Oh, and there is some software involved, too. But product quality only goes so far if your strategy for marketing is "I put it up on the Internet and eventually people find me". (That _can_ work but you have to have God's own luck AND an amazing product.)
Here's another lesson for you: if people are not buying your software, the answer is NOT to charge less. You can't convince people who aren't at your site to buy by offering them a discount -- they can't see the discount. On the other hand, folks who then see the discounted price as the "normal" price mentally value it to match. And software which only costs $10 is worthless. You are selling me a tool to _make money_ and can't justify a price higher than $10?
(I leave it to your imagination what I think of the "Make it free and try monetizing with ads!" advice you'll find elsewhere in this discussion.)
I sell software which is so trivial that technical types have difficulty believing it sells at all. My customers love me, and are happy to part with $25. And I should really get around to raising that one of these days. Should sell about $20k this year, which isn't quite quit-the-day-job money but on an hourly basis works out to "pretty freaking sweet". Not to crimp the startup style here but, erm, charging people money for value remains a decent business model.
Good decision. It seems like you have a lot of talent and can make a LOT more money in a vertical other than poker. Also, it will probably be more enjoyable in another domain.
My 2 cents. We tried to a business in the lottery space once because it seemed there were no good tech companies there, there was a ton of money at stake, and lots of innovation to be done. But after a short time it was really demoralizing to be in that type of vertical. Fail fast and move on!
I'm an entrepreneur myself (We sold our company to a quite big company about 1,5 years ago), I think what really went wrong was not the product, niche or anything like that. It was the marketing/sales. You should never underestimate how hard selling even a good product is.
also, this kind of a product will never "get old", the principles behind it will be the same forever so if it's good and you get enough people who purchase, you will get snowball effect by mouth to mouth marketing.
I think the worst decision you made was to waste your work when you took the site down. I also think your name is awful, it's so generic that it's hard to even find using google so what I would do is to republish the program with catchy name and add a link from your blog.
Also it's not a bad idea to hang in places like digitalpoint forums and hire some indian to submit your tool to X directories, that will cost you about $10-20 and you will get a lot of google goodness.
edit: you are giving it free now? Okay suits me but I would have bought it. How about adding at least a donation button?
I liked the name, but the problem was the three words: all+in+expert. There was a time after it launched where the site came up as #1, but now its faded into oblivion. I thought it succinctly captured what the software was about, but as you said, maybe it wasn't catchy enough.
I'm launching a new site in a few weeks which I'm going to do a few things differently with. The digitalpoint idea isn't bad.
No need for a donation, your advice is far more valuable than $20 will ever be.
After it launched I decided that the best way to demonstrate its utility was to search poker forums for problems and then post the ALL IN Expert results. I wound up adding a feature to the software that let people export the results in a forum-friendly format which also linked back to the site. This helped bring some people to the site and if I had continued it for some time it may have brought in a few more registrations. In hindsight maybe I should have done this more. It's hard to say... No matter how much you prod a dead duck it's not gonna move much.
If so, what was going to be your edge?
The main reason I didn't buy it was that from what I read it seemed like anything I could do with your program I could already do with PokerStove or StoxEV. And they're both free.
If you want me to pay for poker software (and I've paid for lots of poker-related software) you have to convince me that it will give me an edge or allow me to do something that I can't already do with existing free software.
Having said that, I don't actually use it that much - for most situations I find PokerStove is good enough.
Still, I don't get why you would focus on preflop calculations. Knowing whether to shove preflop is pretty easy, isn't it? The tough decisions are often when you face an overbet on the turn or river, in my experience.
Preflop is easier to build an interface around, which is why I chose to focus on it for the first iteration. PokerStove's postflop range selection tool worked, but I felt it could have been done a lot better. For example, how would you select the range "A2s-ATs of hearts and clubs" using PokerStove? Making a clean way to select that would have been the next step for ALL IN Expert.
But reading "Advertising is a tax for being unremarkable” seems a bit harsh. In some businesses, there simply is no other way. For example recently I heard from some online dating services that they really boil down to the hard calculation of "how expensive is it to convert a user we bought with advertising". Like if they raise their conversion rates, they can afford more advertising, and so on. Sure, maybe sometimes there will be a "hit dating service" that spreads through word of mouth, but the others seem to do OK, too.
Especially in Poker it seems advertising is huge?
