I have a friend who works with Poker Stars here in the Isle of Man. They’re one of the bigger players in the online poker market and probably one of the biggest, if not THE biggest online gaming company in the Isle of Man at the moment. The interesting thing about our conversations is that it shows me a whole different perspective on technology; the challenges of gaming, poker in this case, are really quite different to what I’m used to.
Take scale, for example. I picked some interesting numbers off their article on Wikipedia. As of September 2010, Poker Stars had dealt 50 billion hands of poker. They have upwards of 300,000 simultaneous hands during their busiest periods. Building an infrastructure and application architectures to handle that sort of scale can be a pretty interesting challenge. Then there’s the question of security; as you can imagine, a poker site is a pretty lucrative target for the malicious type. Not only do they hold payment information and cash for individual players, but interfering with the games can net loads of cash for the malicious types out there. So keeping their perimeters and internal systems secure feels like a massive task, certainly not one I would like to be responsible for. And there are other technical challenges besides those.
Poker Stars host a variety of poker games, namely Texas holdem poker, Omaha, Omaha Hi/Lo (8 or Better), Stud, Stud Hi/Lo (8 or Better), Razz, Five-card draw, Deuce to Seven Triple Draw, Deuce to Seven Single Draw and Badugi. I’ll be perfectly honest, I can just about manage standard poker, so don’t really hold a hope in hell of winning any of those. But I’m always happy to learn new games, so I might get someone to show me when they have some time. Who knows, I may even strike gold 😉