'' Mikael Strunge | CEO | Interview | PokerNet | Denmark
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Mikael Strunge 
Board member - AoS Malta Group of Companies
Former CEO, PokerNet.dk and board member, Casino.dk

Malta, August 2008

I became friends with Mikael Strunge when we worked together in the shared Casino.dk & PokerNet.dk office in Malta. We were working together as board members and had some good years as business partners. We had many enjoyable moments in Malta and with Mikael you know there are always some new projects in the pipeline. Mr. Strunge currently resides in Malta.

What has been the biggest change in online poker?
For me the biggest change in online poker in recent years has been the new found focus on security. The sheer number of scandals within major corporations in this industry combined with a long string of bankruptcy filings has made affiliates, players and licensing authorities aware of the fact that security of funds as well as playing environment has become an issue.
The players are finally realizing that choosing an operator that can offer a better level of security is often worth more than the extra value that especially the smaller operators often use to lure people in. This only accelerates the consolidation of the industry that we are witnessing at the moment since bigger is definitely becoming better. Smaller operators will be gobbled up by their larger competitors or simply perish.
Anything you miss from the past?
I miss a lot of things from back in the good old days but most of all I miss the poker boom. There was a time where poker was exiting news and where every second person on the planet seemed to have some level of passion for the game. That atmosphere has slipped quite a bit and the results are tougher games for the players and more hard work for the marketing executives out there.
Has something changed for the better?
Yes, it finally seems that the whole "value war" might be, if not over, then at least put on hold for awhile. People within the industry seem to have realized, that the path to obtaining long term growth and profitability lies in the balance between offering value to the players/affiliates while still maintaining the ability to fuel the poker ecology.
Getting in new players, keeping the interest high for the game amongst the general public etc.. These are all part of making the system work and more and more operators and networks seem to be taking this balancing act seriously these days.
Mikael Strunge Always has an Entertaining Story to Tell
Cyprus, May 2008
What do you expect will happen in online poker the coming years?
The consolidation of the industry will continue for several reasons but the most important one is that it is simply to expensive to be a small operator these days. More and more countries now require individual licensing and it will soon require a small army of legal representatives to ensure that you can even offer your product to the public.
This is not a task for a 3 man operation and as such these smaller operators will either fall apart or be overtaken by larger organizations with the muscles to deal with this new reality. Furthermore I would expect the licensing authorities to strengthen the demands for security of especially player funds following these last scandals and this will also be a costly effect which will again hit the smaller operators the most.

Looking at things from the player perspective I am sorry to say that I think the games will only get tougher and tougher. The solid players are simply too good and they are cleaning out the donkey-pool in a remarkable pace. Top this up with the ever increasing software and educational advantages for today's player and you end up with a game that is not at all friendly for the newcomers.
Even at the absolute lowest stake a complete newcomer meets games that just a couple of years ago were reserved for mid stakes action. A very large chunk of new players could improve on the situation and this might be a reality soon with the opening of the US market, Zynga Poker's rumored entrance in the industry etc.. But until that happens I see no return to the good old days for the players.
Any final statement you wish to add?
 I have said for awhile that I see the online poker industry as pretty much dead. Unless you are coming out guns blazing with a completely revolutionary idea or with a very large and continuous source of traffic at your fingertips it is simply not worth your buck and effort to venture into this industry. The margins are low, the risk is very high and the competition is fierce.
But all that can change very fast as new markets emerge and new laws are introduced. So just because the market doesn't look very tempting right now doesn't mean that it will stay that way. Online gaming is one of the most difficult online markets to maneuver in today and the poker side of things are especially tricky.
But that fact in itself almost guarantees that opportunities will arise in the future and who knows - maybe online poker will experience a second boom. In that case I will try to be ready for it.