On November 16, an audio recording of the interview with Kirill Ushakov, managing partner of Poker TON, was published on our blog. The full version can be found here. Polina Vishnevskaya was the interviewer. In this article, we share with you a written version of the podcast. Welcome!
Polina: Hello, listeners of our podcast on Free TON Blog. Today we have an interview with Kirill Ushakov, who is the managing partner of Poker TON. Hello Kirill! How is your mood?
Kirill: Hello, Polina, hello everyone. My mood is like 8.5 points out of 10.
P: It’s very cool. Well, let’s start our interview. Kirill, could you tell us about yourself and your experience in general?
К .: Hello again, my name is Kirill, and I started out as a leading engineer on television at Russia1 and Russia24, if anyone knows. In parallel, in 2014 I was a professional online poker player, I played for about 2 or 3 years, but I have already completed my online poker career. Then, in the last three years, I had experience in, let’s say, offline catering – I have a coffee house in Moscow. In the last year I have been involved in Telegram projects, and for the last six months I have been in Free TON and Poker TON.
P .: Very interesting. Why did you choose Free TON Poker anyway? How did you get the idea to launch this project?
К .: I am just a managing partner. I have friends who represent the non-public side, the founder is actually from Israel and he is a non-public person from the gaming industry. Initially, he wanted to open a project with TRON cryptocurrency, if you know, but he was convinced to do this with Free TON. And since he knows that I played poker professionally, he presented his idea to me and offered me to become a manager. At first I thought that we were talking about some kind of text bot, because he said: “We will make a bot in Telegram”. But then he explained that it would be a full-fledged poker with an entrance via Telegram, after which the web application would open. I liked this idea and we started to move on.
P: So that was the main reason why you started doing this project, right?
К .: Yes. Poker has returned to my life and I am, in general, very happy about it.
P: So you are an avid poker fan?
K.K.: It’s not really online anymore, but offline we play with friends, yes. And here you can combine business with pleasure. I found myself, so to speak.
P .: * laughs * This is great. There is also a question about legislation: are there any restrictions or special licenses required for this activity?
К .: We have already received a license from Curacao and are now at the final stage of its legal registration. All bureaucratic affairs simply drag on for a very long time. This license allows us to provide gaming services all over the world, and Telegram is not blocked anywhere, so we are completely legal, without any restrictions.
P .: Good. And the statistics are interesting to us: how many users does Poker TON have now and what is your general plan for attracting users, are there any specific numbers? Perhaps there is already a road map? Please share with us.
К .: Yes, now there are just over 15 thousand users. We have been actively increasing users for the last two months. Since October, we are the official partners of Free TON, and our main mechanic of attracting users is through the administrators of channels and chats. We invite them to do private free tournaments for their subscribers. That is, for example, there is a chat for a thousand people, we give a prize pool of 100-200 TON Crystals to this administrator and they publish a post describing our advantages. Everyone comes in, plays, receives tokens. Someone, of course, immediately withdraws money, someone continues to play with us. We also work with classic mechanics: now, for example, we are testing integration with Youtube bloggers, with TikTok. We also want to conduct a campaign offline, but now, due to the pandemic, this is unlikely to be possible. But our main mechanic is Telegram, we represent poker in Telegram. Therefore, we work through Telegram. Also, we will soon have a partnership with Combot, they now have a Combot Wallet, a wallet where you can store TONs. We are now negotiating on how to transfer funds from Combot Wallet to Poker TON in one click and just play immediately. So we develop the ecosystem and help it cycle.
P .: Yes, you have very interesting plans. I hope you guys will succeed! Next question: I wonder what volumes of tokens are won daily? Do you have any statistics, for example, how many crystals have been won over the entire time?
К .: Since July, we have been holding daily free tournaments with a prize pool of 100 TONs, and every Sunday – 500 TONs. That is, every week we play about 1,100 tokens in free tournaments. Thus, in the freerolls we played 25 thousand TONS. This is in free tournaments. In the last freeroll we had 1,200 people, and on the daily tournaments there are usually about 450 people. And we started with 17 people in the first tournament, then we gradually began to grow. Also, we now have about 40-50 people online playing on TON Crystals.
