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  1. #1
    CityGuard's Avatar
    CityGuard is offline Former GPWA Program Manager
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    Default Portal Webmaster Interview Series: Tyson Tanaka - Tyson

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    Tyson loves “Fight Club,” but won’t go 3 rounds with a kangaroo.

    Real name: Tyson Tanaka
    City currently residing in: Manhattan Beach
    Age: 36
    Favorite food: Sushi
    One book everyone must read: The 4 Hour Work Week
    Your gaming Sites: FlopTurnRiver.com

    Before we get to the poker questions, we've got to ask you about Barack Obama. We noticed that you, Eric and Xianti have endorsed Obama for president, and are even running a banner at the top of the FTR homepage announcing that fact. Why did you decide to dip into politics like this?
    Haha – yes, we gave Senator Obama some prime real estate at FTR! This was not a business or financially motivated decision for us, we simply believe that we need change in this country, and we believe Obama is the best candidate for that. Our support of Obama is not because of the UIGEA – it’s much larger than that. We certainly have concerns for our personal business, but we also have concerns for this nation’s future, the economy, our foreign policies, our fellow Americans. Fortunately for us, we’ve built a Web site that receives thousands of visitors a day; we have a voice, and we decided to use that for what we believe will be the betterment of our country. Surprisingly, we haven’t received much flak from our users. A few political debates popped up but we have the support, if not the respect, of our fellow members so this hasn’t been an issue.

    Let’s move to poker now. When and how did FTR get its start? What role did you play in it? And what is your role there now? And how did you first become interested in the online gambling industry?
    FTR was started in 2003, right before poker exploded across mainstream media. I’ve always been a fan of poker. I used to play poker as a young kid with my friends, and we would wager our Halloween candy! Anyway, I started dabbling in online poker in 2003, found the games very fun and exciting, and eventually found them to be quite beatable. I looked at online poker as a second source of income. At the same time, my friend and co-worker Eric Sprague was dabbling with Web site development and search engine optimization. I asked Eric if I wrote poker strategy articles, could he publish those on the web… and that was the birth of FlopTurnRiver.com. So initially, I wrote basic articles teaching no-limit Texas Hold’em strategies. Of course now, my role is purely administrative – I manage our affiliate relationships, the bookkeeping, and our marketing and advertising.

    What kind of poker do you like to play? How often do you get to play?
    I still play no-limit Texas Hold’em, but mostly live, brick-and-mortar games. I play with friends or occasionally at a casino, but now it’s just for the recreation. I do plan on playing in one or more of the events in the 2008 World Series of Poker with fellow FTR members, so I’m really looking forward to that.

    One of thing that comes through quite clearly when looking at FTR is how community is a central pillar of your success. How did FTR go about building its community?
    We do position FTR as a poker community Web site. We learned early on that our Web site needed a discussion forum, so players could learn from each other, and in the meantime, help us grow our Web site. That’s when John Kwon (aka Xianti) joined our team. John had been a longtime friend and he also had experience managing and administrating a discussion forum. We wanted to create a friendly, inviting poker forum, where beginners felt comfortable asking introductory questions without the fear of being ridiculed. I think building a community is an important step for an affiliate when building their web presence, and a discussion forum is the primary tool to do this. An affiliate should consider their subject matter and target audience, and have the forum well organized to cover those needs. Too many categories can be daunting for a new user, and too few can be difficult to use. The forum also needs constant managing and administration – we have a team of moderators working with Xianti to maintain the safe, friendly and fun atmosphere of our forums.

    One of the nifty tools your site offers is a hand converter that takes hand histories from major online poker rooms and converts them into forum-friendly posts. But the hand converter doesn't just make the posts FTR friendly. You've included support for 2+2, FCP and a few other forums. Why did you choose to support other forums with the hand converter?
    The hand converter is a great open source tool, initially developed by Bison at 2+2, which we have updated and modified several times over. Offering support to other forums is actually twofold – we wanted the tool to be useful and helpful to a wide audience and secondly, the output created mentions FlopTurnRiver, so it actually works as an advertising tool as well.

    You're now incorporating user-generated video into your site. How has the membership responded to this effort? Did the response meet or exceed expectations? And if so, how?
    The success of our Poker Video section is still yet to be determined. We’ve had a positive response to this offering, but it has not spawned a lot of forum discussions as I thought it would. People are watching them and hopefully learning something, and I’m happy that we can deliver them all for free.

    It looks like several members of your community have started blogs on FTR. How active are those blogs? And how have they changed the nature of the FTR community?
    The idea to host personal poker blogs came from our discussion forum. Someone would start a forum thread naming it their blog, and they would just post in their own forum thread. So we thought perhaps users would like the option to have their own official blog. The blogs are relatively new, but our bloggers have a readership. Adding blogs hasn’t affected the nature of the FTR community; they’re more like an extension to it.

