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Age: 30
Hometown: Lytham St Annes, Lancashire, U.K.
Living in: Lytham St Annes, Lancashire, U.K.
Favorite Food: Lasagna
Must Read Book: The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien

Sites Owned or Worked On:
www.pokernewsreport.com (worked on)
Rakeback4.me (worked on)
www.online-poker-bonus-codes.com (owner, still active but no updates for a long time)
pokersponsor2-0.com (owner)

Are you a full-time affiliate? If not, what else do you do for work?

I wouldn't consider myself a full-time affiliate. Four or five years ago I was a full-time affiliate and SEO specialist, but as I was building my first affiliate site I had to learn CSS, PHP, JavaScript, etc. This then led to me to another 4-5 years of training in website design. I'm still learning all the time, but I credit my affiliate beginnings to me now operating my own website design agency. If I hadn't gotten into the affiliate business, I would have never learned CSS, PHP, Java, etc.

Talk a little bit about your professional background. In addition to running affiliate sites, you have some experience as a freelance SEO consultant, correct?

I was trained in SEO for around three years before becoming active in the affiliate industry. At that point my primary source of income and expertise was in SEO and I decided to create my own affiliate sites, optimize them and see what the return on investment would be.

A few years ago you were offering SEO services on the GPWA message boards. Did you ever get any work out of that offer?

Yes, I did offer my services on the GPWA forum for SEO and yes, I did get work out of that. I'm still in touch with a few people that I worked for on the GPWA that I would now consider my friends. It was never easy offering SEO on the forums as most people think you are either spamming or not very good as I charged (and still charge) reasonable prices for SEO work. It was difficult trying to explain why a small affiliate website needed a budget of $99-$299 a month, when bigger companies were charging $699+. The reason a small affiliate site needs less SEO is because they require fewer hours spent on SEO. For example, a small affiliate site with less than 10 pages would have fallen into the $99 bracket, as I would only need to work on the site for 6-8 hours each week or month. I'm sure there will be some that disagree with this statement, but I'm pretty sure it'll only be from SEOs charging too much for their services.

When did you launch your first affiliate site? How long did it take before you received your first affiliate check?

My first affiliate site was built way back in 2008 before I knew how to design a website, and I built it with the absolutely awful "webs" website builder. At that point I was a total beginner and one year into learning SEO. I'm glad that site's no longer with us today, and it does make me chuckle when I think about it. The worst part of it all was using GoDaddy as a hosting company!

My first affiliate check was from one of my old affiliate sites, pokersponsor2-0.com, and came from a poker site no longer with us which was called "Real Deal Poker." It was the first site I promoted. They had mechanical dealers with real decks of cards which you could watch shuffle live. I loved the innovation and that it didn't rely on an RNG. It truly did have a unique selling point; however, it never seemed to be marketed correctly and was shut down.

How important is SEO for affiliates? Is there still space for affiliates in SEO?

SEO is vital for the success of virtually any site in my opinion. Yes, there are other ways to get traffic through SEM and advertising, but the most economical way is definitely SEO. Depending on keyword competition you could rank organically for 6-12 months before dropping -2 positions with SEO. SEM and advertising are continual costs, and I believe that any small affiliate should be looking at SEO primarily due to return on investment.

In my opinion there is definitely still a place in the world for SEO, and it is vital for any website to be successful regardless of industry. There is, however, a very big difference in how to promote an affiliate site compared to when I first started. I remember the days when PokerStars.com wouldn't even show up first for the keyword "pokerstars bonus code," and these types of keywords were the gravy train for most affiliates. Today poker rooms, sportsbooks and casinos all show up first for their own name + "bonus code," thus making it pointless to optimize for those terms. Today, affiliates should be building content-worthy sites that are of use to the end user. A poker news website or a USA poker room site would be good examples. You need to offer something unique, useful to the end visitor, and if possible, a semi-competitive market.

Your sites are all very poker-centric. Why did you decide to build your sites around poker? And what direction do you think online poker is heading, as an industry?

When I became an affiliate I was put off from casino and sports betting promotion. I had a friend who would make $2,000 - $4,000 playing casino games and around $1,000 - $2,000 a week betting on football (soccer). As I prefer the rev share option, I specifically stayed away from these markets just in case he signed up.

Poker is near and dear to my heart. I love playing poker myself and I used to love playing online poker. There is a problem though; we first had Ultimate Bet's [super-user scandal], then Full Tilt [wasn't segregating player funds], and there are countless others that have either been involved in shady stuff or have closed down. This has given online poker a stigma and has resulted in a huge decline [in online poker traffic] over the years I've been an affiliate. There was even a recent case of bots on PokerStars, and this was the nail in the coffin for me. If I want to play I go to my local casino now. I'm just glad it's only a five-minute drive, and I know a lot of other players that feel the same. If the industry ever wants to gain that trust back, then they are going to have to become fully transparent and they need worldwide regulations. I have a feeling that greed is to blame for the current situation.

