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9 Marketing Lessons from an Outlaw Poker Player

December 30, 2013

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A few years ago, I was in Las Vegas on a business trip and a friend of mine introduced me to this guy. If you saw him, you’d think he was retired.

Flashy he’s not.

He lives like a guy on Social Security — small house, average car, plain clothes. But that’s just an act.

The reality is that this dude had plenty of money. He just doesn’t want everybody to know about it. And here’s how he made it happen…

9 Marketing Lessons from an Outlaw Poker Player

1. Big Customers – This dude doesn’t dick around the equivalent of “nickel slot” amateurs who aren’t going to bring enough to the table with them to make playing worth his time. Instead, he focuses on high-dollar games that routinely end up being worth five and even six figures.

You can learn a lot from this guy…

If you’re going to play, you might as well play big. It takes the same amount of effort to play poker for a few bucks as it does for thousands. In your business, it takes the same amount of office space, the same staffing, the same distribution channels, and the same technology to sell something for $50 as it does to sell something for $1000.

Is it time to up your game?

2. Private Games – In the United States, poker winnings of $1 or more are taxable, regardless of whether they’re from online poker, a game played in a casino, or a private home game. At least that’s the way it’s supposed to work…

Casinos and poker rooms have to play by the rules, but when you host a private game, there is lots of wiggle room…

Don’t like the rules? Start your own game.

3. Small Numbers Add Up – Unlike other casino games, poker is player-versus-player and the house does not wager against them. To make money, the casino (or poker room) takes a percentage of the pot every hand, generally 2.5 to 5 percent. This is known as a rake.

How much money is the rake? I had a friend whose father owned a bar with a single poker table, which had a limit of $30. The rake from that single table was approximately $200,000/year, which was how the bar kept its doors open.

Obviously, with more money being played, the rake is significantly larger.

Small percentages add up. This concept works for all businesses and, like a single poker table with a low-limit game, even on small deals, it doesn’t take long for the money to add up.

Want to make money quickly? Set up a service or product that uses recurring billing. For example, a membership or other subscription service.

4. Money on the Side – A side bet is a wager made on a sub-outcome that happens during a game. For example, betting on whether the coin toss in a football game is heads or tails.

Regardless of your business, there is always money to be made on the side. For example, adding advertisements to your blog or selling sponsorship of your podcast? The content is already being developed and distributed, so why not?

5. Shut Your Mouth – When you find a business that works, you don’t have to tell everybody.

I know a dude who was absolutely crushing it when it came to his online business. He had worked for a long time to get to that level and he was excited. So he started telling everybody about his new found success…

This is what killed things off. Once word got out about how profitable his market was, he soon had competitors, which thinned out his profits considerably.

Businesses, especially online businesses, are easy to replicate.

The world of outlaw poker is a little different, but the lesson still applies — if you talk too much (or to the wrong people) about what you’re doing, you’ll get unwanted attention.

6. Bet Your Own Money – There is a huge difference when you play poker for real money and when you play for “points.” It’s like the difference between playing the Super Bowl and playing flag football at the local park.

Things get exciting when the result matters.

If you really believe in your business, you should be willing to risk your own money. Not only will it make you play harder to keep it, you’ll also be more likely to get the attention of the other people you need on board.

Nobody wants a business partner without skin in the game.

As a bonus, the more you risk, the greater your reward when things pay off.

7. Time In the Game – Poker isn’t a game where you can come to the table for a single hand and win big. Instead, you have to spend time playing, counting cards, calculating hands, and wearing your opponents down until the time is right for you to take bold action. And most of the money doesn’t come from “bold action” as much as it does from a consistent use of Lesson #3.

Business is the same way. You’ll be much more likely to have success from several smaller opportunities than one big one.

Don’t worry about the big score. Instead, worry about creating consistent profits, even if they’re small.

8. Leave Emotion at the Door – The reason it’s easier to win a game for “points” than it is to win a game for real money is because losing real money hurts more. And because it hurts more, we tend to play the game differently.

Is it truly possible to leave emotion at the door? No. You can absolutely make better decisions about business (or poker) by going through possibilities ahead of time and being prepared for situations when they come up.

Plan ahead of time, before emotion is a factor, and stick with your plan.

What would you do if your top product suddenly stopped selling? What would you do if your main distributor suddenly went out of business? What would you do if an affiliate you’re promoting stopping paying commissions?

9. Low-Hanging Fruit – If you want to win big money at poker, the best people to play with are the ones with more money than poker skills. If you want to make big money in business, the best product or service you can provide is something people already want.

In poker, it’s an uphill battle to play against other experienced poker players. It’s much easier to win playing against ego-driven executives, spoiled trust fund kids, and intoxicated people with fat bank accounts.

In business, you don’t want to have to convince people to spend money with you. How do you do this? Provide a remedy for their pain.

Final Thoughts

Las Vegas is full of interesting businesses and income opportunities, from poker, to hookers, to strip clubs. And while some are of “questionable” morality, all of the successful ones have a solid business strategies you can model in your business.

As they say in Las Vegas, “Good luck!”

ABOUT THIS SERIES: Every Monday, I analyze the good, bad, and ugly about the marketing behind a common business or famous personality. See other posts in this series here and, if you have a request for something (or someone) you’d like me to analyze for this series, contact me via Twitter.

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