Nostalgia is in the air as we are about to record our 120th show. It is very pleasing to look at where we are and note that we have managed to get established as a decent online poker podcast after many shows and a lot of work. I’m not going to stand here and say that we are the Number one poker podcast in the world, because we are not. There are other shows with interviews that are better than ours but we have our own place for those of you who enjoy our discussions. We serve a purpose as micro stakes players who are not huge gamblers and I think that caters for many poker players. We are proud to have developed a listener base sometimes in the hundreds per week and we recently received a few emails from people who enjoy what we do and that was amazing to receive. Sometimes it’s easy to forget there are people all around the world who enjoy our shows, but we really do appreciate anyone who takes the time to listen to us! So here is the story of the Itsawinner Poker Podcast so far, with links to some cool stuff along the way that you might want to check out.
The back story of itsawinner goes back further than the poker website you are reading now. I originally bought the domain because I grew tired of using sites like geocities and blogger to host my blogs. I wanted authenticity and understood Google ranks sites that are on a proper domain so I invested. I was not immediately drawn to do a poker blog, I bought the domain name because I thought it was cool. If you have ever visited the site and thought ‘what’s with the name?’ there’s the answer, it was not bought for a strategic purpose, but it does fit I think.
I was involved in the niche non-profit blogosphere of Football Manager in around 2006 and saw that bloggers were using a Content Management System (CMS) called Coranto. I tried to set this up but as I remember it was particularly tricky at the time and I gave up. I saw, however, how useful a CMS would be for me to have on my site and sought to find something easier that worked just as well.
I stumbled upon Wordpress and after some fiddling around got it to work on my webspace. I was over the moon and this literally changed the way I used the Internet instantly. After the Football Manager blog, which I grew tired of, then my own personal blog, a landing page for a poker product and a self-help website I decided none were right for me. If you use the Alexia Wayback Machine tool you can see www.itsawinner.co.uk in some of our previous forms, although I note it has not been indexed since 2010 which is weird because the site has never had more hits than it does nowadays!
So in approximately April 2009 I decided the self-help website was not going to do as well as I’d hoped for and I had the urge to start a blog about poker. Ever since I was small I have loved radio so I hoped that I could drive a few hits to the site by offering a free podcast to listeners. I had no idea how to do it properly. At first I simply recorded the short podcast, uploaded the mp3 file to the itsawinner webspace and put a direct link onto the post for people to download. The only problem with that was the podcast was not on a feed, nor was it listed on directories like Itunes and would only be found if you came to the actual site. I also had no idea how many, if any, downloads it was getting. Unfortunately my expertise was limited, so I stuck with keeping the link to my website in my forum signature and ploughed on.
On Facebook I noticed that a friend of mine from University, Gary Hurst, was talking about how he was a full time poker player in the USA. I contacted him and asked if he would like to appear on the podcast for an interview. In May 2009 I did not do a show every week and was having a bit of a tough time in my personal life so sitting down and chatting about poker was a good way to escape it! Myself and Gary arranged to meet on Skype and Gary was the perfect interviewee. He had a good following on 2+2 and this helped bring a few fans over to have a listen. We did shows on and off over the next few months after he expressed a desire to do more shows.
During the second half of 2009 I was self-employed as a poker writer. I had got lucky there because I’d quit my job but now I was writing about poker everyday, earning a bit of money and having plenty of spare time to fill. I spent a fair bit of time on the poker forums and it was the Donkdown forum (then Never Win Poker) that helped the site by putting me in contact with GDog. Gareth was stirring the forums into a frenzy as Tiltdonkey16 and I saw his posts regularly on the site. He began posting comments on the itsawinner blog and I started listening to his short podcasts via his site which came with a really cool media player. I quickly realised his “internet persona” was not the real GDog and we got talking. Like me he was a keen podcaster and he enjoyed our early shows and asked to join in. We were only too happy. Having a new host to interact with also pushed me and Gary into arranging to meet up and do another show.
