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  1. #1
    GPWA Aaron is offline Former Staff Member
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    July 2006
    Needham, MA
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    Default Affiliate Interview Series: Ryan | HUSNG

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    Age: 27
    Hometown: Chicago
    Living in: Denver
    Favorite Food: Bone-in ribeye (rare/med. rare, charred crust), salmon sashimi
    Must Read Books: Business: Rework, by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson; Fiction: The Lands of Ice and Fire series, by George R.R. Martin


    When did you launch your site?
    Early 2009.

    What makes HUSNG unique in the world of poker strategy sites?
    Our main focus is on the heads-up sit and go variant and weíre the only full-scale site that does this (news, premium video packs, free videos, forums, interviews, community actions, eBook, software and more). Iím the wrong guy to ask, but if you look around, the quality is a major unique positive of the site as well.

    Which feature of your site is most popular with your players? Do you get a lot of takers for the coaching offers?
    Our most popular feature is our videos. From our hundreds of free videos (300k+ views on YouTube and counting) to our premium video packs (over 1,000 videos to date), videos are what made us popular when we launched and videos have continued to drive success. Coaching is popular, but the coaching offers on our site are from the contributing coaches and 100 percent of the income goes to the coaches, in a direct way. Itís a major benefit contributing to our site.

    Why do you think heads-up poker has become such a popular form of online poker? Is heads-up easier or harder to beat than 6-max or a full ring game?
    While other games continue to decline (mostly due to geographical regulatory issues, but also structural flaws primarily related to game selection), heads-up sit and gos have thrived because they offer fast, consistent action. Hyper turbos have changed the game; players can hop into a game at any buy-in level, get an opponent immediately and engage in a fast-paced, low-edge game. It works out great because that low edge is appealing to casual players (they win a higher percentage of games), and because the games are only two to three minutes on average, the professionalís small edge adds up to a very high hourly rate.

    With so many poker strategy sites out there, what does it take to be a leader in that regard?
    We attacked what was a major gap in the market at the time and built deep relationships with coaches and directly with the community. Back in 2007-2008, when I purchased the domain and started developing the idea, major training sites were by and large using non-HUSNG pros to do their videos. Many of their coaches were losing players in HUSNGs. Basically, nobody respected HUSNGs, and SNGs in general didnít get a lot of respect either. Over the years, as many cash game and MTT players hopped into HUSNGs and got their butts handed to them (not that it doesnít work the other way too) by those ďdonksĒ did players then start respecting the pros in our field a bit more. Guys like Ike Haxton and Olivier Busquet are now among the most respected players in the world.

    How did you become involved in the industry?
    I ran an asphalt industry business. In Chicago, that was seasonal, so I had winters off. A buddy who grinded freerolls into penny stakes into a few grand told me I should play poker and recommended HUSNGs. I lost a bit at first, maybe $100 or so at the $5 level. Six months later I moved up to the $100 level following proper bankroll management. The discussion forums on the Two Plus Two poker forums (2p2) and the people I met there were a big part of my learning so much. I already worked for myself and I wasnít dreaming of getting rich by playing nosebleeds, so the poker professional lifestyle didnít appeal to me as much. However, I felt there was a gap in the educational market, and the next winter I really pushed to develop the domain I had bought. I worked through a list of potential partners and found three very good players/coaches who appealed to the community in different ways. We launched in February 2009.

    How long did it take for your site to start earning money?
    Our investment (with three other partners) was not as deep monetarily as you would think starting out. We recovered it within two or three months. Iím a firm believer in making things work and not letting artificial barriers get in the way. The facts were, we had four players with combinations of visibility and success in the HUSNG community involved from day one, dedicated to making videos of a quality that nobody else was doing, and we had a lot of organic success (blogs, 2p2 community, foreign communities). Our only initial advertising was Sharkscope player icons and that was incredibly successful for us starting out. So costs were recouped pretty fast, we just didnít get risky or focus more on making a major production out of things. Donít get me wrong Ė we made many, many mistakes along the way and still do, but not spending unnecessary amounts of money was an area that we excelled in. If we had known more about business we mightíve tried to scale up from day one, but the business scaled fairly evenly with our limited experience in this market. Itís a niche, so itís not like we have an unlimited amount of customers to tap into. These days we focus more on making HUSNGs appeal to new players, to grow the game and our market, but we didnít have the experience or vision to do that on day one.