    You run a private poker league on PokerStars. Do you find that the league does a better job in attracting new players to PokerStars than other methods? Or are most people who choose to play in the league PokerStars members already?
    Our poker league, the FTR Gauntlet, is not really a tool for acquisition. We don’t attract many new players with the poker league. However, it is a great instrument for building and supporting our poker community. The Gauntlet games are discussed in our forums, there’s friendly trash-talking, and it allows beginner players to play against some of our more experienced, high-stakes players. Everyone enjoys these games because they provide an opportunity for all our members to play against each other, regardless of skill-level or stakes – these are just really fun games.

    It looks like you also run private tournaments (beyond the poker league) as well? Are they generally freerolls? Or do they require a deposit of some sort?
    Yes, we also run private FTR tournaments outside of our poker league, but these are all low buy-in tournaments. We try to avoid freerolls. We’ve found that there are a lot of individuals who solely hunt down freerolls, and these players do not provide much, if any, value. So we offer money-added tournaments, where there is a low buy-in, like $3 or $5, and we add money to the overall prize pool.

    Do you ever have to take on an advocacy role for your players if they're having trouble with some of the poker rooms you work with? If so, what has your experience with that been like?
    Yes, we stand by our players, and for the most part, our affiliate managers have been a great resource for us. With our community model, our members are the ones who’ve built the site, so we do our best to look out for them. We have blacklisted some poker rooms because of complaints originating from our members.

    How much time does it take to administer the forum?
    Our partner Xianti is in charge of administering the forum, along with the 21 moderators who report to him. While it doesn’t take us a lot of time, you can see that it does take a lot of eyeballs to make sure everything is cool in the forums.

    What's the easiest part of managing forums?
    The easiest part of managing the forums is assigning moderators and telling them they are in charge!

    What's the most difficult?
    Dealing with troublemakers is tough, whether they are spammers, scammers, or disgruntled members. Most of our members are very friendly and easy-going but with large communities there are bound to be incidents. We have rules that dictate when members should be disciplined or banned, but difficult judgment calls have to be made.

    What prompted you to start offering FTR clothing?
    We came up with some FTR clothing as extra prizes for our private tournaments and poker league games. We used them as bounties during poker tournaments and also as thank-you or holiday gifts. Branded clothing makes a good gift for a member, and it’s great advertising. We encourage our members to send in pictures wearing FTR gear so we can post them in our photo gallery.

    What characteristics of online poker rooms do you find are most important for players?
    The issues with online poker rooms have shifted through the past several years, but I think the most important characteristic for today’s online poker room is integrity. Players need to feel comfortable playing online, and the poker room’s integrity manifests itself in many different ways – its reputation, its policies toward cheating, its handling of payments, and perhaps most importantly, its customer service. The online poker rooms that will survive and flourish are the ones that treat their customers with honesty and respect. Poker rooms using outsourced, nondedicated customer services that know very little about the details of the brand are a detriment and become exposed – we see so many players leaving poker rooms because of poor customer service.

    In an ideal world, how would you divide the efforts you put into your site?What percentage would go to marketing, updating content, managing your books and other tasks (please list the tasks, include a % and an explanation, please)?
    This answer I’m sure differs between owners. My partner Eric and I have found solid resources to help us out in certain areas so that we may focus our efforts in our areas of strength.

    Eric is the more technical partner, and his efforts are broken out like this:
    • 75% Managing Our Workforce– Eric directs our programmers, writers, and other contractors. This is the team that updates our content, works on our programming projects, writes new articles, etc.
    • 25% Programming – Eric is also a programmer, so he can be hands-on with certain programming projects.
    My time is spent:
    • 75% Marketing – I focus on marketing initiatives, SEO, sales/revenue reports and analysis, and the buying and selling of advertising.
    • 25% Bookkeeping/Accounting – I manage the resources in charge of our books and accounting. I also manage our affiliate relationships and follow up with collections.
    How long did it take for you to start earning money?
    It took us about a year to start making money. After the first year, our revenues experienced strong growth year after year.

    What advice would you offer someone who has just started in the industry?
    It’s hard to get started. If you do a lot of research, you’ll find thousands, if not millions, of competing Web sites. It’s hard not to get discouraged. So don’t. Fortunately for me, when I started FlopTurnRiver, I was naïve and optimistic and had no idea what we were getting into. This worked out in our favor; otherwise I might have quit before even starting. Don’t overanalyze the situation. Just go for it. But to be more practical, focus on a niche, and do it well. More than that, do it brilliantly, uniquely; bring the highest level of quality you can. Build something that is worth noticing. And then get it noticed.

    If you had to pick 5 keys to success as an affiliate, what would they be and why?
    For us, working as an affiliate meant becoming self-employed. So starting off, the most important key for us was to be self-motivated. Can you work a 16-hour workday without a boss telling you what to do? Similarly, you have to be hard working and put in the hours needed. As an affiliate, you also have to be able to bring something new or refreshing to the table, so having creativity and ingenuity is important. It’s also important to be knowledgeable and educated in many different areas, so be prepared to learn a lot of stuff! You are going to wear many hats – not only am I a poker player, but also a computer programmer, web developer, SEO expert, bookkeeper and accountant, writer, salesman, and manager.