P.: Is there a specific target number? I mean in TONS.
К .: There is one for users – at least 100 thousand people. And we will continue to do what we’re doing now with TONS – at least 1,100 per week and 500 every Sunday. Then we may add even more free tournaments. Plus, as I said before, we give a prize pool to all chat administrators, and they organize their subscribers. Plus, the mechanics work very well on Twitch and YouTube: we create private tournaments for bloggers and streamers, and they play with their subscribers. Thus, we gradually draw people into the world of Free TON. At first, of course, there was distrust, when TON had not yet been known, it was very difficult for us.
P: Nevertheless, there is growth, and that’s great. How difficult is it to develop this project, what difficulties did you encounter in addition to advertising and promotion?
К .: Well, at the beginning there was a very cold start, it was very difficult. Nobody wanted to cooperate. I would say, “We pay money to distribute money,” and still that was not an argument. Plus, we needed traffic. There are still a lot of platform updates to be done, and this is not so easy, some tasks have been hanging for six months. Since I came from the offline world, I did not know that some things can take so long from a technical point of view, although they seem simple to me. And so, in principle, we shouldn’t have much difficulty – a good team, good partners, Free TON, a good deal, Telegram. Together we will win!
P: How many people work in your team?
К .: There is no exact figure, but so far there are about 7 people.
P: I understand. Do you plan to develop on some other platforms besides Telegram?
К .: We are not planning this yet. We have an idea – poker in Telegram. We do not go into classic things with the installation of the application, because there the big whales have already taken their places there. This is just our main feature. Have you tried to log in through the Poker TON bot in Telegram yourself?
P.: Only on the website.
К .: If you press the Start button there, a full-fledged web application will load. That is, if you are using a phone, then this is a webview in Telegram (Telegram browser), and if you’re using a computer, then in a computer browser, and you get a full-fledged room. This bypasses any blockages. Even in the Russian Federation, some poker sites are blocked, but it is not clear on what basis they are selected. In Ukraine it seems to be the same. Therefore, we still focus only on Telegram, because these are social mechanics, plus, as already mentioned, you can integrate with the Combot, we will think of something with Chatex – we will make a global tournament for all users of the Chatex bot. So we pour Free TON light through Telegram to the whole world (and to the whole Telegram).
P.: This is great, it will be interesting to watch your development. I noticed that you are also participating in eSports subgov. How do you manage to combine these two ideas? Could you tell us any eSports plans that you want to develop?
К .: By the way, I also wanted to add that everyone who is not familiar with poker thinks that this is the same tthing as roulette or casinos. But actually it is not! We are just a platform and we get our income from commissions from distribution. We have 4.5% commission on distribution. Here everything is decided by your skill. I have a friend, he is a professional poker player and for 10 years he has only been playing poker and, accordingly, he has been winning. It proves that it’s a game of skill. In a short distance you can lose, because there is an element of luck, but in a long distance (a month, two, and even more so a year) a professional will win 100% against a non-professional. Poker is sustainable. If we just wanted to raise money, we would make some kind of roulette or slots. But we chose the game of intelligence. We assume that smart people are already using Telegram. Probably stupid people are using Viber * laughs *. I don’t know why in some countries poker is equated with a prohibited activity. For example, loto is a pure scam. From each bet you have minus 50% commission. Well, okay, this is a lyrical digression. Now eSports. How it all began: someone suggested in the Free TON chat: “Guys, let’s play something!”. What? “Into Counter Strike”. Everyone agreed, 5 to 5 – 10 people gathered there – Poker TON issued 100-150 prize pool tokens, everything went well. Then again they decided to get together, again Poker TON allocated a prize fund, and then we thought: we can develop Poker TON through e-sport, through games. In games there is a young audience, and a young audience is ready to accept new things, it’s good to generate love for the brand at this age. Plus a lot of traffic, Twitch is growing a lot now. We haven’t thought about partnership between eSports and Poker TON yet, but I think we will have some kind of collaboration.
