HOMETOWN: Marseilles, Illinois
LIVING IN: Ottawa, Illinois
FAVORITE FOOD: Pizza
MUST READ BOOK: Doyle Brunson's Super System I & II
Your site, World Holdem League, is an online poker league where online poker players can compete three nights a week – and where U.S. players are welcome. Explain how this works, and what makes your site unique.
As you said we run three tournaments a week, each at a different time to try to attract players from different time zones. Players who finish in the top 20 percent of any league game earn points toward our monthly leaderboard, and any player who makes the payout earns points on our player of the year leaderboard. Currently we award monthly prizes to the top three on the leaderboard, and yearly to the top five on our player of the year leaderboard. In the future we hope to be able to award more prizes as we grow and gain more sponsors.
I think the level of competition and the prizes we offer make our league unique. We have some of the toughest competition on the Internet even though we are a completely free-to-play league. We also have some great sponsors that provide great prizes for our monthly and yearly top players, including Bluff Poker Magazine, Blue Shark Optics, Tournament Poker Edge and Tournament Indicator, and we also provide T-shirts and custom poker chip card guards.
Your site only promotes PokerStars, but you continue to allow U.S. players to participate in WHL tournaments. Since they can't make deposits at PokerStars, have you considered either barring Americans from your league or promoting other sites?
I will never bar American players from playing in our league. Right now we use PokerStars Home Games on PokerStars.net so everyone is able to play. Until this year our league was always a buy-in league but after Black Friday that became very difficult since we continue to try to let American players play. In the past several years we have played at many poker rooms and the poker room we play at is always the only room we promote. I am also currently working on another site that will promote multiple poker rooms once I launch it. It will be completely separate from our league, though.
Over the past couple of years other affiliates have signed on to place your fully managed poker league on their sites. What kind of feedback have you been getting from these affiliates?
Most liked it and I did receive some great feedback from some of them, including ideas for improving the league. The fact that we do not promote other poker rooms makes it easier for some forum owners to agree to send their players to us, because they don't have to worry about them joining other poker rooms through me instead of through them. Unfortunately since we moved to PokerStars this year and I made a completely new website, that service is something I am not offering at this time, although I do plan on making it available again as soon as I have time to set it up properly on our new site.
What sort of advantage does hosting a poker league give you over other poker affiliates? And are you surprised more affiliates don't try to do this?
I am not sure it gives me any great advantage. Actually, as far as earnings are concerned, I am sure most affiliates make more than I do. I have never really been in this for the money; it started as a hobby and has turned into something I just love to do. Being a player myself, I love poker, I love the players I get to meet through the league, and most of all I love the competition. And through the e-mail newsletters we have offered over the years I have built a very good player database for future projects. I am not really surprised that more affiliates don't try this; as I mentioned, it really isn't a huge money-making idea.
What is the most difficult aspect of running the World Holdem League?
The time it takes to run is definitely the most difficult part, setting up tournaments, sending e-mail reminders for games, blogging, Facebook, Twitter, finding sponsors – it all takes a lot of time.
When did you launch your site?
My current site launched in November of 2009 and the league started January 1, 2010. I also operated another poker forum and league that I ran for about five years until I sold it in early 2009.
You sell World Holdem gear (T-shirts, sweatshirts, mugs, etc.) on your site. What prompted you to start selling the gear? And how successful has the online store been?
Selling the gear started as a way to help cover the cost of some of the prizes we offer but it has turned into much more. The players seem to really like the gear; I actually make more from it at times then I do from affiliate earnings.
How long did it take for you to start earning money?
With World Holdem League it was almost immediate. I looked for sponsors and sold advertising space on the site before the league even started. Affiliate earnings began to come in very shortly after we started because we were a buy-in league at that time and most players had to deposit to play.
You also like to play online poker, and consistently do very well. Is it easier making money by playing poker or by running your site?
That is actually a tough question to answer. I guess the site is probably easier, but playing is much more fun. I definitely can make more money faster by playing, although by playing you can also lose much faster.
