The Futility of Affiliate Programs for Poker Bloggers

I’ve had more than a few conversations about affiliate programs with my fellow bloggers and I’m becoming more and more convinced that any attempt to generate significant income via these programs is an exercise in futility. I know, I can already hear the gasps out there but let me explain.

The typical affiliate program pays the affiliate approx. 20% – 30% of the MGR (Monthly Gross Revenue). That sounds like a pretty juicy deal. In fact it is, if you can sign up several active players a month and those players remain active over a sufficient length of time. Of course, that’s a big if.

Let’s just run some hypotheticals to see how the deck is stacked. If we use the 80/20 rule, then 8 out of 10 signups will be total duds. They either will never deposit and become a RMP (Real Money Player) or they will quit playing before they generate anything more than a token amount of rake. Now, let’s assume you affiliate banner ad has a click thru rate (CTR) of 1% or less. That’s actually stunningly generous as one is likely to have real-world results around 0.1% – 0.5% (hmmm . . . starting to see why most sites prefer affiliate deals rather than pay for impressions?). But even at an overly generous 1% CTR, let’s assume 2% – 3% will actually download the software and create an account. I don’t have any solid statistics on conversions from click thru’s to accounts created but I think I’m being overly optimistic in granting a 2% – 3% figure (you may show higher rates due to your ad landing them on an auto-download page which still counts as a download if they cancel). So what you’ve got is 2% – 3% of 1% which is about 0.02%. At a minimum, you would need 50,000 ad views to generate 10 downloads. Of the 10 downloads, 8 will be duds so you need 50,000 ad views to generate just two players who create enough rake above and beyond the bonus take backs (you don’t get paid while they clear bonuses) for you to actually see a penny of profit. And if I’m right about being overly generous about the CTR we could actually be looking at 100,000 to 150,000 ad views.

If you’re a poker blogger don’t expect numbers anywhere near that good though. Why? Because your visitors, while highly targeted, are likely to already have online poker accounts. Do you really believe yours is the first Party, FullTilt, or UltimateBet affiliate ad they’ve ever seen? Highly unlikely. They’re on your blog probably because of a link on another poker blog or message board to something you wrote or they found you via Google when they typed in “Naked Pictures of Doyle Brunson.”

I don’t have hard numbers for any of the above but anecdotal evidence and my own guesstimates suggest that 500,000 ad views would not be an outlandish number in regards the number of impressions needed to gather 10 downloads due to the negative impact of attracting active poker players who already have accounts. So now you’ve got to ask what two players might generate in rake. Maybe $500? Maybe even less if they’re starting out at the .50/$1 tables or lower. That’s a whopping $100 – $150 a month and if those two players bolt for a different site, get wiped out at the tables, wise up and get a rakeback deal or (on Party) quit playing for 60 days, you’re back at square one.

The situation is even more dire when you consider your competition. Yes, some people are making money off affiliate deals but most of them are earning every penny of it. They’ll go to any extreme to put their affiliate code out there and they tend to target groups more likely to be new players than do poker bloggers. Here’s a small sample of things people are doing to sign up players:

Posting money making opportunities on job boards like monster (i.e. MAKE MONEY FROM HOME PLAYING POKER!!!!!!)

Writing press releases around poker tournaments and other events and submitting them to paid PR agencies for release to services like Google News. For instance, XYZ Poker Announces 30 WSOP Seats to Be Given Away in May! Of course, all the links in the press release have their affiliate code in them even though they look like they were written by XYZ Poker.

Sponsoring parties and other social events (think spring break).

Hosting free roll tournaments at online sites and putting up the prize pool out of their pocket.

Handing out flyers or paying someone to slip flyers under windshield wiper blades at colleges, sporting events, casinos, etc.

Those are just the ones on the up and up. Others are going to libraries and putting stickers with their affiliate code on the inside back cover, stamping US currency with their affiliate code, and the worst (and most disgusting) idea I heard was going to book stores and putting cards or stickers in books on gambling addiction.

As you can see, it’s not as easy as setting up a poker blog and posting a bunch of bad beat posts while you wait for people to click on your link and make you rich. Your competition is looking in every nook and cranny trying to snatch players before they even become interested enough in the game to start reading poker blogs.

Is the situation hopeless? For most poker bloggers the anwser is probably is yes. Unless it’s a brand new site and you’re directing people there for some reason (a tournament, a new signup bonus, etc), most of your current and future readers already have accounts where you have affiliate deals.

That doesn’t mean there’s no money to be made from blogging about poker but it does mean that affiliate deals are probably not going to be highly profitable. Like someone once said; it’s a hard way to make an easy living 🙂

13 thoughts on “The Futility of Affiliate Programs for Poker Bloggers”

  1. If your not part of the 10% of the industry that is earning 90% of the profits then it is a very grueling industry to be a part of. However with the proper motivation and efforts you can make substantial income.

