What Social Media Is Really About

I’ve always used social media since it became the norm, in fact, I’d say I probably knew more than most about it. Recently I have gone from having a passing interest to being a total obsessive, for many reasons. The main one being how clearly beneficial it is to both my work with PokerNews and obviously for my upcoming book.

More so, I came to the realisation at the exact same time that Bill Rini and Kim Lund have produced several great blog posts on the subject, that social media is being vastly underused in the poker industry. Most think just “lets post a link and wait for the money to roll in”, I must admit, that was my view for a while too.

Read both Bill and Kim’s blogs because they are very good, I can’t offer anything new, but I can think of something that happened to me this week which perfectly illustrates the reason to use social media in marketing. I was listening to Radio 6 (The best radio station in the world btw) and one of the guests on the breakfast show was an Irish Improvisational Comedy Freestyle Rap Act (Yes, that’s what they actually were, never thought those words could go together). They were very funny but I didn’t catch their name.

So I sent the Radio 6 breakfast show a Tweet asking their name, a few hours later instead of getting a reply from Radio 6, I got a reply direct from the band (They were called Abandoman and I advise you check them out). How cool is that? I was listening to them on the breakfast radio show and before lunch they had contacted me directly.

Now I knew their name, I wanted to see more of them, so I went to their website and then their Facebook page, which had several funny videos of their act. I also checked out their listings and didn’t see anywhere near my hometown of Sheffield, so I posted on their wall asking if they had any plans on coming? They replied quickly saying no, but could I recommend them any venues?

Just as quickly I sent them a couple of venues as well as a link to the website for the Sheffield Comedy Festival in October. They had never heard of that particular festival, but loved the look of last year’s line-up and as a result, are now in talks with the organiser to play there this year. I for one will be the first to buy a ticket if they do (Actually I will push for a free ticket being as I pointed it out to them).

What a truly satisfying experience it was for both me, the consumer, and them, the artist. Thanks to social media my passing interest in Abandoman was quickly converted into enthusiasm because they contacted me in person, allowed me to find out more about them, and even get the smug satisfaction of possibly organising a gig for them. They in turn have got a new fan, find out about a new gig, and I have already started sending links to their stuff to all my friends, potentially creating more fans.

I am currently reading Tribes by Seth Godin and in it he says that, because of innovations like social media, to market a product you only need a small, dedicated group of fans who will do the marketing for you through word of mouth – all you have to do is engage them. This was a great example, Abandoman engaged me and I am now passionately spreading the word, in part because they have given me an extra reason to like them beyond their act. I would have certainly forgotten about them by now if not, but because they took 2 minutes out to engage with me, it could help create them a new fan base (You are going to check them out after all, how can you not now?)

The lesson, social media is not about spamming and converting and monetizing – it is about conversations, engaging and entertaining (Which if done well, can lead to converting and monetizing).

With that said, please follow me on Twitter and we can have a nice chat. I promise I won’t mention my new book unless you ask me.

Is Bigger Better, or is Bigger Better?


Yet another mahoosive UK tournament has been announced in the form of the Grosvenor Goliath. At £120 a head, it is planning on reaching 1,500 live players in the Ricoh Arena, Coventry. This will take place after Dusk Till Dawn attempt to hit 1600 runners at the Grand Prix this coming May.

One could argue that constantly trying to boast the biggest tournament is getting stale, it certainly is the vogue thing at the moment. Full Tilt Launch the Onyx Cup, so the WPT announce a high roller event, and then the EPT unveil a Champion of Champions event. Personally I am not really a fan of these ultra-high roller tournaments for a number of reasons. The main gripe I have is that they are elitist, they strike me as a way of distorting the all-time money list and ensuring that the ‘TV pros’ stay on the small screen. One can’t moan that a tournament is elitist just because they can’t afford to play in it, but at such ridiculous buy-ins only a handful of players will ever be able to play and satellites seem a preposterous notion.

The real selling point of poker is that anyone can play; my mother could opposite Phil Ivey and realistically have a shot at beating him if the cards went her way. That’s why poker captivates player’s imaginations and that is why bad players will stay in the game. There is no denying these events will give TV producers what they are looking for, but I think there is also a need to get that everyman sat at the table with the world elite to harness poker’s great appeal.

The difference, with the DTD Grand Prix, the Boylepoker IPO, and the Grosvenor Goliath is that these events really benefit the broader poker community, not just the high stakes TV pros and sponsors. Mid stakes is where it is at these days and as long as UK players are getting big money, deep stack tournaments for modest buy-ins, I will always be a supporter.

I can see it being a big success too. Obviously with the backing and £100k guarantee from Grosvenor it will be a solid and well organised affair. Add to that the solid team at D4 events organising the whole thing (Who recently hosted a record field in their European Deepstack Championships event and will know a thing or two about these sorts of events). Finally the fact that it is in an Arena is a good move logistically as well as a great step forward to legitimising poker as not just a casino game.

