DeucesCracked is seriously committed to helping online poker players win more money.
That means that DeucesCracked’s Chief Strategy Officer Aaron Gerdes has his work cut out for him when it comes to keeping DeucesCracked’s 75,000 registered users happy and coming back for more. How does Aaron do this? Well, you’ll have to watch the video to find out but we’ll give you some hints– through the DeucesCracked community, free trials, excellent subscription-based content and affiliate deals.
Intrigued? Watch the video with Aaron Gerdes as he explains some of the strategies behind DeucesCracked.
Since 1996, Aaron has been working in and around the web. Through consulting, he’s worked with fast-moving startups and Fortune 500 businesses. With a background in marketing & branding strategy with B2B and web businesses, today Aaron is the Chief Strategy Officer at DeucesCracked, a company focused on delivering higher-quality poker strategy videos.
Announcer: Before you get started I’d like to introduce you to our sponsor, Winner Affiliates. The Winner Affiliates program is the leading international promoter of online games and card rooms.
What really makes Winner Affiliates an incredible program is that their team is compiled of seasoned professionals that know the industry. As an affiliate you’ll be connected with a dedicated affiliate manager that will hook you up with Winner’s exclusive gaming products.
Join Winner Affiliates today and take advantage of their 50% rev share promotion. Just visit the Winner Affiliates listing in the CAP directory and learn more today. Thank you again to our sponsor, Winner Affiliates, for making this capvideo interview possible.
Warren: Hey, everyone. I’m Warren Jolly with CasinoAffiliatePrograms.com. I want to welcome you to today’s interview with Aaron Gerdes. Aaron has been working in and around the web since 1996. Through consulting, he’s worked with fast-moving start-ups and Fortune 500 businesses. With a background in marketing and branding strategy with B2B and web businesses, today Aaron is the CS., the Chief Strategy Officer, at DeucesCracked. A company focused on delivering higher quality poker strategy videos. Aaron, thanks so much for joining us.
Aaron: Thanks for having me, Warren.
Warren: Of course. Let’s take a quick moment and tell our audience about the history of DeucesCracked and the different areas or companies you’re involved in today.
Aaron: Absolutely. What people who aren’t familiar with DeucesCracked should know is that our focus is on helping poker players win more online. So, our business runs primarily through our video content. We have a large library, over 2,000 videos. They’re structured in series so that users can build on each lesson as they go forward, and people have found this really useful.
Our business started out from the founders all meeting each other through Two Plus Two, which is a popular online poker discussion forum. Many of them were coaching, they were successful players. They wanted to find a way to take coaching, which is relatively expensive one-on-one, to a broader audience.
There were other folks who were doing videos at the time. They were one-off videos where they just talked randomly about whatever was going on while they were playing. Our content is different because it’s structured. Our instructors are different because we pick them based on who can teach the best. It’s difficult to learn from somebody, even if they’re an excellent player—if they’re not a good teacher.
Warren: Okay. Great. So, there’s obviously other players in the space who do similar types of poker strategy videos, the biggest being PokerStrategy.com. How does your company differ from your competitors and offer added value or different services?
Aaron: Sure. Well, I think the easiest comparison point with Poker Strategy is that we’re much smaller. We’re a different kind of community. We’re structured very differently than PokerStrategy is. They’re large, they’re multi-lingual, and I think it’s a solid product.
You can find DeucesCracked video’s limited selection on certain PokerStrategy communities. I think that the difference is that Poker trategy’s model gets the user into an affiliate relationship as soon as possible. It’s a blocking issue in order to get to the content.
We’ve taken a different and more open approach to our content where we let the users get involved in the community, try it out, and then decide the best way they want to plug in, whether that’s a paid-for subscription or an affiliate deal. When they have a little bit more leverage as a better player they can pick better options. That’s been something that has been really good for our players and really good for us.
Warren: Okay. So, what would you consider the major reasons why players come back to DeucesCracked in an ongoing basis and really trust the videos that you create?
Aaron: I think that the main ones are that the content is fresh, around 10 new videos per week. So, more than one a day. It’s really high quality content. Our instructors are fantastic. That’s what brings people back. The other thing we hear from our users is that our community is excellent. For example, on our discussion forums, people are self-organizing into study groups to look through the material, and when they put that kind of work in they see really excellent results. So, our community is another huge draw.
