Funded By Texas Hold ‘Em Or Just Bluffing The Press?

A tech industry buddy of mine who isn’t really a poker player sent me this article on about a company that is supposedly financing itself via poker playing. My response was:

> > Yeah, I saw that. Sounds a little fishy to me. Others have expressed
> > similar doubts. He’s making $100 – $120 an hour playing “lower
> > stakes”? Since you average about 2BB per hour at limit poker (if
> > you’re *good*), that’s $30/$60 stakes which isn’t “lower stakes” poker
> > unless his bosses happen to be Doyle Brunson and Johnny Chan. :-)
> >
> > Most folks who have seen the story suspect these guys might be playing
> > a little poker on the side but for the most part this is about trying
> > to hitch their wagon to something hot.

It looks like I’m not the only one calling BS on this. TechDirt is questioning their claim as well.

Venture capital may be on the rise again, but it’s still a far cry from the heady dot-com bubble days. So entrepreneurs are relying on more clever ways of funding their startups. For example, one company claims they’ve sustained their company by playing online poker. If true, this would not only be one of the most loco funding stories, but it gives more credence to the idea of a poker bubble, in which everyone and their mother is either playing poker or launching some kind of poker venture. Of course, the story itself has the air of publicity stunt written all over it, like the myth of eBay’s founding as a way to collect Pez dispensers. The idea that you could consistently win as much as these guys are claiming sounds pretty dubious. Maybe they’re just seeking out neophytes, suckers, and drunk Americans at 4:00 AM, but you have to wonder how long that can last. The odds are just not that much in their favor. Regardless, the eBay example shows that a willing press can help propel an interesting story — true or not — to legend status. Even if it turns out to be false years later, oh well. The PR gimmick has already done its job.

For those of you who work in tech, this is an all too common tactic. If Push technology was hot, the marketing people figured out some way to call your product a Push technology product. If Java is hot, you gotta figure out some way to shoehorn in Java. The vast, vast, vast majority of companies who go the chasing the hottest technology route do so because their product sucks. I have to agree with TechDirt that when people start hitching their PR machines to the poker angle, there’s a huge bubble forming. Hopefully, the poker bubble will deflate at a slightly more controlled rate than did the internet bubble.

Bill Rini
Bill Rini is currently the Head of Online Poker for WSOP. He has been working in the online poker industry since 2004 and has held management roles at Full Tilt Poker and PartyPoker.