Curious as to how GDog had the media player I enquired how he did it. He advised that I could use Talkshoe for storing the podcasts, broadcast live and they went onto Itunes too! I spent the best $50 ever in getting a good logo done, which helped draw people in to hear the show. Talkshoe lists the show via Itunes and whilst it took a while to get higher in the listings doing 120 shows does show your commitment to the cause and the secret of SEO is ongoing good content. I tweaked the site to promote the radio show and to push everyone to subscribe and we started to see our talkshoe stats slowly increase. Around this time I had got better on Wordpress too so paid for a premium theme which made the site more professional. We suddenly had an authentic poker blog with good content, a live podcast with three hosts and plenty of listeners. This started to bring in advertising income which at the peak was making over $300 per month in repeat text link income. We recruited UK cash and MTT grinder Sam “Snowman” Shan onto the show as a host and Slade was a regular guest having known GDog through his emails to the Poker Donkeys Podcast. Five hosts made for some great shows, be sure to check out the archive shows for those.
Through 2010 and 2011 we did a show almost every week and improved our craft. We did not have a show structure or music throughout the show, but because we were engaging in the chatty comedy mixed with some strategy the shows rarely failed to entertain. Gary would lead a discussion and we would mull it over. It worked. Gary brought with him from 2+2 plenty of serious poker players and we managed to get a forum at Flux Stables which brought more listeners. We were closer to the serious poker podcast than I was comfortable with as I’m not a baller but we played to the crowd and we got the hits. Everything was going well as we progressed through 2011.
I bet you know what happened next. It was April 15th 2011, or “Black Friday” to anyone who plays poker. Overnight we lost our co-host Gary, who never returned to the show or got in touch with us again. I try not to blame him for this and do understand, but my honest opinion was that an email that I would not have disclosed just explaining that he was done would have been nice. I’m sure that whilst itsawinner benefited from his presence he gained a bit of credibility for being a podcast host but at the end of the day when all is said and done I am really grateful for his time and contributions to our show.
Two months before Black Friday I had been elected as a councillor for my town and this meant meetings on a Tuesday for at least two Tuesdays of the month. I made the decision to move the recording of the show to Monday. Sam dropped off as a regular host to concentrate on playing live on a Monday evening so it is fair to say things were changing anyway. But April 15th was definitely a hammer blow. In one go Flux Stables was all but wiped out and Gary was gone. As he played regularly on Full Tilt everyday over many tables he must have been heavily effected by Full Tilt’s closure not just financially, but mentally as he generated tens of thousands of dollars in rake for the company. Unfortunately when Gary left so did most of our 2+2 listeners. There was a noticeable and very significant drop in our number of downloads per week and the podcast was at a crossroads.
To our credit we did not give up. We have always been very lucky that even if we were just talking to ourselves we enjoy it. After many discussions we came up with a solid structure now where we give our own personal updates, followed by a track from local bands that send me their music. After the track we discuss some news from that week, then play another track. What used to be the aftershow we do at this point. We also stopped doing the show broadcasted live from Talkshoe, where the quality was becoming less crisp, switching to recording via Skype and uploading. It made a big difference not to have a small delay when we spoke to one another! We began recording thirty minutes earlier to ensure if we do have a long one (that’s what she said) then we can go until we are done. Most shows average about ninety minutes, although show 119 lasted over two hours. Our longest show was show 100, where I occupied a music rehearsal studio called The Music Pod and broadcast live for over three hours.
In terms of promotion I also had a go at improving things to capitalise on our organic growth. We started our Twitter account @iawpokerpodcast and opened a Facebook page to promote the show. Unfortunately the media player from Facebook does not work anymore, but the page is still useful. Give it a like if you have a moment! I also contacted Rounders Radio and they kindly listed us on their site which brings in hits and because we have lasted so long we are moving up the list on Itunes. Just last week, for you Iphone, Ipad or Android users, we are now featured on the TuneIn Radio app too. Another big change was starting to use Pokertube. Our account is “itsawinnerpoker” which is a shared account between myself and GDog. We are going to post videos with both of us commentating, but one of us playing (no coaching!). Pokertube have promised us consideration for our own channel if things go well which is also really exciting. GDog had over 2200 hits on his first video, which was amazing and this is another part of our plan to increase our listener base.
It’s been quite a ride and it’s not over yet. Thanks for listening, please subscribe and tune in next week. Check out Gareth’s site at www.garethwitty.co.uk especially if you like Linux, Minecraft and other stuff he covers, as ever I really cannot thank him enough for being part of Itsawinner and a dedicated host of our radio show each week.