1. What is your professional background before becoming involved in online poker?
I started my professional career in business, the music business. I was a licensee of Polygram Music Video, marketing their artists on video in several territories. In the early 90′s I got involved in audiotext, with licenses in South Africa and Israel to market premium rate telephone services. By the mid 90′s my attention had turned to the internet where I first encountered online gaming.
2. How did you find your way into the online poker business?
Having been a part time poker player and enthusiast since the 70′s and then having had a steep learning curve in online marketing since ’95 I guess it was a natural progression for me. My first online poker account was at Paradise Poker in ’99. By 2001 I was working in an interactive marketing agency which was just starting to develop an online poker software platform and I jumped right in.
3. What is/was the scope of your position?
My first meaningful position was managing one of the founding programs of the Playtrech powered iPoker network. It involved a lot of scoping out of the new software, room and lobby layouts, and coping with the myriad of issues that all new networks experience prior to and after launching. Since then I’ve had a variety of experiences including having launched two poker rooms on the Ongame network, VP Marketing online for WPT (World Poker Tour) and a spell with Party Poker.
4. Describe a typical day in the life of a poker room manager.
A typical day would start with a review of the KPI’s in the poker room. Getting together with members of the team either individually or as a group to discuss results of old promotions, ideas for new ones, tournament schedules, live events, player marketing and creating more value. Time must also be found for keeping up to date with industry developments and business intelligence which helps in shaping the decisions you make for the business. Further time is spent in overseeing the acquisition program with the media buyers plus the affiliate program team, mostly to ensure the deals they’re doing make sense and that ROI on the types of players they’re acquiring can be achieved.
Finally, reporting up to exec is also typically a part of a poker room managers day.
5. How is working in the online poker industry been different than other jobs you’ve worked at?
No two days are ever the same, being a relatively new industry there’s always a lot to learn and experience every day,
6. What was the best or most satisfying part of your job?
Starting a new poker room and getting it to grow from scratch to a real business.
7. Conversely, what was the worst or least satisfying party of your job?
Dealing with mounds of red tape and bureaucracy.
8. What was the funniest or more bizarre memory you have of working for an online poker company?
An event I did for the World Poker Tour in Leicester Square London called Poker in the Park. We invited anyone in or around the (in)famous square to come in and play in the tent we had set up with Bluff Magazine. Steve Lipscomb and Mimi Rogers ended up playing poker with members of the public that strayed into the tent. The Empire Casino on the square was doing their grand opening at that time and sent a bevy of feather clad bunnies to hang out with us… a bizarre day! pic attached….if you look close you’ll see the bunny had a stray feather pretty much in my ear, was a bit tough getting through the photo session standing next to Steve. You can also see a bit of the ‘action’ in the tent behind.
9. Would you recommend being an online poker room manager as a career?
It isn’t for everyone, but yes, online poker is still growing, there are endless opportunities.
10. What advice would you give someone who wanted to get into the business?
Have a passion for the game, be prepared for long and irregular hours, keep an open mind as there is a lot to learn.
Hilly Ehrlich was the Managing Director of Fair Poker at IOG Casinos, VP Marketing online for WPT and Head of Poker Networks at Party Gaming. He’s been involved in online gaming for nine years. He has worked in several facets of the business including program building, management, affiliate marketing, player acquisition, live events, licensing, strategic planning and business development.