It does seem a bit of a shame that a cap of 1,500 has been announced before Dusk Till Dawn attempt to reach 1,600. The tournament isn’t for five months and you would have thought that the organisers would have waited to see if they can break the record afterwards. The reality is that whatever the record is, it will be broken again quite soon; in fact I’ll say we are probably going to be looking at a 2,000 runner UK tournament in 2012. Let’s just enjoy events like the Grosvenor Goliath and DTD Grand Prix for what they are – a really exciting looking affordable tournament with a good structure and a massive first prize.

Everythings Amazing & Nobodys Happy

Does anyone else think we live in the greatest ages ever that a person could live technologically? I think we take a lot for granted these days but I for one am constantly amazed at how good we have it these days. I have just returned from the Dentists after two pain free fillings that took 20 minutes tops, which in itself seems like a real blessing and sign of how far things have advanced.

Ten years ago I had a housebrick of a mobile phone that made calls, text messages and had the game snake – that was it and I was amazed by what a technological breakthrough it was. These days I check my emails from the supermarket, buy things online and share pictures of the dog with the world all from the comfort of my hand. I got a new phone over the weekend and couldn’t believe the words coming out of my mouth when I said to the guy in the phone shop “The camera has to be at least 8 mega pixels”.

At least 8 mega pixels.

For a phone.

It wasn’t that long ago that I was bragging about my Cannon Ixus having more than 1 mega pixels, and here I am demanding 8 times that amount for a phone.

We live in an age where you can’t lose touch with friends and relatives. The chances of me not being able to locate someone I know are close to impossible because of Facebook – of course it also means privacy is potentially a thing of the past, but who cares, all I do is put pictures of my dog on there.

Of course the biggest thing for me, and this is perhaps why I think of it more than most, is that I am able to work with people from all around the world, write a book with one in New York no less, all from the comfort of my own home. In my own case I really do feel like I have to pinch myself when I think of how easy so many things are in life.

How lucky we all are to live in an age where we can expect such things? In fact were it not for things like wifi, laptops, smartphones and social media, I don’t think I would have a job (That I like) right now – and these are all things that didn’t exist when I was at University. All of which makes me wonder what is round the corner in the next decade or so.

I could go on but I would end up sounding like that guy that cried when he saw a rainbow on YouTube. Speaking of which, this video pretty much sums up what I have been trying to say.

Sky Poker Guest Slot

Last week I was a guest on the Bounty Hunter, one of the live Sky Poker shows that is also broadcast on Sky Sports 3. The format has changed significantly since I last appeared on live TV a few years back, thankfully.

Previously the guests played the online tournament being discussed along with the players, which led to my first 2 minutes on air being a bit of a nightmare. Grub Smith was the presenter back then and he came to me just as I had flopped a full house in the tournament. Poker instinct kicked in and I decided to pretty much ignore him as he started talking to me. It didn’t help that he also took the opportunity to make fun of my hair for his opening line which I wasn’t prepared for, all of which made for 2 minutes I have never dared watch back.

The format last week was much easier; it was more of a cosy chat, albeit a 4 hour cosy chat. I was sandwiched between James Hartigan playing a bit of an anchor role and Tony Kendall going for the comic foil persona (At least I assume that was the intention, because that’s how it played out). It was actually really hard to get a word in edgeways with Tony, but that I think was a good thing, it really took any pressure off and allowed me to just sit there and once in a while come up with a one liner and look smart.

That’s at least how I feel it went. My hand analysis was actually pretty bad, having worked on this book with Jared I know all too well about how the mind can go blank in pressure situations and this is one area where I felt I fell a bit short on the night. But overall I think it went well, I got a couple of decent gags in and was able to get some solid plugs for the Mental Game of Poker too (Which was a surprise to me because I was expecting to be talking about PokerNews).

We also played a fun game called ‘Masters of the Twitterverse’ where it was me vs Tikay in a ‘which poker player tweeted this?’ quiz. I must say that if there was ever a game where I was probably in the world elite, it would be this. As a result I battered Tikay 16-4 and feel ready to take anyone (Other than KevMath obv).

Although I would say it was quite ‘easy’ being a guest on the show, four hours later when it was over I really felt it. I was exhausted, really really shattered. It was then that I realised what a tough job it is and was eternally thankful to James and Tikay for making sure there was never any dead air and allowing me to travel along at my own pace.

It was quite a novelty going to the Sky Sports studios, this was the first time I had been to the head office and it was a very impressive fortress. It must be an great place to work (If you are a bloke) because every other room had an enormous HD TV showing sports 24/7. I had my makeup done next to a couple of the Sky Sports News presenters and Tikay showed me channel 405 being filmed live, which looked awesome. I resisted the temptation to crack a “Did you smash it?” joke, felt a bit too soon.

Good fun, I certainly would do it again but how they do it regularly is beyond me, because I am still cream crackered.

Do You Really Want to Work in the Poker Industry?

Every week without fail I get poker people coming to me for advice on two subjects (In fact, so much so that I reckon I could charge for it) – how to promote their poker event/site/book/product or how to get a job in the poker industry. I actually don’t mind this at all and have tried my best to help as many people as I can because inevitably these are the people I might be begging for work from in a few years time.

