Zynga Poker was launched in September of 2007 and has since grown into the largest poker client in the world with over 215 million monthly active users. The application is played on a variety of game portals that include Facebook, MySpace, MSN Games, Yahoo!, the iPhone and Android.Though the company has since gone on to create a number of popular games, the poker application remains as one of the strongest on the web. This weekend, Zynga will be hosting a Poker Con in Las Vegas for its dedicated fan base. The tournament and festival is so popular that it has already sold out. Card Player caught up with Zynga General Manager Laurence Toney to talk about the upcoming event and to learn more about the popular app.Julio Rodriguez: Can you tell us about Zynga and how the company decided to develop a poker application?Laurence Toney: Zynga was founded in 2007 by our CEO Mark Pincus. We’ve since grown into one of the largest companies on the web by keeping our focus on the users. Our mission is really to connect the world with games. If you’re on Facebook, you may have seen some of our games such as Farmville, Cafe World, Mafia Wars and Cityville in addition to Zynga poker. Mark Pincus really saw a lot of great opportunities on the web. No one had really cracked gaming and how that applied to social networking. Poker is obviously one of those games that bring people together, so designing an application was one of Zynga’s first priorities.JR: Zynga will be hosting a two-day poker convention in Las Vegas at the Palms Casino Resort. Can you tell us more about the event?LT: The goal with Poker Con is to bring fans from the web to the felt. The hope is that our hardcore fans will want to replicate the social aspect of poker that they get online in a live setting. The event will consist of a live tournament with a cash prize pool valued at over $100,000, celebrity and poker pro appearances, a poker school and of course, the Zynga Poker party which will allow our users to meet each other and the Zynga staff.JR: With over 50 million daily users, Zynga has the largest player pool in the world. What kind of player competes on Zynga Poker?LT: I think there are a few different kinds of Zynga Poker users. You have the extremely social group who uses the poker app to simply connect with their friends around the world. We also have a group of players who use the app as an education tool, learning the game from the basics. We also have a segment of really hardcore users who have dedicated themselves to becoming the best players around. They are the ones interested in the leader boards and achieving a high ranking.JR: Does Zynga have any interest in a licensed and regulated U.S. online poker market?LT: I think that Zynga is really fortunate to be a company that focuses on the virtual side of poker. At the moment, we really don’t have any interest in entering the real money poker market. Our bread and butter really deals with the social aspect of online poker and virtual currency.JR: Phil Hellmuth mentioned in a recent interview that he was weighing his sponsorship options and that Zynga was in the running. Would Zynga ever consider hiring him to represent the brand?LT: We are huge fans of Phil Hellmuth and he is obviously one of the most recognizable faces in the poker world, but at this time, we are not commenting on any brand representation.JR: What are Zynga’s goals moving forward?LT: We want to make sure we focus on the needs of our users. We are excited about the growth potential of the poker market. We’re hoping that by offering the best poker platform around and really focusing on the social aspect of the app, we’ll be able to expand globally and appeal to wide range of players.
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