I’m going to honest with you. I’m not going to sugar coat it. Historically, Party Poker has not been known to blow away its players with its customer service. Things have generally improved over the last year or two, as noted in an article now and again on this website, but in years past, you had to sometimes just shake your head at in wonder at what the poker room’s representatives must have been thinking at times.
Recently, Party Poker made me do a “facepalm” once again.
The story, as delineated on a popular poker message board, is fairly straight-forward. A customer played in several satellite tournaments on Party Poker in an attempt to qualify for the Asian Poker Tour. In these satellites one in ten players advanced to the next round, with the extra cash in the prize pool divvied up amongst the top few players that did not earn seats to the next qualifier. In three of the tournaments, the customer who relayed the story did not win a seat to the next round, but did place high enough to earn some cash. A total of $64.80, to be exact.
For some reason, however, the money never showed up in his Party Poker account. He double-checked some tournament lobbies to make sure he wasn’t imagining things, and sure enough, the payouts were what he thought they were. He even had screenshots to prove it.
He called Party Poker to ask about the money and they followed up with two e-mails in which they stated they would not pay him. Party Poker’s reason: the lobby displayed an error in the payout structure, so he was not really owed the money he thought he was owed. As a consolation, the site offered the player $10 in bonus cash.
The player was concerned more about the principle than the money. He felt (and rightfully so), that the cash payouts listed for those who did not win seats to the next round affected how he played the tournament. After all, if the cash prizes really didn’t exist, as it seems was the case here, this player would have likely played differently on the bubble.
After further discussion and investigation, Party Poker did pay the player the money he was owed.
But the positive end result is not the point. I am absolutely baffled by how stupidly Party Poker handled this minor problem. They posted the payout structure in the tournament lobby. The players trusted this information and used it to partially govern how they played. Who cares if the payouts listed were wrong? The dollar amounts were so incredibly insignificant to Party Poker that the company should not have even had to consider not paying. Someone should have said, “Oh, crap, we should not have listed those payout amounts. Meh, whatever. It’s a few bucks. No big deal. The players can have it and we’ll just correct the tournament information from here on out.”
Instead, Party Poker is willing to take an unnecessary public relations hit with the initial refusal to pay. And the insulting $10 bonus made it worse.
Look, I’m all for not punishing a person or a company for a simple, honest mistake. But in this case, it’s not like Party Poker would even feel the financial ramifications of the error. It’s not like a car dealership who accidentally prints an advertisement listing a $40,000 car for $4,000. I would not expect, or want, the dealership to honor the insanely low price. It would not be reasonable for someone to think that the $4,000 price was anything but an error, and it would be less reasonable for someone to expect the dealership to sell the car for one-tenth its retail value. In Party Poker’s case, it is reasonable to expect someone to think that a payout structure that shows that a few players make a few bucks is legit. Party Poker didn’t list tens of thousands of dollars worth of cash payouts in a satellite tourney.
This was a battle that should not have been fought by Party Poker. The only explanation that I can think of for why the issue wasn’t resolved immediately is that the representative who e-mailed the player may have had zero authority to make decisions for himself and was trained to only go by the letter of the law (in this case, Party’s terms and conditions). But regardless of the reason, Party Poker, and all poker rooms for that matter, needs to understand that the image hit it can take from taking an unnecessary hard line with its customers will cost them more than the few dollars it is saving by sticking to its guns.

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