This week I had a mate ask me about working for a poker site doing the job he currently does now in the ‘real world’ , I won’t say who it is or the job in question just on the off chance he wants to keep it quiet. The strangest thing is that I found myself instinctively trying to put him off. This may well have been because I felt some sort of territorial threat even though the job he does is vastly different to what I do, but really I think a lot of people would be disappointed by elements of the industry.

Now the quick disclaimer, I love working in the poker industry, in fact working in poker has done so much for me and made me realise how important enjoying your work is. I have travelled the world, met some of the best people you could ever met and made a decent living. I am also lucky that I got into the industry at a very good time and work for PokerNews, who are the best poker website and it’s not even close. I want to stay in poker for a long time because it’s great.

But there was a lot I warned him against which I think it’s important to know about large portions of the industry. It is, after all, a very young industry which brings with it both opportunity and road blocks. Poker is not a bad place to work, but be mindful of these ways in which it can be different from other industries.

Less Contracts
There are plenty of contracts in poker, especially the higher up you go, but in general expect a lot less. Most of the people I know in the industry are free agents rather than on a contract and I don’t hear of many benefits packages (Other than hush hush rakeback deals). More worryingly, it’s amazing how many businesses will partner with each other with no formal contracts involved. This is still very much a handshake industry, which often leaves people let down when there is no impetus for people to act professionally.

I personally don’t mind no contract myself, I prefer being a free agent and self employed, but not everyone thinks this way.

No Security
Poker is one of the most fragile industries around in every respect. The legality of the game is routinely under threat or hazy in just about every country in the world. It’s also largely unregulated industry, all of which means that you literally could wake up one morning and through no fault of your own have no job (or industry) anymore. You should always have your fingers in several pies when you work in poker.

Poker Players Make Business Decisions
Because it’s a new industry, invariably a lot of the people at the top of the ladder do not have 20 years business experience behind them, they are poker players. Poker players are some of the most intelligent people I have ever met but they are also some of the stupidest, especially when they have as cavalier an attitude towards real money as they do poker money. A lot of the heads of poker companies are just ‘blaggers’ who have bluffed their way to a career.

The ones who have survived are clearly the ones who have good business acumen, but if you start working for a new company don’t be surprised to find that you lost your job because the boss had a bad run at Chinese poker – because it’s happened before.

Smaller Industry Than You Would Think
Everyone talks about the poker boom and how massive it’s become, but it’s still a relatively small industry for those that work in it. The wages are perhaps a bit lower than you would expect in a broader industry and there are less opportunities for progression because the pecking order is much shallower.

The good side to this is that there is plenty of opportunity to stand out and carve a big niche for yourself where you wouldn’t elsewhere. However despite being so young, its already a very competitive industry.

The Advertiser is Number One
Likewise, you always have be very careful what you say in this industry because it’s so small. Almost all the businesses outside of the poker rooms are funded by the poker rooms, so you always have to keep them happy. Say something negative about a big sponsor and it could cost you your job, in fact I know a couple of people that have lost jobs for saying negative things about high profile players in public forums/editorial (And no it wasn’t for bad mouthing Hellmuth either). It’s quite easy to get blackballed in this industry.

I’m lucky in that I am an incredible nit, so I never play out of my bankroll and I never play house games. But if you have any leaks like this as a player, you will be in trouble working in poker because you inevitably will be surrounded by opportunities to gamble 24/7 when a job outside of it would prohibit them.

Ruin a Hobby
Having a job that is also a hobby is amazing, but it can also burn you out. Sometimes I am sick of the word poker and I have long periods where I never play – which is nice but if you currently love the escapism of poker then working there might be too much of a step too far. You simply cannot put poker away when it’s both your job and your hobby; usually this will leave you either playing less or poker affecting your social life a bit more. I was a pretty high volume player for a long time, but something had to give and I am much happier now I only play a few hours a week for fun.

I doubt I have put anyone off working in poker and I don’t want to, but consider yourself warned what it can be like. I love working in poker and I love working for PokerNews (Who are very organised, professional and go against most of what I’ve just said because they are one of the larger entities in the game). The biggest advice I would give is to be mindful of, in fact embrace, how uncertain the industry is, network like crazy and grab opportunities with both hands.

Not very interesting update as its been a few weeks

Very busy last week or two, regrettably much of which I cant discuss right now. That makes it sound like something massive is on the horizon - its not, simply a few things here and there I havent been greenlighted to discuss yet.

We had a major roadblock with the book, which I probably cant discuss yet, but thankfully it wasn't our fault and its now sorted. We have started the promotional campaign though, which includes some brilliant regular segments on the Cash Plays podcast which I urge people to check out.

I've also been getting Jared in touch with a few of my 'bloggy' mates for an insight into his work. A great piece here by Matthew 'YorkyPuds' Pitt and another with James Atkin. In particular I will be paying attention to James' blog, as he is going in for SuperNova Elite this year and Jared has already coached about 7 players to SNE.

In other news, I am off to that there London for a guest spot on Sky Poker this coming Thursday with my old mucker Tikay. Its been a very long time since I have been on live TV and the last one didn't go very well at all.
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