    What traits do you look for in an affiliate manager? How about in an affiliate program?
    I first look at a poker room. I need a room that is reliable. I donít promote rooms that donít pay players in a reasonable time frame, and if a room goes south, I stop promoting them and keep my players informed. Iím not in a passive market; weíre front and center in the HUSNG community in a lot of ways, and itís a responsibility to keep players informed. As long as we remain a leader by doing good by our customers, weíll always make money, so itís important to just focus on quality poker rooms and honest information.

    In an affiliate manager, I look for people who are accessible, can solve problems quickly and basically make it so that my job is to bring them new players, not work on fixing problems or navigating hurdles put up by the poker room. I donít want to have to follow up with three or four reminder e-mails to get an issue resolved; I want an e-mail within 24 hours either solving the situation or stating that it is being solved, then a follow-up when it is solved. Thatís how I see the best people in this industry operate and it is the model that I follow myself.

    I look for affiliate programs that offer my players good deals. PokerStars has the lowest rake and most populated games for our game type, so we feature them first and foremost. From time to time, other sites offer soft enough games that the higher rake can be worth paying, and weíll work with other programs that can appeal to certain groups of players within our niche. Winning Network has been a great company to work with.

    What advice can you offer people who are just starting up in the industry?
    Just execute. As the years go on, I see more and more people pitching ideas or talking about their next big poker business. The best guys in this industry donít always have the best products, but they always execute an idea, rather than sitting around talking about it endlessly. Networking is big as well. If you only know one affiliate manager, one poker business owner, one poker professional, one agent, one marketing man, one Web designer . . . imagine picking one of each of those fields at random. What are you left with? Subpar quality. Know as many successful and hard-working people as you can. Find ways that are mutually beneficial for you to work with them and just watch your business grow by leaps and bounds.

    What prompted you to join the GPWA? How has it helped you?
    If I recall correctly, I found the site while researching the link value of different poker sites. I found a link in someoneís profile and stumbled upon the site that way. After reading through the forums some, I signed up. The magazines are valuable. The SEO advice and the interviews with owners in particular interest me and build my knowledge and perspective.

    You've been a member here for more than two and a half years, but have yet to make a post on the forums. How often do you visit, and what do you think it would take to prompt you to make your first post?
    Itís true. The only forums I post on are and the 2p2 forums. On 2p2, I believe weíre the only site to ever sponsor a strategy forum (the heads-up SNG forum), so it makes sense for me to spend a lot of time there engaging directly with my community (and it carries over into some of the more popular industry subforums such as Internet Poker and News, Views, Gossip). In the past Iíve tried to post more on forums such as PAL and foreign communities, but itís just too difficult for me to find the time. The GWPA is a forum I read from time to time on my phone, and I donít post on any forums on my phone. It would probably involve improving my delegation skills so they can catch up to my ideas for me to have enough free time to begin posting outside those two areas today. If the GWPA had a heads-up SNG forum, Iíd probably be moderating it already, thatís how involved Iíd be, so itís not a reflection of the quality of the site, just where my time needs to be focused while online.

    What do you like about the industry?
    The industry is diverse and some of the better people in the industry are really good at what they do and very enjoyable to work with. Poker, heads-up specifically, has taught me a great deal about decision making. Working with incomplete information, spotting emotional bias, looking for opportunity, evaluating different ideas and decisions . . . I feel Iíve improved quite a lot in all of those areas due to being in the poker industry.

    If you could change one thing about the industry, what would it be?
    The naivetť of the average player. Sites like Cake or Lock Poker should not be in business. These types of sites fail to pay their player base in a reasonable time frame, and in some instances the lies that go along with this are so ridiculous. Yet players keep depositing. It comes down to two things: 1) Regulation. It is a double-edged sword, since most governments seem purely interested in sucking as much tax money as they can out of poker, not helping actual players. But until you have regulators that arenít just a rubber stamp (the LGA Ė Lotteries & Gaming Authority, Malta Ė in particular is terrible), youíll see sites like these operating. 2) The bigger affiliate sites seem to care more about funneling players into sites that pay them the most money, rather than sites that are operating in a legitimate way. By the way, credit to PokerListings for dropping Lock recently. I donít think the average person in the community sees how important these major sites are to keeping a bad poker room afloat. Unfortunately, when money is involved, our human minds seem more interested in finding excuses for our poor decisions rather than recognizing them for what they are. You see all sorts of businesses involved with crappy poker rooms making terrible blanket statements and comparing minor issues in other places or irrelevant issues to the serious issues of the poker room paying them money.

