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Our Queen Trumps Yours

It seemed like a regular poker night at a friend's house. Until the front door opened and our host's greeter handed us a credit card-like membership card (with our name printed on it and a bar code on the back) which our host's greeters scanned into a Pocket PC. Next thing we knew, our name was emblazoned across a big screen.

Welcome to the ultra, ultra, secret members- only, invite- only world within poker.

The History
A rave promoter in Minneapolis back when raving was good ('92-96ish) applies his systems architecture skills to the R & D lab that is his friendly poker game. And a game route called Empty Pockets is born.

How It Works
Skill irregardless, each player is invited. When you're selected, you receive a plastic membership card that looks and feels like a credit card with a PIN number embossed on the front, and the same number on the back in barcode form. Upon arrival, a waitress scans each person in with her Pocket PC. The PIN connects the player to a master database over a wireless network and checks the player in for the game. Each time you buy in or re-buy, the process is repeated.

With the host at master control of the rounds, players can see on a big screen board how much time is left in each round, how long the game has gone on for, how many players are left and what the ante is for each round.

At our host's house, the entire system is hooked up to a home automation network so he's able to turn on and off the house lights automatically to indicate that a round is over.

The Wow
We've seen a lot.
Bars behind dark alleys where entry is gained through peepholes and matching keys.
Parties where you only get the location after meeting an Orthodox Jewish man at a landmark and giving him a password.

With this, although someday the bar coded cards could be used for electronic promotion, currently there's no way to acquire membership without invitation and no way to get in without the card. Additionally once a game is over, members receive emailed stats on the game, with the intention of engineering the rules for the next tournament to make things smoother, and here's the trump card - pun intended - to help poker novices last a little longer.

The combination of this level of discretion, belonging, exclusivity with a delicate welcoming touch so lacking in traditional member- only situations makes this "wow".

The Trend
Beyond poker as a trend - witness Celebrity Poker on Bravo - games, as a whole, have had a big surgence. And we're not talking about those Magic playing freaks stuck in their D& D days. These are meant for adults.

If you've been a HipGuide member forever, you remember when we released our push SMS HipTips. All our dreams of wireless however and the entertainment converges here. Although field-based businesses have long leveraged remote tech (Kozmo used hand held PCs to track signatures and delivery data - a step beyond UPS. Allstate as far back as '98 wanted to put all their insurance field work into a wireless network....) taking it into the home is a whole new level of sophistication. Using wireless personalisation to create private member environments.

You heard it here first on HipGuide. Watch for games like Empty Pockets leading the charge in revolutionising the way we belong. ~S.T.

above Pallas, the Queen of Spades, often thought to be named after Greek Goddess Athena.


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