What are the two things that every poker player wants? The answer: A backer and an endorsement deal. And how are the two similar? These are ways for a poker player to make money for nothing, or so they think. Since I have already covered the basics of finding a backer in a previous article, let’s talk about endorsement deals and why they aren’t what you may think they are.
There was a brief period in poker’s history when endorsement were both common and valuable. In the heyday of Full Tilt Poker, there were over 100 “Red Pros” playing on the site. I knew a lesser known pro who was getting a fairly standard deal of $35 per hour plus 100% rakeback. A deal like that for a serious cash grinder could be worth well over $200,000 a year.
During this time, online poker sites were handing out deals like mad, flying pros around the world on a private jet, and buying a large stable of players into events all over the world. But those times are long gone. Full Tilt went broke, partly because of how much money they spent on pro payments and loans to their friends in the poker world, PokerStars has cut down its team drastically, and most of the smaller sites don’t have more than one or two pros representing them.
Endorsement deals are tough to come by these days, and when they do happen they aren’t the free money they used to be. Players who have endorsement deals these days are those who actually endorse the product and work to make it better. Daniel Negreanu still has a deal with PokerStars because he is constantly active promoting the site, whether it is on Twitter, on his Twitch stream, wearing the clothing and patches at events, or talking about the site in interviews. When some of the team was dropped, Daniel was retained because he is one of the biggest names in poker and he works his butt off to promote the site.
When money got a little tight after Black Friday, and online poker rooms started to go through their books, they discovered that they were wasting money paying players to wear their patches at events. Having a pro wear your patch at the final table of a $1,500 event at the WSOP is probably worth nothing. Literally nothing. It doesn’t get them a single sign-up, doesn’t get their name out to players who haven’t already heard of them, and doesn’t give them any edge on their competition.
The good news is that it getting and endorsement deal is still possible. There is money to be made. This summer at the WSOP I will be wearing enough patches and labeled gear to make a NASCAR driver jealous. And I was even lucky enough to be able to pick the companies I work with and only represent brands that I really believe in. Between Blue Shark Optics, Ivey League, The Poker Player’s Championship, iNinja Poker, Tru Brain, and Running Aces Card Room, I will be a colorful poker player indeed.
So what is my secret? How do I have all these deals when so many bigger names can’t get a nickel to wear a patch? The important thing to know is that I am not getting paid just for wearing the patch for any of these companies. I have never been paid just to wear a patch or allow my face to be on a website. Maybe some of the very top pros get a few bucks for wearing a patch or simply allowing their endorsement to be used on a website, but for those guys the money they could get for those deals wouldn’t have any significance.
I have these deals because I work hard. I promote the products, I contribute useful ideas, I talk about the products at the table, write about the products, and I do useful work for the companies behind them. If it sounds more like a job than a gravy train, you are getting the picture.
I make training videos for Iveyleague.com, Phil Ivey‘s training site, as well as answering questions on their forums and other minor duties. I wear their gear and patches because it’s part of the deal and because I want to promote the site that helps me pay my bills. I got the deal because I badgered them in a good-natured way and made a high-quality sample video for them. I did everything but send them flowers, and I would have done that if I thought it would help. I picked them because their $10 a month subscription is the best deal in poker training and they have some of the best coaches in the world, and once I picked them, I did everything I could to make the deal happen.
I wear Blue Shark Optics, but I also help them in any way I can, including lots of love on social media. I got the deal because I wore the product, spoke highly of it, and wrote them an unsolicited endorsement. I wrote 1,100 words about how important the glasses are and how much I liked them, and I offered it to them to use on their site, no strings attached. Soon after, they brought me on to the team, but I don’t make anything if I don’t sell any glasses. I wear the patch because I love the company, but I don’t get paid for wearing their stuff.
I will be endorsing the Poker Player’s Championship, known as the PPC Poker Tour, because I met them when they came to Minnesota and I loved the tour and thought that the people who run it are doing a great job. Talking to them, and offering to help run some events in the Midwest, got me in with the company. They are not paying me to wear a patch or Tweet about them.
The theme continues with iNinja Poker, Tru Brain, and Running Aces. I endorse these products because I believe in them, and I worked with them to find a way that I could help them. I picked iNinja because I liked their league system. Tru Brain was my pick for a nootropic supplement before I had ever talked to them about a deal, they are simply the bes,t and once I told them how much I loved the product, they signed me up as an affiliate. Running Aces is my local card room and one of my favorite places to play, so joining the pro team was a no brainer, but they aren’t offering me money for nothing.
The good news is that I am living proof that you don’t have to be world famous to make money in the poker world. The bad news is that you do have to do the work to get the deal and then do the work to make the money. Most endorsement deals are affiliate-based, meaning you make nothing if you don’t make the company any money. Anyone can become an affiliate and promote a product.
So, if you are a self-starter and want to promote a product, just start doing it. Pick something you believe in, find out if they have an affiliate program, and learn how to be a promoter. If you do a good job, handle yourself in a professional way, help the company, and they may bring you on board. If you pick three or four things to promote, you will almost certainly develop an affiliation with one of them.
Or you could wait for the gravy train, wishing you had a lucrative endorsement deal that didn’t require any work. Which is the equivalent of playing lots of poker and hoping to get lucky instead of studying hard and learning to play well. It doesn’t work and it will simply disappoint you and leave you wanting.
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