We are running 4 qualifications this month. All amateurs can participate. 2 winners from each qualification will enter the main event with a prize of 5,000 tones, and they will play with professional teams. We are entering the world of great esports! There are also partner platforms that have been holding tournaments for 5-10 years. They have players, we have tones. This is a very broad topic, I believe in it — this is my second love. Poker TON and E-sport — it will be cool!
- I would like to know your opinion about the Free TON project. Will it be successful, how will it develop, for example, in the next 5 years?
Free TON has a very strong community: work launched into the network, decentralization, transparency, people really do everything themselves. I really believe in this topic. There is a listing on the exchange, the top exchanges will soon catch up. The price will rise, and PokerTON will help with the distribution of tokens. Therefore, I think, with a probability of 97%, this topic is not for 5 years, but for 25 years.
- Do you own tones? How do you feel about cryptocurrency in general?
Of course, positively. Ten years ago, my friends and I were drinking tea, and I asked a wise man: «Tell me some insight.» He said: «Kirill, look about bitcoin.» Then I wondered what kind of Bitcoin … And then I missed my first checkpoint. Of course, I have both Bitcoin and TON Crystal.
- What would you wish to those who learn about Friton?
Unite. Tell your grandmothers, mothers, get them electronic wallets, go to PokerTON, smile, play our E-sport, don’t be afraid. Keep balance in everything: both in wallets and in health. There are many areas in life, and I very much wish everyone to have a balance in each of them.
The article is based on the results of an interview published on the freeton.org blog