$80,000 OVERLAY AT CLUBUBT
By Joe Pane
Joe Pane is a skilled advantage blackjack player and an experienced tournament player who has won over half a million dollars in blackjack tournaments. Besides competing in tournaments around the country and on the Internet, Joe writes the "House of Pane" column for "All In Blackjack" magazine and was recently hired by the Ultimate Blackjack Tour (UBT) as the Assistant Director of Tour Operations as well as the Team UBTCoordinator. His peers consider him to be one of the strongest blackjack tournament players on the circuit.
I recently sat down with Russ Hamilton, the founder and owner of the Ultimate Blackjack Tour (UBT), whose new brainstorm Ė ClubUBT- was launched about two weeks ago.
Trying to interview Russ in his UBT office in Las Vegas was like herding cats. There were three computers on his desk, plus two cell phones and one desk phone, and at one point all three phones were ringing, and he was also responding to different emails on two of his computers while having an AIM conversation on the other. Man is this guy busy, or what!
At times while conducting this interview, Russ was speaking on one phone with the network brass at CBS TV, who broadcast the UBT (the second season will begin in September on Saturday afternoons), while on another phone getting updates on poker pro Freddy Deebís progress (a Team UBT member), who was on the Final Table of the Horse Event at the World Series of Poker. This has a $50,000 entry fee the highest ever in poker history. It turned out Deeb won the event, which included a first place prize of over $2.5 million. So it was a busy, but happy, day in the UBT offices.
What brought the idea of ClubUBT to life?
We started the UBT Tour with the idea that we could do a good tournament that would be better than what anybody had done before, because truthfully, prior to our format, blackjack tournaments were never good for TV. We knew that the market for gaming shows was huge and people love gaming. The World Poker tour proved it, because it was the #1 show ever on the Travel Channel. The World Series of Poker also proved it by having some of the highest rated shows on ESPN.
So with that mind set, we knew we could create an exciting blackjack tournament show, and tour, with a business plan to sell commercials for a lot of money to poker internet sites like Party Poker and Full Tilt, who had unlimited advertising budgets. The UBT show on CBS TV was an instant success with the highest ratings ever in that time slot. The UBT was also the lead-in to the weekly televised college football game, which was the exact demographics that our show and company was tailored for. In fact, the UBT show that aired before the Eagleís vs. Cowboyís football game this past Christmas Day had a 1.4 rating, which is in excess of over 1 Million viewers; previously these kinds of ratings for a televised Blackjack Tournament were unheard of. CBS was so excited by these ratings that they picked up the option for the second year of The UBT Tour. That was an incredible day for the UBT and everything was going great. But then we got broadsided.
What went wrong?
In September 2006, the federal government passed the Internet Gaming bill (which was added to the Port Security bill), and it changed the whole gambling world as we once knew it. We started the UBT Tour and TV show knowing we would have access to millions of dollars of advertising revenue, and then all of a sudden, all this revenue disappeared. We had a great show and tour but now we had to create a new way to generate revenues because of this new law.
So what we did was implement something that has been going on for years, called a free alterative means of entry, or a subscription site. This is no different then what McDonaldís has done with their Monopoly Game, or what Deal or No Deal does on TV with its call-in option for 99 cents per call, or the viewer can go to their web site to play along for free.
Basically we took this same concept and used it for both Poker and Blackjack on the new subscription site ClubUBT.com, which offers $100,000 in prizes per month. Members can sign-in and play for a low monthly fee of $19.95 (this can be charged to their Visa, Master Card, Discover, and American Express). In addition to all the ClubUBT benefits that members receive for one low monthly fee, they also get a subscription to All In Magazine, which has a $30 value, and a subscription to the online version of Las Vegas Advisor (LVA), which has a value of $37, plus Members also receive the LVA Pocketbook of Values (POV) coupon book containing over $3,000 in valuable Las Vegas dining, travel, show, and gambling coupons. If you donít want to pay the monthly fee, then you can just send in a post card every week and request to become a member for free, which makes it legal in 38 of 50 states in the US. We spent a lot of time and energy with our team of legal experts to make sure we abide by each of the 38 statesí laws where you can play on ClubUBT.