We know that poker is a game of skill, but luck also plays a factor in the game. What do you say to people who think poker is gambling? Do you have a quick, one-minute way to describe how the game is a game of skill?
Anyone who plays tournaments knows that you need skill and some luck to win any large tournament, but I am one who believes that you create your own luck by knowing when to take chances. When people say it is all luck I usually just ask them to explain how the same players win consistently.
What traits do you look for in an affiliate manager?
Someone who is easy to work with, available when I need them, knows how to handle problems that come up with running several tournaments a week, and is able to correct problems quickly.
What advice would you offer someone just starting out in the industry?
Do your homework first. Find something that you can offer that others can't or don't offer, or find something that you can do better than what others have. When I started about eight years ago I knew absolutely nothing, I learned a lot through trial and error (many errors) and I was lucky enough to make some great friends who helped me along the way.
What prompted you to join the GPWA? How has it helped you?
One of those great friends I just mentioned told me about the GPWA and I joined. I have learned a lot from reading the GPWA forums. It’s great to hear what works for other affiliates and what doesn't, and how others got around problems you may have run into. The GPWA is definitely a site I would recommend to anyone in this business or thinking about getting into this business.
How often, if ever, do you attend industry conferences and other related events?
No, I have never attended any of the conferences.
What do you like about the industry?
I simply love poker. That is what got me started and what keeps me doing this.
If you could change one thing about the industry, what would it be?
That's easy, make online poker 100 percent legal in the USA so I and many others like me could safely enjoy the game we love online.
What surprised you most about the industry?
How helpful and welcoming most affiliates are toward each other. In a business like this where we are all pretty much competing for the same players it is very surprising how willing most are to help the new guy.
How long do you give yourself for answering e-mail? What e-mail tips can you offer?
I try to answer most e-mail within 24 hours. The only tip I really have is to stay on top of it; as your site grows it can really get out of hand if you let it.
How do you manage your “to-do” lists? Do you use any special software to help you out?
I am old-fashioned on this one, I guess. I have notebooks everywhere! Ideas, thoughts, plans, everything – I write it down in notebooks.
How much time does it take to keep your sites updated?
I spend on average two to three hours a day working on the site and/or league-related things. I definitely could spend more time on the site but you have to find a balance among work, play and family.
How much time do you devote to social networking in order to drive more traffic to your site?
I use both Facebook and Twitter every day to promote my site/league, our league gear, and to drive traffic to my site.
How are your Google Analytics stats these days? Steady improvement? Up and down?
They have been slowly improving lately, I think mostly because we became a free-to-play league, which is attracting people who may not have been able to play in the past. I have also been getting a lot of traffic from Facebook and Twitter.
If someone were visiting you, what’s the one place you’d definitely take them to see?
That's a good question. I live in the middle of corn and bean fields in north central Illinois, not much around here. I guess Starved Rock State Park would be a must-see site. It is one of the most beautiful places in Illinois.
What’s your favorite vacation spot?
What is a vacation?
If you could have one “superpower,” what would it be, and why?
The ability to go back in time to change all the stupid things I have done in my life.
What’s your all-time favorite movie?
The Godfather! I love gangster movies and it is the best – great cast and a classic movie.
If you were casting a movie with yourself in the leading role, who would play your romantic interest?
My wife, because if I picked anyone else she would kill me!
If you could invite any five people, living or dead, to dinner, who would they be?
Doyle Brunson, Daniel Negreanu, Phil Hellmuth, Phil Ivey and my grandfather. The first four simply to listen, learn and pick their brains, and my grandfather just to get to spend another day with him – and he is also the person who taught me how to play poker in the first place.
What are three things that nobody knows about you?
I love to cook. I am a huge country music fan. I once wore a miniskirt to high school to protest because girls were allowed to wear miniskirts but guys were not allowed to wear shorts, so a bunch of us guys got together and wore miniskirts to school. Apparently it got the point across because the next year they changed the rule.