Tell us the story behind www.pokersponsor2-0.com.

PokerSponsor2-0 was the site where I earned my first affiliate check and was the first real successful affiliate site I owned.

When I first found out about rakeback, I thought it was a really good incentive for players. I thought to myself, "What kind of incentive can I offer people to join my site?" I then thought that I could create a site that offered players like you or me the opportunity to play in some of the big online tournaments.

So when a player joined my site and then played X amount of games at a site of their choice, they would send me their hand history and I would check their ROI to see if they were at least capable of playing. If the player seemed good then I would pay for their entry into a tournament, and we would then require the buy-in +50% back from any winning player.

We had a number of players join the site and in fact I signed up a couple of semi-pros, one of whom appeared on Full Tilt's Late Night Poker. More often than not the players we sponsored made a profit.

Any player who made +20% over the buy-in would be automatically entitled to enter another tournament of their choosing for the same buy-in.

As time went on I became busy working on other projects. I actually sold the site, and I believe the new owners took it in a different direction and stopped offering sponsorships. This clearly didn't work for them as the site is now closed and I kind of feel bad. I'd created a unique site with a good database of players. If I ever find the time I might purchase the domain again if it is available and recreate the site.

One of the keys to success for online poker is liquidity. Do you think we'll ever get back to the good old days, when there was a global marketplace and players weren't ring-fenced by national borders?

Unfortunately, no. I kind of touched on this point earlier by saying we need worldwide regulation. The big sites seem to be unwilling to push for strict regulation so I doubt we'll ever see this overturned and get back to the old days. It's really a shame what's happened to the online poker world, and I'd love more than anything for it to be like the old days.

I'm sure the borders issue wouldn't be a problem if they worked with governments and paid their fair share of taxes. We all know the big poker sites love to be offshore, and for what? They keep on this way and I think we are going to see a further decline and eventual closures. This should actually be the opposite, seeing how there is a positive birth rate globally.

Before Black Friday, what percentage of your players were American? Are you encouraged by the recent movement to regulate online gambling in some parts of the United States?

In all honesty, not many, although today it would be more. I've always promoted USA sites and believe that this is one of the only remaining profitable markets.

The USA needs to get a grip and legalize online gambling; it's 2016 and this has been going on for too long now. Some states legalize cannabis, yet betting $20 in an online casino is illegal!

You've decided not to comply with the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement's demand that affiliates not market offshore online properties if they ever wish to get a license to operate as an affiliate in the state. Can you walk us through your thought process in making that decision?

No comment, only joking! It's an easy decision to make; if they want me to stop then they can ask me nicely.

Unlike casino or sportsbook players, who can generate a lot of revenue for affiliates in a short amount of time, poker players need to play a high volume of hands to generate high revenues for affiliates. What is the average player value for poker? Is there enough volume to make it a worthwhile gaming vertical for new affiliates?

The average value really depends upon the type of player, but overall if you do manage to find a few people that play $1/$2 blinds then I believe it can be more profitable than sports. I would say that on average, with swings and roundabouts it's around $10 to $20 per player per month. All this means is you need a few more than sports.

There is a worthwhile market for new affiliates in poker; however, if I were to create another site I would definitely promote sportsbooks and casinos.

What types of promotions do you find poker players find the most attractive? Do deposit bonuses matter? Free tournament tickets? Do satellites to the World Series of Poker still draw interest?

Deposit bonuses are a concern, but I believe that players are always looking for something extra than the site itself offers. This could be extra reload codes or slightly higher rakeback percentage. Let's face it, if you have the exact same offer as the site itself, then what is the point of an end user using your site?

If you can work a deal with a big site to get an extra tournament ticket or two, then this will definitely attract a good player.

Satellites have never really been a great promotion tool, or at least I have never found them to be. It's too much of a crapshoot for any good player to consider signing up just for a satellite ticket: You offer them +$5 vs a satellite, and they are taking the $5.

One of the sites you work on (Rakeback4.me) is a rakeback site. How important is rakeback to players? Do you think it's a sustainable business model for operators?

Rakeback is essential for all players. Receiving a little back each month or week is a great incentive and can pay for extra tickets, etc.

As a sustainable business model, I really couldn't say. Some sites can cope and others cannot; pricing rakeback too high will definitely cause operators problems, but without it you will lose grinders.

What are your thoughts on PokerStars' decision to retroactively change its terms and conditions from a lifetime revenue share to a two-year sunset for affiliate earnings?

I think PokerStars is a massive sellout waste of space! They actually cut off affiliates that don't bring them players, and a two-year suns**t just shows how greedy they are. It's a disgrace to the industry and one of the reasons I have decided to move away from them for good. You know their whole thing was "no casino or sports" and just look at what they have become, terrible.

Do you have any plans to branch out to new jurisdictions or to launch your sites in other languages?

In all honesty, I am so busy I don't have the time. In the future, possibly, but for now there is nothing in the pipelines.