Currently, what are some of the gifts that ClubUBT Members can win?
Currently we are giving away the following gifts:
Flat Screen Plasma TVís
Watches worth $5,000,
$1,000 shopping sprees
Gift Certificates to Bloomindales
$10,000 in cash
$5,000 in cash
$500 in cash
$100, $50, $20, and $10 cash prizes
Plus, we are still giving away a final table seat to a UBT Tour stop blackjack tournament that will be taped for airing on national TV on CBS. The current seat we are giving away right now on ClubUBT is for the final table of the Tournament of Champions, which has a guaranteed $1 Million first prize. That means if you make it to the Final Table from ClubUBT, you have a 1 in 7 chance at winning a million bucks.
Are there any plans to bring other games of skill to ClubUBT, other than Poker and Blackjack?
Yes, Iím glad you asked that question Joe. We are also going to be adding Sports (not sports betting), where our members can pick parlay cards for football, baseball, basketball, hockey, and NASCAR similar to the ones you see in the sports book in Las Vegas. The only difference is that the ClubUBT parlay card will award the Member who has the most winning selections for the day (in brick and mortar casinos, your parlay card is usually dead if you have one loser). Our Sports Tournaments will award the winner with the most correct picks. We will have daily and weekly contests, plus an overall monthly contest. You can participate in all this without risking a penny because you are not betting, but rather you are competing for the prizes and cash that we will give away every month.
You said this was legal in 38 of 50 states. Is there anything that the residents can do in the 12 states where a subscription site is not legal, to make it legal in their home states.
The residents of the 12 states that will not allow ClubUBT can still download our free client software and play for a chance to be on TV. They just canít participate in the clubís other prize tournaments.
(Editorís Note: For a list of the States, see end of article).
When was ClubUBT launched?
ClubUBT started up two weeks ago. We did a soft launch without much marketing or advertising. Our hard launch will occur in September when the second season of the UBT starts airing on CBS. The soft launch allows us to fine tune the software, but the truth is that the software has been running great since September of 2006, which is a real tribute to our software department.
What about Customer Service? A lot of people are concerned about the lack of customer service when dealing with an Internet site.
Our customer service department is located in our Las Vegas office so we have a
hands-on approach. Our goal is to quickly respond to each customer request and provide them real answers to each situation, then learn from our customerís feedback to improve our product. We have agents answering our customerís emails, and we also provide a live chat feature for our paid members.
Considering that you are still in a soft launch mode, are you pleased with the amount of players who have signed up during the first 2 weeks?
Oh God, the response has been incredible. We have almost 1,000 players signed up during the first two weeks and thatís without doing any marketing or advertising to speak of, just word of mouth in the poker and blackjack community and some email blasts from our PlayUBT customer logs.
But here is the kicker right now for the 1,000 paying customers. Presently, we are only generating $20,000 in income per month but we are paying out $100,000 resulting in an $80,000 overlay. I believe this overlay will be around until the UBT shows start airing in September with new ClubUBT promotional ads.
In keeping with that thought, come September when the membership will grow on a rapid scale, will you still be giving away $100,000?
No. We love giving away cash and prizes. This is what makes this so fun for our customers. So as we grow, so will the monthly prize pool and it will continue to increase to $200,000, then $300,000, then $500,000 and Iím going to guess that within 18 months from now, we will be giving away one million dollars per month for a low $19.95 monthly fee.
Whatís totally different about this is that when you are used to playing Poker or Blackjack online and have a losing night, when you awake in the morning you account still showed the same low balance as it did when you left it. But on ClubUBT, if you had a losing night, when midnight passes your account is replenished with more chips to play the next day. Is this correct Russ?
