Poker business ideas you can give up right now

Poker business ideas you can give up right now

22945743The original reason I started this blog was because I kept getting asked the same questions over and over again. I like to be helpful, so I figured it was the best use of my time to document my answers somewhere so I can point people to them in the future.

Usually that was people wanting to get into the poker media industry. However, as time went by, I started getting people asking for help marketing their products, often asking me to partner with them. Over the years, I have noticed a lot of people coming to me with the following same four or five ideas, presenting them each time as if they have never been tried before.

This is good timing because next week at ICE Totally Gaming, there is a ‘Dragon’s Den’ style startup pitching event called Pitch Ice, which I am sure will see some of these ideas repeated.

It’s not for me to say whether or not these ideas are good. What I will say is that I have many times seen these ideas proposed to me, and then fail to get off the ground, or at least make a big impact.

If this is your current business venture, please don’t be offended. There is always the exception to the rule and with the right amount of hard work and talent, I think you can make anything work. However, if you are just starting and this is your idea, maybe think again. And please don’t ask me to partner up with you.

No variance poker

imageThe other things in this upcoming list could work, but this is one I routinely get sent to me that I know could never work. About once a year somebody will approach me to say that have invented a format of the game that promises ‘no bad beats’. Essentially they in one way or another take the chance out of poker.

I can only imagine that anyone who ever invents these games has lost a huge amount of money at the game, from bad luck or otherwise, and is using this new suggested format to vindicate themselves and blame their previous losses on variance.

No variance poker is not poker. The reason why poker is profitable and fun is the gambling element. Without variance, poker becomes chess. New players would not play because they would never win, which would kill the game for everyone else.

If your idea is no variance poker, you need to learn more about the nature of variance and why it is vital to the game of poker.

PokerTracker for live poker

left_boxThis is slightly awkward for me because someone I like and respect very much has something similar to this, and in fairness his was the first. However, in recent years I have seen a lot more come up. PokerTracker and Hold’em Manager are ground breaking software for online poker players, so it seems natural that somebody would try and replicate these products for live poker. So basically any sort of app that collates live poker hands for future reference.

First of all, app pricing is obviously very low, so as such to make it a real business you need something that has mass-market appeal. The poker market is nowhere near big enough to ever make this a hugely profitable venture.

More importantly, they are invariably just hard work. One of the big appeals of software like PokerTracker is how effortless they are. Yes it can be a little bit taxing setting them up, but once you have, the hands just import in the background and the stats just magically pop up on your HUD.

With a live poker app, you have to input most of the information manually. One of the biggest barriers of entry for most products these days is how easy they are to use. We expect things to be easy and fast. Manually logging hands is too much hard work, and perhaps more importantly, it would probably take your attention away from the game itself. Maybe when Google Glass becomes a thing something like this might be easier, but until then it’s simply too laborious.

Apps can be pretty low cost to produce these days, which is why I don’t want to put people off doing them, because for a sole trader they might be a great marketing tool/side income/learning experience. But as a venture for multiple parties, I just don’t think it’s scalable.

Multi location satellite tournaments

I have no idea of what to call these as you can tell from the heading, but they are another thing that seems to be suggested almost annually. The essential premise is that all around a country, a number of vendors/pubs/casinos all host ‘day 1’ of a tournament locally, with the survivors of that flight all meet up at a casino for day 2 and beyond. Quite often these day 1s can even take place in home games, pub games, or anywhere else hard to manage or regulate.

The plan here is to make an enormous tournament without the overheads of one. By getting all the day 1s to manage themselves, you take out a lot of the costs for you, the operator, as well as travel costs for the poker players.

In practice these are very hard to police, but most significantly, it’s very hard to sell an event like this to the poker public without the backing of a major operator. Your ‘UK Pub World Championships’ event might have the best of intentions, but most players will call bullshit on it immediately if it just looks like a lofty pipe dream (Other warning signs are when there is an ‘estimated prize fund’ rather than a guaranteed prize fund).

These events have happened and will happen in the future. The International Stadiums Poker Tour most notably, which as we all know was hardly a success. Dusk Till Dawn have, however, managed to do a good job of hosting events with live AND online day 1s, which is a good version of this format. But once again, they are a major and trusted operator, which is why the public has faith they will happen.

Facebook for Poker Players

341911-facebook-mark-zuckerbergThis is probably the most common thing I get pitched. A social network, just for poker players. Where you can update your status with poker updates, meet other players, moan about bad beats and the like.

Some of the versions of these things I have seen have looked fantastic. There are a couple of websites right now that look really really good, and I think they have the potential to develop into something else. However, there is a reason I believe that a ‘Facebook for poker player’ will never catch on, and that’s because it already exists.

It’s called Facebook.

The fact of the matter is that 90% of poker players’ friends lists are also poker players. I’d wager that if anyone who reads this right now opened Facebook, most of the updates would be poker related. Poker players already use Facebook in the way these websites suggest is their USP, why would they want to deviate from a website they already trust? Getting people to sign up, especially when there is nobody else on the site, is a huge barrier for entry and most people won’t bother.

The best option for a social network for poker players would probably be licensing your software to an online poker room, so they could have an in-client network. Other than that you are competing with multi-multi-billion dollar companies and as already mentioned, poker is nowhere near as big as we all think it is.

Anything where you expect people to work for free

SpecWorkI know I am not the only person who routinely gets asked to work for free for seemingly no good reason. I’m always happy to take a look at what you are doing, always happy to give a few bits of advice or point you in the right direction.

It is remarkable, however, how demanding complete strangers can be on your time. I have lost count of the amount of times I have been asked to do quite labour intensive things for free – product testing, proofreading, editorial placement, writing articles etc – by someone I have never met before via email.

Of course you can just say no, and I do, but what is always striking is the level of expectation that comes with some of these requests. People are genuinely taken aback when you tell them that your sole purpose in life is not to be of service to them. I think because we live in a time where we are all connected digitally, and there are so many things we can get for free, that some of us expect that to be the norm when approaching professionals.

The funniest reaction is when these same people tell you that it’s in your interest to help them, because it means ‘free exposure for your work’. That by helping them become successful, which they almost certainly will, that you will suddenly become the hottest property in poker. That is by far the biggest warning signal that you have been solicited by a freeloader, or at least a newbie. If someone asks you to work in exchange for free exposure, politely decline.

If you don’t ask, you don’t get. I certainly don’t want to put people off reaching out for help. But time is even more valuable than money in the grand scheme of things, so respect that when you ask someone you have never met to do something for you, remember that you are still asking a lot.

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