What are some of your sites' unique selling points? How do you stand out from the crowd?

Well apart from my old pokersponsor2-0 site, I guess you could say that USA rooms are the only unique selling point I really have. There are so many affiliate sites, it's hard today to have a truly unique selling point. The best thing is to have useful content for the end users.

What do you think is a better strategy for affiliates? To launch numerous sites, or to be laser-focused on creating great content for a small number of sites?

Small number, in my opinion: Too many sites is too much work, and the cost of optimizing each one is also an issue. Unless you are a team of five people or more, then I suggest you only work on making a couple of sites and make great content for those sites. It will pay off more in the end.

Are you a one-man operation? If not, how many employees work for your company? Outside of the people you work with, how often do you get to see and interact with other people in the industry? Do you attend any industry conferences?

I currently have five people who are self-employed that work with my web design company.

I'm always with people in the industry; to be honest, a lot of my friends work in the industry. Although I don't attend conferences, I've always kept up to date with the news coming out of them.

What traits do you look for in an affiliate manager? How about in an affiliate program?

Contact, contact, contact!!! The most important thing is how quickly the affiliate manager contacts you when you request support. All affiliates, new or old, should have this as their No. 1 most important thing to look for in an affiliate manager.

In a program, look for the biggest sites with the best revenue share deal. That is how I have always worked. I'm sure others prefer hybrid or CPA, but I've always been rev share.

What's your preferred method of communication with affiliate managers?

Skype easy and free.

What prompted you to join the GPWA? How has it helped you?

The man that taught me about the industry advised that I join. He has been a member since the beginning I believe and he is an active affiliate today. Without the GPWA I would have missed out on so much inside information, and it would have cost me big time. For example, I was promoting a blacklisted affiliate program and the GPWA listed them in the forum so I quickly stopped promoting them. That program still owes me $43 I'm just glad it wasn't $4,300.

If you're reading this and you're an affiliate without a GPWA account then . . .

What do you like about the industry?

Poker. I'm a passionate player, and it made sense to mix work with pleasure as an affiliate. When I'm building a poker site I enjoy it and yes, I know it's sad, but it's way better than building a forex site or an e-commerce store.

If you could change one thing about the industry, what would it be and why?

RNGs or random number generators one of the tinfoil hat brigade's biggest problems, and something I think is a problem also. The RNGs are never tested by multiple third parties; the only testing is in-house, and online poker just doesn't play out like live poker regardless of the clear differences.

I'm not claiming that RNGs are rigged, but they do need regulating and testing from multiple third-party regulators. Even better would be to revive Real Deal Poker's method.

What do your family and friends think of your work as an affiliate?

They all love it. I like what I do, and if it makes money then everyone is happy.

Do you gamble online? If so, what do you play?

I only bet on sports, although I used to play poker online.

How do you manage your to-do lists? Do you use any special software to help you out?

Who said I had to-do lists? Only kidding, I use calendars and Post-It Notes, both virtual and real. Cortana comes in quite handy too since upgrading to Windows 10, although she always seems to think I missed my deadline.

What's the most difficult thing about running your sites?

Writing good content. Let me tell you, a good writer is worth their weight in gold. If you can find yourself a good writer, then you have instantly solved 33.3% of the equation.

What's the best thing about running your sites?

Getting paid to do something I am passionate about.

What do you do to stay in shape both physically and mentally?

I have a Springer Spaniel boy, and I don't do the gym as I'm naturally fit and have always been in good shape. Mentally, I have Countdown the TV program.

What do you do with your spare time?

I like to get out with friends whenever I can, going to football matches, the pub or the casino. I'm also a newbie golfer yes, golf. It's good to play but boring to watch. I've got a 62 record on par 56, so I'm getting there.

What did you dream of doing, both professionally and personally, when you were a kid?

Like every kid, I wanted to get paid 250,000 a week to play football, having a wag and being successful. Then I grew up and realized Father Christmas wasn't real and settled for becoming a website designer and SEO. I actually love my job now, so it's not too bad.

When you need to get as far away from work as possible, where do you go?

The golf course. We do 5 per hole, so it's not too far away from work but it's a great way of escaping the office.

What's your all-time favorite movie?

I'm a bit of a movie freak to be honest, so all-time would have to be more specific to a genre. However, one movie that is absolutely brilliant is Interstellar. It's accurate with science, and the co-author of Stephen Hawking's latest book was the chief scientist on the movie. If you are going to watch it then I suggest you Google the 5th dimension as it'll probably not make any sense otherwise. I do think everyone should watch it, though; brilliant movie!

If you could invite any five people, living or dead, to dinner, who would they be?

I think I would want to make it interesting so it would be Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Kazuo Hirai and then Mila Kunis and Milla Jovovich to please the eyes.

Name three things that people reading this magazine don't know about you.

I once ranked a site on the first page of Google for the keywords "online poker" and "poker."
I lost a poker tournament heads-up with four-of-a-kind aces.
I have written over 700,000 lines of CSS this year alone.