Great point, Joe. If you go bust on ClubUBT, every day at midnight we reload your account with a fresh supply of tournament chips to play to your hearts content. You donít have to pay extra for these chips because your monthly fee assures you that you will have chips to play all month long. Joe, this is entertainment, like going to the movies, except for $19.95 you can play any night or day of the month, or all 30 days if you chose, and youíll never run out of chips. Try doing that at your local casino. Or try going back to your local movie theater all month long after you paid to see one movie last week. At ClubUBT, your one-time monthly fee is you pass to unlimited entertainment including poker and blackjack tournaments, and soon, sports parlay cards and other games of skill.
Iím in the UBT office almost every day and I have heard rumors going around that there is no cap on the amount of money and prizes awarded per month on ClubUBT and that the latter will appreciate as the memberships increase. Is this true?
We believe that in 18 months we will be scheduling 100,000 tournaments per month and giving away over $1 million per month. Also, thanks to you and Bonnie Leinhos, who approached me about having ClubUBT offer cruises, we have set the wheels in motion on this. You also put us in contact with Richard (BJ Mace), a UBT player from Europe, who will bring in players from across the pond for our cruises.
So we are planning to have UBT Cruises twice a year, with one going out of Miami, and the other out of San Diego. On these cruises, we will have blackjack and poker tournaments.
Total Cruise packages for two passengers will be given away to our customers and this will include their cabins, port taxes, meals, tips and two private parties for our UBT Players plus their entry fee into the tournaments that will be played on the cruise. Other companies charge you for the cruise, and then you still have to pay your tournament entry fee plus a membership fee. Not so on ClubUBT cruises because itís all included. Our goal is to fill these cruises up with ClubUBT members for one big party.
We also have plans to also give away cars, motorcycles, wave runners, and boats as the membership grows. Right now we are losing money as we are committed to $100,000 in prizes per month even though we might only be taking in $20,000. So as I mentioned, and you pointed out earlier in the interview, there is a huge overlay right now for the savvy gambler.
I understand that you just came to an agreement with a major company in the gaming business that will be joining forces with the UBT. Can you shed any light on this?
Yes, we just agreed to a large deal with a major company in the poker industry that we will be announcing in the immediate future. At this time Iím legally bound not to reveal names and specifics, but itís a blockbuster deal that will make both the UBT and this company a major force in the industry. Suffice it to say this will be BIG Ö really BIG.
It appears that ClubUBT will be offering your members the ability to play in poker and blackjack tournaments and participate in parlay cards for all sports right from the comforts of their home without ever having to travel to Las Vegas, and with the chance to win cash and prizes, that up until now, was never available before. Everything at ClubUBT is 100% legal and prospective members can join using their credit card. Did I get it right?
Yes Joe you did. Basically we are offering all the services you mentioned to our customers through a membership to our subscription site. This is totally different than sites like Full Tilt and Party Poker, where the customer had to be concerned about legally getting their accounts funded so that they can play. Our site is entertainment; you play when you feel like it and you never can go broke at www.ClubUBT.com.
Are there any specials that can reduce the monthly membership fee to less than $19.95 per month?
Yes, there is a special to reduce the fee below the $19.95 per month .You can sign up for three months at a time and reduce your fee to only $16.95 per month. Or you can take advantage of our one year special membership that reduces the fee to an incredible $12.95 per month. One super special, which is available only until July 14th for existing PlayUBT customers, is a monthly fee of only $9.95 per month if they sign up for six months in advance.
Thanks again Russ for taking time out of your busy schedule, which also included answering three phones, typing on three computers, but still finding time to share some inside information on ClubUBT with BJI subscribers.
Joe, thank you for bringing the news aboutwww.ClubUBT.com to BJ Insider Members. They are a savvy group of players and they will see the value in our new site.
Until next time may all you aces have a little paint on them especially atwww.ClubUBT.com
PS: If you still got a question on ClubUBT, email me email@example.com and Iíll get you an answer.
Residents of the following states and countries are eligible to become paying members of ClubUBT:
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