In eSports, we now have Counter Strike and Dota tournaments with a prize pool every week. Again, participation is free for everyone. We have a good result: in a month we brought more than a thousand new users to Free TON. We gave them tokens, they found out about Telegram. 300,000 views of streamers who talk about us and invite subscribers to the next tournaments. Now we are planning to move to a more professional level, and if before we organized everything ourselves, now we are already starting to cooperate with organizations that conduct everything on a turnkey basis, administer events, connect streamers and do marketing. This month we will make 4 qualifications, where all amateurs can participate, and 2 winners from each qualification will go to the main event with a prize pool of 5000 TONs, where they will play with professional teams. That is, we are already entering the world of big e-sport. There are also platforms on which tournaments are held – FACEIT, Epulze, whose players have been holding these tournaments for 5-10 years. We also partner with them – they have players, we have tokens. In fact, this is a very large thing and I really believe in it.
P .: I wish you all succeeded!
К .: Poker TON and eSports are great, everything will be great, guys, I tell you, we’ll talk in six months. Moreover, we have freerolls there – we support any participation for free. Both poker lovers benefit, and game lovers can show up in a tournament with a cool streamer. In short, good to everyone, peace to everyone.
P .: * laughs * I understand you. I would also like to know your opinion in general on the Free TON project, do you think it will be successful and where will it be in 5 years, in your opinion?
К .: I think that in 5 years it will cost $ 5 billion for sure. A very strong community, the network is up and running, there is decentralization, transparency, people really do it themselves. I really believe in this thing, the listing on the stock exchange has already happened, and there will be more. Top exchanges will write to us themselves, and the price will rise. We will help with the distribution of tokens, so I think that with a probability of 97% this project is not for 5, but for 25 years.
P: I think so too, I agree with you.
К .: What do you think, if Pavel Durov launches his own project, what will happen to Free TON?
P .: There is an opinion that Pavel Durov will still be somehow involved in Free TON – I draw this conclusion from the interviews I took before. Therefore, we will see. I personally cannot give any predictions yet, because I came to this industry very recently.
К .: I understand. I think if Pavel Durov still launches his own, then we will still have a very strong position.
P .: Of course, Free TON is gaining momentum! It cannot be stopped anymore, everything is developing very quickly here.
К .: The CIS loves us. By the way, Indians are now also interested in Poker TON.
P: Do you see a perspective in the Mexican community?
К .: Of course! Mexicans are our friends too. Everyone except USA. Am I right? I am. Mexicans also need to see the Free TON light.
P.: Another question: do you personally hold TONs or other cryptocurrencies? What is your general attitude to cryptocurrencies?
К .: Of course, it is positive. I have a story: once 6 or even 10 years ago we sat drinking tea, and I asked a wise man about some insider information. And he said to me: “Kirill, look at bitcoin.” And I also thought, what is this bitcoin? In general, I missed my first checkpoint. It then cost, in my opinion, somewhere between $ 300-315. Of course I keep it now, yes: I have bitcoin and TON Crystal. I also participated in contests for memes and stickers. Plus I get paid for my management of Poker TON in tokens – no rubles, no dollars. So yeah, I do, and I keep them in different wallets.
P: And the last question: what would you wish to our listeners?
К .: I wish everyone to unite! Tell about the project your mothers, grandmothers, get them Surf wallets, go to Poker TON, smile, play eSport, smile. Do not be afraid – be positive and, of course, balance, balance of power is needed. Keep balance in everything, guys: balance on wallets, in health and in finances. We have many spheres of life, and we need to keep balance in all of them – this is what I wish for everyone, without bias in any direction.
P.: This is just a great wish, thank you very much. Thanks for your time, I think everyone will be delighted. Have a nice day!
К .: Thank you! Good luck to you. Bye!