Warren: How big is your community at the moment?
Aaron: We have 75,000 total registered users. The active group for that is probably around 50% of that. Active being defined as people who have logged in fairly recently. In terms of people who are hosting actively and really involved in the strategy forums, we see a little bit smaller than that. So, it’s a good community. It’s focused much more now than a lot of other online poker communities.
In other places you’ll find a lot of people who are interested in poker and they are discussing a lot of other things. Our general discussion forums are kind of played down in exchange for the strategy content, which is where our users are really finding value. We’re very focused on education.
Warren: You’ve mentioned some of the different technologies that you’ve used to kind of stay ahead in the poker industry. What are some of those technologies that you can share with our audience?
Aaron: Yeah. This has been a really important thing. Because we deal with video, it’s expensive and difficult to host. So, from the start, we were able to build our platform on Amazon’s web services, which has been a really excellent thing for us. It has enabled us to have the infrastructure of a very large company. They have servers distributed all over the world.
We can stream video from the location closest to the user, which is a huge usability improvement for users. That’s been available to us for relatively low cost. We’ve also built our website from day one on Rails, which is a web framework that has enabled us to stay very flexible and move fairly quickly. That has, even as a smaller company, really keep up, and that’s been an important thing.
Warren: That’s Ruby On Rails for those in the audience who aren’t familiar.
Warren: Great. From a marketing standpoint, what are some of the effective marketing strategies that you and your team have deployed to kind of grow DeucesCracked, its traffic, and its online presence?
Aaron: The number one thing, I would say, that has worked good for us is that we have a 7-day free trial. So, users can come in for free and get to know our content and see if it’s right for them. Once they’re through the 7-day free trial, they’ve kind of experienced the site. We’re really putting our money where our mouth is there. It gives them the opportunity then to decide how they want to move forward; is it in an affiliate sort of relationship? Will they pay for the content? Do they just want to be a member of the community for a while and increase their skills for the luck before diving into the content?
So, that has been the number one most effective thing. Our free trial really draws a lot of people and it converts well.
Warren: In terms of just your acquired traffic, is it really an SEO strategy? Do you do paid media marketing? Is it a cross of all of those?
Aaron: Primarily we’re focused on organic growth, so we don’t do a lot of intentional search marketing right now. It’s a really competitive space there, and some of our larger competitors have more resources. So, our focus has really been to invest our marketing budget into getting people to try our service, getting people to refer their friends, building a really solid affiliate program.
We also get a lot of traffic from working with other affiliates who, for example, tap into our system so that their high performing players are able to get access to our content all through that affiliate system. That’s been a really great thing to bring in good traffic.
Warren: Okay. So, subscriptions are a huge part of your business. How does DeucesCracked cross both affiliate and subscription services to your customers?
Aaron: Well, that’s a really good part about DeucesCracked. Our customers are able to choose. So, you can get a subscription to DeucesCracked and get a hold of all that content by earning money through our affiliate program. That’s a workable way for a lot of users who are playing actively online.
As they earn revenue playing online, that revenue goes into their pocket but also counts toward their free subscription. That’s been a good thing for a lot of active users online. For other people who, perhaps, they can’t play right now or their getting their game ready for when they can play, they’ve been more apt to use major credit cards, PayPal, and things like that.
We were also able to cross promote between those two things, which is good. We do sell some extra software and tools on the side that we find. People in our affiliate system, they want to read those. Likely, we find people who are able to bounce back and forth between paying out of their own pocket versus earning revenue by playing, and that system seems to work really well. We have a lot of people who utilize both.
Warren: So, the idea is a player comes in. They sign up to a poker site through DeucesCracked. You’re obviously receiving a commission. You’re giving a percentage of that back as a credit toward their subscription.
Aaron: Exactly. That’s been a really effective strategy.
Warren: Great. Okay. So, if an affiliate wanted to work with DeucesCracked in some capacity—if an affiliate watching this video that might have a poker site or thinking of getting into poker, what would be the best way for them to do that? You had mentioned earlier that you get a lot of traffic from affiliates, so maybe you can elaborate a little bit on that.
Aaron: So, there is an affiliate’s link at the bottom of our website where affiliates can get into our program. They can sign up. They can see the rights. We’ve got a really flexible system. If they want to start offering our content to their users the best thing to do is to e-mail us at email@example.com, and we can direct them to the right place. We have full API documentation. We can make it really easy for affiliates to get involved, and we’ll put them in touch for somebody who can be their account manager.