    What do your family and friends think of your work as an affiliate?
    While I do a lot of different affiliate work and make it a habit to be informed on poker rooms, Iím probably known more to the average family or friend of mine for running a teaching/educational poker site. Itís not something that people outside the poker industry can easily understand right away, so you really need to educate them on what you do. I find that real-world comparisons help a lot. Something basic Ė e.g., ďI inform players on the best poker rooms to play at where they can find the games they are looking for and get the best rewards back for their play. In turn, the poker room gives me a percentage of the fees they collect from the player.Ē Ė can go a long way toward helping the average person understand your work as an affiliate. You hear stories of families disowning people in this industry, but when you look at the root cause, it is often ďWell, I was complaining that I lost 10k one nightĒ or ďI brag about having had six-figure swingsĒ and itís really no surprise. People form opinions of what you do in the poker world largely based on the information that you provide. Putting thought into what you do and explaining it in a rational and clear manner are key to having understanding family and friends. Iím not a flashy or impulsive guy, so I donít think my family and friends worry too much about me being in an industry that they may not understand.

    Do you gamble online? If so, what do you play?
    I play heads-up sit and gos occasionally. I played $115 turbos when I launched this site, and ended up in the $230-$345 super turbos. Today, I rarely have time to play, and when I do I play $36s on the Winning Network. I still win, but Iím nowhere near as sharp as I was relative to a few years ago, when I coached and played poker regularly. Iím just too busy with (less so with grinders and many feeder sites and other projects) to find the time to sit down and stay focused for several hours a day to play.

    How long do you give yourself for answering e-mail? What e-mail tips can you offer?
    I answer upwards of 95 percent of the and e-mail myself. I donít give myself any set time limit. The first thing I usually do is check Skype and e-mail when I hop online, and I check it between tasks throughout the day. I make sure to give a complete answer to each person and I address them by their name when I can and make sure they understand that Iím there to answer any further questions for them. Some of the longer personal e-mail can be a bit tough. Reading through six paragraphs of someoneís life story . . . thatís the kind of thing I push off until later in the day. As for tips, if you notice you are getting a lot of the same types of questions, make forum threads or FAQ answers. There are always so many ways to improve efficiency Ė as a matter of fact, Iím just thinking about it now. . . .

    How do you manage your ďto-doĒ lists? Do you use any special software to help you out?
    I used to be terrible here. I would use programs and put a ton of big projects on them, but then I would never complete them on time or would stop updating the programs. The last thing I need is another unnecessary program or tab up on my computer at all times. Granted, thereís probably a low resource solution out there that I should use, but I just use pen and paper these days. One side of my desk is just papers of old to-do lists written in red, blue and black ink or in pencil, and most stuff is crossed out. My handwriting is terrible too; it looks like the scrawl of an angry child, to be honest.

    However, the reason it works is because I split up my tasks into smaller, more doable lists that I can constantly check off. For example, right now Iím working on a two-month project designing the first premium note package, sold for PokerTracker 4ís NoteTracker software. Iím working with full-time pro Coffeeyay on this. Rather than writing down ďNoteTracker development, test, launchĒ Iíll write out a master e-mail schedule and send it to Coffeeyay and PT at the start of this. Then Iíll write down smaller tasks on my handwritten list each week and I can just cross them off that way. It gives you a lot more motivation and a great sense of accomplishment to be able to check off multiple tasks every day, rather than working each day on what feels like an endless project.

    How much time do you devote to SEO and/or social networking in order to drive more traffic to your site?
    My short answer is not enough. I make sure that things like URLs, titles and descriptions are done with SEO in mind. I also do keyword research for various pages and posts (free video pages and video pack sales pages, for example). But SEO is really similar to playing poker for me; there is always more and more to learn to improve. I donít have enough time to be a full-time SEO expert, so I try to read quality material (e.g., GWPA, PAL, Digital Point, the SEOmoz bi-monthly top 10 links of interest) when I can and look for ideas of high value that fit into my site profile.