    What traits do you look for in an affiliate manager? How about in an affiliate program?
    The most important thing to me regarding an affiliate manager is responsiveness. It’s extremely frustrating when affiliate managers do not bother responding to communications in a timely manner. Affiliate managers need to understand that their affiliates are not just customers but business partners and should be treated with that respect. I have dropped several affiliate programs due to a lack of responsiveness. Affiliate programs themselves should offer clear terms and conditions regarding payment calculations, statistical reports to monitor progress throughout a month, and clear methods of payments to affiliates, particularly those residing in the US.

    What prompted you to join the GPWA? And how has it helped you so far?
    We joined the GPWA in order to learn more about our industry and network with some of the top Web sites in our space. The GPWA is a great resource for staying on top of industry news. We also like attending the various industry conferences, including the CAP conference, and the GPWA keeps us informed with these events.

    If you could change one thing about the online gaming industry, what would it be, and why?
    Of course we believe legislation in the US needs revamping, along with clarifications within other districts and jurisdictions. But beyond the legal climate, the industry still needs to move toward greater safety and legitimacy. Without government regulation, it’s up to us to deliver this to the customer – the affiliates and the affiliate programs. Affiliate programs and managers should be stricter on their qualifications for new affiliates. Increased security and background checks should be required. We see numerous shady affiliate sites popping up, stealing copyrighted content, hijacking affiliate links, etc., with very little repercussions coming from the affiliate programs themselves. And on the flip side, the big affiliates should stand together when facing improper treatment from an affiliate program.

    What's your favorite vacation spot? And why?
    I can’t say that I have a single favorite spot, so my answer will be Europe – and that’s because of the diversity in culture, history, arts and architecture.

    What is your favorite movie? And why?
    Favorite movie is “Fight Club,” because of its rebellious spirit, anticorporate sentiment, and overall badass attitude!

    If you could have one "super power," what would it be? And why?
    My super power would be to slow down time. There are so many things to do, with so little time. And I don’t mean work-related things, but life-related things. I wish I had the power to slow everything down so I could enjoy and make the most of every fleeting moment.

    Assuming you could pick anyone in the world (alive or dead), who would be sitting at your dream poker table? And why?
    I would like to take on Abraham Lincoln. Not only would the table talk be fascinating, conversing with one of the greatest presidents of all time, but also . . . could Honest Abe bluff me out of a pot?

    And finally, what are three things that nobody knows about you?
    Here are some not so well known things about me:
    1) I’ve read every Harry Potter novel…some twice.
    2) I believe kangaroos are the scariest, most vicious, most deadly animals on the planet.
    3) King, Five suited in late position is my lucky hand!
    I have left the industry and earned a law degree at Indiana University Bloomington, Maurer School of Law. Here are ways to stay in touch with me:
    > Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/StevenCorfman
    > LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/stevencorfman
    > Skype: StevenCorfman
    > Phone: +1 617 785 9324

    Inquiries intended for an administrator or staff member can be directed to Anthony Telesca through the forum (username Anthony) or to the general contact address manager AT gpwa DOT org.

  2. #2
    thepokerkeep's Avatar
    thepokerkeep is offline Private Member
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    What advice would you offer someone who has just started in the industry?
    It’s hard to get started. If you do a lot of research, you’ll find thousands, if not millions, of competing Web sites. It’s hard not to get discouraged. So don’t. Fortunately for me, when I started FlopTurnRiver, I was naïve and optimistic and had no idea what we were getting into. This worked out in our favor; otherwise I might have quit before even starting. Don’t overanalyze the situation. Just go for it. But to be more practical, focus on a niche, and do it well. More than that, do it brilliantly, uniquely; bring the highest level of quality you can. Build something that is worth noticing. And then get it noticed.
    Awesome advice!! I love the honesty of your answer.
    Great interview. Thanks for sharing!
    Terry - The Pokerkeep
    President / CEO - Gambling Affiliates Union

    Casino Affiliate Programs
    Affiliate Resources
    Gambling Affiliate Program Blacklist

    Email: admin @ thepokerkeep.com



  3. #3
    MichaelCorfman's Avatar
    MichaelCorfman is offline GPWA Executive Director
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    Tyson, thanks for the great interview. I really enjoyed reading it.

    Michael
    GPWA Executive Director, Casino City CEO, Friend to the Village Idiot

    Resources for Affiliates: iGamingDirectory.com, iGamingAffiliatePrograms.com, GamingMeets.com

  4. #4
    ttanaka is offline Public Member
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    Thanks, it was a fun interview and hopefully it helps out some other webmasters!

  5. #5
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    Great interview. Thanks for sharing. It's entertaining to see how affiliates got started and what they did to be successful.

  6. #6
    Doolally's Avatar
    Doolally is offline Private Member
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    Great interview. I might try reading "The 4 Hour Work Week" that sounds like a dream! It takes me about that long to delete the spam emails!

  7. #7
    allstar is offline GPWA Caretaker Emeritus
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    Great interview, I enjoyed reading it also.

    allstar

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    masontech's Avatar
    masontech is offline Private Member
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