Warren: Okay. Great. So, it’s been a little while since Black Friday, obviously. It’s coming up on a year here. What was the actual impact on the poker market in your opinion? How did it affect DeucesCracked business over all?
Aaron: I think it effected us really consistently with the way that I’ve seen the rest of the market be effected, which is about 40% off the top, and we’ve seen our competitors kind of reporting the same thing. In general, that’s a mix of mostly US players who can’t play anymore, but also European players who are not finding the games as easy as they were before or finding it harder to get into good games.
So, in that situation, we really think that that’s on its way to turning around right now, but it has been a difficult thing for the poker community and all the businesses that we work with.
Warren: Okay. How are US businesses adapting to that 40% off the top? What are you doing that’s different? What are your plans for growth, taking into consideration that these events have occurred?
Aaron: I think that that’s where we really see everybody starting to behave differently. Our focus right now is solely on continuing to build the best poker strategy website that we can, and that’s been working very well. We have a fantastic customer base. Still, we’re not planning on going anywhere.
I think you see a lot of other companies in our space. They’re starting to diversify. They’re looking into other markets where they can do that, and that’s just not our style. We’re right sized for this market the way it is right now, so we can do really good work and continue to build it up.
Now, what we see in the future, if there’s going to be a regulatory framework for online poker in the United States, that means that, I think, people need to be getting ready right now for that. We may not know what the revenue model is going to look like, we may not know what the affiliate situation is going to be going forward, but our focus is on getting the best content and the best community ready so that we can adapt to whatever that is.
The variables that we can control right now completely involve serving our existing customers as well. Then we’ll see what happens after that.
Warren: Okay. What do you think are the three biggest mistakes that affiliates make in the industry today?
Aaron: I think, especially with new affiliates, there’s a problem of focus. I think that being able to focus in and create something that’s very specific for a customer is a much more effective way to market. I think that you kind of see people wanting to do too many things on one site or things that aren’t necessarily within their reach immediately.
I think the second thing that people run into is probably whether or not they’re creating enough value for the relationship to justify the frequency with which they’re contacting their users? Are they really bringing enough to the table? Thinking about it from that perspective, not solely from a search marketing perspective or solely from a lead generation perspective, is very important. It’s how you retain those customers long term, how you increase the value of your existing customers. We really spend a lot more time working on the new customer acquisition, and that served us very well.
Third, I would say, I think that there’s a trust component. Particularly with online gaming, users need to be looking to somebody that they can trust, and working with people who are trustworthy is an important component for us also. We think that that’s an area where the industry has gotten itself into trouble in the past. We’re really looking to try to lead the way there and take a position where our users can completely trust us. We want to be a good guide.
I think if you’re in that position with your users, regardless of what you’re an affiliate for, it gives you a lot of ground and value because they’ll look to you first.
Warren: Okay. Looking a little bit ahead into regulations in the US market, what do you feel will be the revenue models? You touched on that a little bit earlier. You’re right; nobody knows. Is it going to be rev shares? Will it be CPA for poker? Will there be such a thing as rate-back? Do you have any thoughts on that that you could share with the audience?
Aaron: I’m not good at making predictions, and part of the reason is I don’t have any special inside information about it. I wish I did. Looking forward, if you see large land-based casinos coming into this market, they’ve got already multimillion dollar marketing departments. The question is, “Will they feel that they need additional reach to reach the existing online communities through affiliates or will they feel they can go that alone?”
To us, this is an open question, so what we want to be prepared for is the event where it’s your players who are going to be the ones to find the value that you’re bringing, not the card room specifically. I think that that would be a change, sort of flipping the funnel in our industry a little bit.
The number one thing that we can do right now is build strong value for the players and be ready to figure out and adapt our revenue models to where that goes.
Warren: That’s great. Okay, Aaron, we’re just about coming up on time, but it’s been really great having you today. Thanks so much for all the insight and the fantastic business that you’ve built there, especially on the subscription side. If anyone’s interested in contacting Aaron after the interview, please send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d be happy to put you in touch. Thanks for watching, and stay tuned for future interviews with iGaming industry leaders.
Aaron: Thanks a lot, Warren.