    Whatís the most difficult thing about running your site?
    Choosing which work to delegate out to other people, finding those people to delegate to, testing them with small projects, letting them sink or swim, then elevating those that swim with more responsibility. The variables of cost, time and quality are difficult to keep in the ďgreen zoneĒ for me. Knowing when you can sacrifice time, or money, or quality, thatís important too. If you need someone to write short news blurb summaries and linking back to original sources, thatís a 2.5-3.5 cents a word job. You donít need your 5-10 cents a word quality writers doing that. Decisions like that (the example is a simple one, of course) mean so much and can be so difficult to make.

    Whatís the best thing about running your site?
    Working with coaches that started out on our site at the lowest of stakes, and are now beating the mid- to high-stakes games. Working with many of these guys is great; they are usually humble since they started at the bottom, and also hard working. While many misinformed (in my opinion) people think sites like kill the games, Iíve been around long enough to know that you canít get anywhere without working hard in this game, no matter what videos or coach you have access to. We certainly can help players, but thereís no replacement for hard work, and the guys that climb the ladder on our site are examples of that.

    If someone were visiting you, whatís the one place youíd definitely take them to see?
    The mountains and outdoor activities. Whether itís ski/snowboard, hiking, kayaking, rafting, ATVing, snowmobiles, Colorado has some awesome outdoor action. Iím so glad to have made the move; this is really the type of place that fits my girlfriend and me.

    When you need to get as far away from work as possible, where do you go?
    I donít have a getaway place. I might go for a bike ride and think about work the entire time. Same for a long walk, or a few beers at the local breweries. On the other hand, I also do all of those to escape from work at times. One skill I picked up from playing poker was the ability to just turn everything off after a tough day. I really worked hard on developing in this area and it is so worth the effort. Iíd like to really spend some time meditating and becoming more self-aware and in control in all areas of life in the future. Iíve seen the dividends in my limited work, so itís an area where I see some of the most potential for happiness.

    Whatís your favorite vacation spot?
    The Pacific Northwest is really nice. Portland and Oregon in general, I really enjoy. I like Colorado a lot, too. We canít all move to our favorite places (Hawaii, for example, is not practical for many of us), but I really feel like Iíve done that with Colorado. One day I hope to live up in the mountains; otherwise, Iím already at one of my favorite vacation destinations. I donít like the vanilla touristy stuff usually. The Vegas Strip, for example, it just feels like adult Disney World to me. The most fun I have in Las Vegas is seeing a few of my friends that live out there. Hiking out there is a lot of fun as well. I enjoy visiting some of the top breweries in the world. Stone, Russian River, Selinsgrove and Founders are a few of my personal favorites.

    Whatís your all-time favorite movie?
    Growing up, Pulp Fiction and A Clockwork Orange were two of my favorites. I used to write screenplays in high school, so the scripts of those two movies really appealed to me. Iíve always enjoyed dialogue. Iím a TV series guy these days, though. Deadwood, early seasons of Arrested Development, Party Down, The Wire, Game of Thrones and Mad Men are some particular favorites, for too many reasons to list here.

    If you could invite any five people, living or dead, to dinner, who would they be?
    Emperor Norton of San Francisco (entertainment), William ďBossĒ Tweed (stories), John Nash (poker, his work, his life), Serge Tsaytak (an old friend and the hardest man to get hold of) and Quentin Tarantino (only if I could watch some movies with him after).

    If you were one of the last two people on the planet, who would you want the other person to be?
    It would be my girlfriend. Iím the type of person who does what he wants to, for better or worse. My girlfriend is the same way. Weíve been together many years, because we both want to be together and really enjoy each other.

    What are three things that nobody knows about you?
    My first ďbusiness.Ē In sixth grade, a neighbor of mine found a floppy disc of his dadís with naked pictures of celebrities (Pamela Anderson, Carmen Electra, etc.) on it. I had the bright idea to print up a black and white photo of Jenny McCarthy and sell it to a kid at school for $5. Another kid bought the disc off my friend for $10, but couldnít figure out how to open it, thought he was ripped off and told on us. I had to donate my $5 to a local church and was given a stern lecture by my parents and the assistant principal. The kid who bought the first picture got into the most trouble.

    I donít have too many other things that nobody knows about. My good friends know most everything about me. Iím a pretty open person.

  2. #2
    Maria F is offline No longer with Harbour Gaming Affiliates
    Join Date
    November 2010
    Thanked 337 Times in 248 Posts


    Hi Ryan

    Thank you for the interview.

    I am sure your visitors appreciate the way you try to help them with videos, news, blogs and the forum.

    I wish you all the best!

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