  2. Hello,
    There are two separate ingredients to living your dream by creating income with affiliate programs online. They are vital to your success both as a sponsor and as a downline member.

  3. Bill, great blog and great discusion. I’ve recently started a site about 3 months ago I’ve had a ton of click thrus but almost no conversions. I mean out of 5000+ visits a month I get maybe 5-10 sign ups seems really low to me. Has anyone tried pay per click advertising, I’m guessing it’s just not worth it but if anyone has had success with it pleae let me know. You can email me @ Also if anyone has any other creative ideas to promote a website or is interesting in doing some co-op advertising please let me know

    Thanks, and great blog

  4. I am in the same catagory as Pete. Not a blogger (yet) but generating some income from regular pages on the web related to poker. My content is mostly standard strategy and basic information. I have a couple of simple games like video poker that I give away for free with banners and that helps. I arrived at this page while searching for information to compare the stats from one of the sites that I am promoting. While my original programs were all CPA (single payment for each raeal player) I have been trying out Revenue share but I was disappointed witht the results. The 40% that Pete mentions along with the 20/550 real player conversion sound much more realistic than what I am currently getting so I will probably switch or convert my existing CPA accounts to Rev Share. I picked CPa in the beginning because I expected it to generate some quick cash which I desparately needed but I believe that the rev share is more profitable in the long run. Revenue share is also a much more reliable long term option since new players can dry up and then the CPA payments will plummet. I have also started to promote backgammon which is not nearly as hot as poker but still generates a few $$ a month. I also had a Casino program but I dropped it eventually because the conversion rates are very low and they are basically just robbing the players as there is no chance for anyone to win in thelong term with slots, blackjack etc.. whereas, poker and backgammon, a skilled player can make a profit so I feel much better about promoting such sites. There is money in affiliate programs and the sites do pay. I would say to promote more than a single site (I pick 3) so that to have something to compare, and if one is the clear winner, give that one the best spots

  5. Well people I’m not a blogger but am a poker affiliate at a reasonably new poker site. This is only my fourth month promoting poker and I earned $46.00, $340.00, $605.00 in the first 3 that are completed. And all traffic is via search engine clicks only.

    During this time I’ve had approx. 1500 clicks resulting in approx. 550 signed up members (not paid just registered after downloading). Of those 21 have opened a paid account and 25 redeposits. My numbers are a bit better probably because 1) they do not deduct bonuses from my earnings which is nice, 2) I get 40% of rake not 20%, and finally 3) I can and do earn money from free players who have won money in freerolls that they sponsor.

    And I would only ever chose the residual from rake payment option cause if you ever do hit that big time player he could easily make you a thousand a month plus. Wishfull thinking huh….

    But I am extremely satisfied with the progress to date so am currently building new promotional pages on a new site for it. As for reading your results guess I won’t ever consider advertising on poker

    Anyways all I’m trying to say is don’t give up on being a poker affiliate cause there is money there.

  6. The only hint I give is that it’s likely affiliate programs are not it. Many sites with good traffic make money on non-affiliate deals. Advertising, sponsorship, etc. are all good ways to monetize traffic.

  7. you hint at the fact that there are other ways to make money poker blogging than affiliate deals…care to elaborate on this?

    also i just started up a poker blog at that is detailing my advertures of turning ‘pro’ recently. i have heard that it may be possible to become a part of a network of blogs you have or are a part of?

    sorry but didn’t know another way to contact you…thanks

    Wild Bill

  8. I wouldn’t say it’s totally futile but I think there’s an element of luck involved. My site is new and rather lame compared to yours, but I’ve had a signup this month which has earnt me $40 so far. It’s not a lot of money but it’ll pay for a few months hosting… You’re right, though, it’s a hard way of making a few $s.
    I’ve thought about sites like ours getting together into a banner network, so that instead of each webmaster having to open multiple affiliate accounts and maintain a banner farm we could use a simple rotating banner. I’ve registered a domain name and maybe I’ll do something with it when my site is finished. (That’s if I’m not too busy with press releases and organising freerolls lol).
    I was wondering if you more experienced guys prefer to receive a percentage of rake or a flat payment for each new signup? Have you any figures on how much your signups generate?

  9. I’m always completely surprised when I *do* get affiliate fees. Why in the world does someone who reads my blog not have an account at the sites I play?

  10. I like to think that I have one of the more popualr blogs and I get Jack shiit from affiliates. It’s a waste of my time. And I always have to pester Party to release my payments. It’s more of a hassle than not.

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