Note: This post has been split into two parts as it is quite long. The first 5 reasons are included in this post, and the next 5 will be published 48 hours from when this post was published.
I used to be really into poker, both online and offline.
I got into it right before it blew up (thanks to TV – the World Poker Tour in particular) and went mainstream. I was pretty passionate about it and played a lot of poker for number of years, mainly from around 2004-2007. At my best, I was playing limits as high as $5/10NL ($2,000+ pots), but tended to stick to around the $0.50/$1NL tables, multi-tabling 12-15 tables at once.
While I was making some good side money, not too long after the first anti internet-gambling US legislation hit in 2006, all the fish left and the only players remaining where the dedicated, strong players, and I was never able to make any money consistently after that.
While I haven’t played any poker for several years, now that I’m into affiliate marketing, I often think about the parallels between the two disciplines.
Here are 9 ways that affiliate marketing is like playing poker:
#1 – No matter how good you are, luck will always be a factor
Professional poker players are incredibly skilled, being able to overcome the luck factor in the long run. There’s a reason why you see the same players over and over at the final table of large poker tournaments.
But no matter how good you are at poker, luck will ALWAYS be a factor. In fact, you can make the best possible decision every single hand for 100 hands straight and still lose all your money and have to take out a second mortgage on your house. It’s just the nature of the beast – and a necessity; if there was no luck in poker, then casual players would never play the game when they visit a casino or play online, as they’d never win a hand because all the sharks would always win.
While luck can actually be quantified and calculated in poker with relatively simple math, there are just too many variables in affiliate marketing to be able to do this.
But the fact is: there is most definitely luck in affiliate marketing, and in more ways than one.
For example, you may run 29 campaigns, all using the same traffic source and same technique sand effort put into each one, and have them all flop. Then on your 30th campaign you find one that works. You didn’t change anything other than trying a different offer or niche.
Depending on how you look at things, you might consider this as being lucky, or unlucky. For instance, what if you just happened to run that 30th campaign as your 1st campaign instead? You’d have access to a lot more income to be able to run and test more campaigns, which inevitably leads to more success.
Another example would be that you decide to run an offer, and see the same offer on two different networks. You end up choosing Network A and go on to generate $20,000 gross for the month. But then you find out that Network A gets sued by the FTC and goes down without paying you anything. Meanwhile, Network B is still going strong and doing better than ever. If only you had chosen Network B… again – luck.
This isn’t to say that affiliate marketing is just one big luckfest because it isn’t – just like if you’re really good at poker, you will consistently make money in the long run. The point is that luck IS an element.
#2 – It is a lot harder than it looks
The only reason professional poker players exist is because fish (bad players) exist. Without them, they wouldn’t throw their money away and then the whole food chain of poker’s table limits wouldn’t work.
Poker grew so fast during 2004-2005 because it was on TV for the first time (showing the hole cards anyway), and people thought it was easy money if they too, just learned the rules of the game and sat down to play. Then they find out that they’re really unlucky, when in fact the truth is that they’re really just clueless.
Texas Hold’em – which is by far the most popular form of poker today, is a very easy game to learn. In fact, you can learn the majority of the rules within 5-minutes. But just because the rules and mechanics of the game are simple doesn’t mean that playing winning poker is simple.
It takes a lot of analysis, math, and probability – not even taking into consideration all the psychological factors such as bluffing, tells, and table image.
Affiliate marketing is also a lot harder than it looks (although it doesn’t have to be…).
I’m sure most of you will agree with this, otherwise there’d be a lot more successful affiliate marketers around, instead of people continuing to struggle to find their first profitable campaign.
Like poker, the mechanics of affiliate marketing are relatively simple, apart from some basic technical knowledge being a necessity. But just because the basics of something is simple doesn’t mean that succeeding in it is.
#3 – Your income can grow exponentially
Poker, like affiliate marketing, are amazing avenues for income as they are amongst the very few ‘careers’ in which people can go from a complete newbie to a multi-millionaire within just a few years, in some cases even less.
In poker, take young pro Tom Dwan for example.
In 2004, Tom was 17 years old and deposited $50 onto an online poker site. He very quickly became an absolute beast at online poker, arguably being the best online player.
He eventually started playing live poker as well, and is now a well known "TV pro".
While he was playing the penny tables in 2004, he is now playing pots of over a quarter million dollars. A couple of years ago, he made 1.5 million dollars in just a couple hours of play.
Affiliate marketing is just like poker in this respect. An affiliate marketer can go from making $100 a month to making $100,000 a month within just a couple months if he finds something that really works.
The beauty of affiliate marketing is that scaling up is extremely easy to do, basically just requiring more money. While in poker you need to really improve your play to make more money, in affiliate marketing you just need to be lucky enough to find that golden campaign and then scale it.
I am simplifying things, of course, but you get the idea.
In how many other occupations can you go from $10 a day to $10,000 a day so quickly? Not many. Music… Hollywood… [I'm drawing a blank here…] poker, and affiliate marketing.
#4 – You can get into the game for $50
In my Tom Dwan example above, I mention how he started with a deposit of $50 online. The interesting thing is, this is actually the norm for the majority of poker pros who started playing poker online.
In some cases, their initial deposit was their only deposit, and they managed to build and manage their bankroll properly to where they never had to re-deposit, effectively parlaying their initial $50 into millions of dollars.
Actually, I know of some huge online poker pros who never deposited a dime, but were given $50 or $100 by a poker pro friend of theirs to get started.
Affiliate marketing is similar to poker in that you can get started for about the same price as well.
However, I believe that it is actually easier in online poker as you can play extremely low limits such as $0.01/$0.02 NLHE, meaning that your $50 goes a very long way (that’s 10 full buy-in’s), while in affiliate marketing, the prices are rising all the time.
While you can get started for as little as $50 in affiliate marketing, the more you are able to play with, the faster you will see results and the more you will learn. I go into this more in my next post.
The point is that the entry point for getting into the game is extremely low. Even if you give yourself $500 to get started with affiliate marketing, that’s still less than it costs most parents to sign their kid up for some sport after you factor in the cost of gas, equipment, and whatnot.
#5 – Discipline is important
As mentioned earlier, luck is a factor in both poker and affiliate marketing.
As a result, there will be times in poker when you’re sitting in a casino playing poker and some really obnoxious cocky player comes and starts running his mouth left and right. It can be unbelievably frustrating when such a player plays horribly and gets incredibly lucky, only to repeatedly take big pots from you.
It would be so easy to go on ’tilt’ and let your emotions get the better of you, making you play either really timidly (because you kept getting unlucky), or super aggressive (simply because you’re pissed off) instead of playing the best decision for the given moment. This is just one example of how discipline is important in poker.
In fact, being disciplined is probably the 3rd most important aspect of poker after technical/analytical play and bankroll management.
While discipline is extremely important in poker, it is also important in affiliate marketing.
When you have a winning campaign running on auto-pilot, it can be easy to become complacent and turn lazy, neglecting to keep churning out new campaigns and ideas
in case for when your winning campaign finally dies.
Discipline also comes in the form of things such as making sure you’re playing by the rules the advertiser sets out, staying informed of what’s happening in the industry, making sure your affiliate network isn’t being sued by the FTC so that you get paid, etc.
Basically, discipline means treating it like a business instead of a hobby, whether that be poker or affiliate marketing.
Part 2 Coming Soon
The next 5 reasons poker is like affiliate marketing will be published in my next post, scheduled to go up in 48 hours after this one has been published. Be sure to check it out!