You're right that the poker industry does depend heavily on advertising. I imagine a big part of PokerStars and FullTilt's userbase discovered online poker after seeing a commercial during a rerun of the World Poker Tour.
I'm not sure how that translates into marketing a poker tool, but you (and the other posters) are right to say I could have done more.
I don't think advertising is necessary for an online dating service. For example, quite a few of my friends are on OK Cupid, and as far as I know they don't do much advertising.
"Advertising is a tax for being unremarkable" is a really succinct way of putting it.
I used to be all negative about advertising, but I changed my attitude since I realized that nature itself relies heavily on advertising. A beautiful flower is advertising, too. Even a flower has to announce "I am here" with colors and odors. Maybe in some cases a "social recommendation mechanism" is also at work (like the bees who inform other bees about food sources), but without such a mechanism, how are your clients going to discover you?
Doesn't happen often in software, of course.
You spend $100K in advertising.
You get an additional $1000K in revenue, on which you make a 9% profit. You bank $90K profit from this.
You're $10K worse off for having done that advertising.
I think a free product or service is in trouble if it has to advertise.
Perhaps the quote should read: "Advertising is a tax for being unremarkable, and/or not free."
Advertising isn't a bad thing, but if your only differentiator is advertising you're probably screwed.
- Ted Turner
I think the message is simply you're better off focusing on making a great product than making a really great ad campaign for a product.
Sure, it would be nice to be "so great they can't ignore you", but how likely is it to be like that? Is it more effective to keep trying to create that super product, or maybe invest more to make your normal, really good product sell?
People will be either
1: Very good at poker. In which case they can go through this mental, odds-calculating process in their head without the need for software. or
2: Not very good at poker. In which case your software is immensely confusing. They need to be able to put opponents on a range of hands (how does a novice guess what an opponent most likely has? half-likely has?) in less than 20 seconds (the time online poker software gives to each player per turn).
I play poker pretty often, and can tell you that odds calculation is never a fixed thing (so it's hard to replicate with software), and even considering my poker background, the screenshots of your program still confused me.
For instance, if you can calculate your equity with T9s against a range of (AA-22, Ak-AT, A9s, KQ-KT, K9s, QJ-QTs)in your head, consider yourself a genius.
The type of software he built is very popular among people who are good at poker or trying to become so.
EDIT: I realize that estimating your opponent's hands is important. Basic poker there. I'm talking about "estimating your opponent's hands" which is featured in one of the calculator's screens. That seems like an iffy thing to feed into a computer. It's a garbage-in-garbage-out situation.
If you make no estimate what kind of hand your opponent has you can only reason in three ways:
a) you assume he always has the best hand. So you throw away your hand.
b) you assume he always has the worst hand. So you put your chips in.
c) you bet big if you have good cards, and you throw your cards away when your cards are lousy.
Clearly (a) and (b) are bad strategies.
The last strategy is not as bad as the other two, but still terrible. More often than not your cards are bad. So your opponent will figure out you're not willing to make large bets with lousy cards, so every time you don't bet, he will, and every time you bet, he won't. You're going to lose your chips that way. Basic game theory.
So you need to figure out what cards he could have been dealt so that his actions make sense. Then, from that range of plausible cards, figure out how often he has a better hand than you do. If you like your odds, you put your chips in. Otherwise, you throw your cards away.
It's a lot more complex than this, of course. But the point is that "estimating your opponent's hands", as difficult as it may be, is absolutely crucial if you want to win.
Finding what the best random function might be would be an interesting test of machine learning. But in the real world few players are going to do something like this so finding out what their approach is is going to be a better approach.
A beginner will primarily focus on what his own cards are. An intermediate will focus on what his opponent's cards are. A more advanced player will focus on what his opponent thinks his cards are and so on. The best players in the world are experts at figuring out which level you're thinking on so they can think one level beyond you.
Once you estimate your opponent's range based on his style, the cards, his previous actions, etc, you need to know what to do with that information. ALL IN Expert was designed to help with the second part.
It has immense value, in fact, it's the hardest part of the game. Figuring out what to do once you've estimated someone's hand is (with a little practice and the help of a good computer program) pretty easy.
The entire game is one big war to see who can estimate his opponents' hands the best, while preventing his opponents from doing the same to him.
There may be more poker players like me who doesn't use Windows at home and I could see the value of having a re-sized small web window while playing with just three boxes (pot, my stack, opponent's stack) plus a small pre-selection of opponents ranges (ex: top 10%, top 40%, any two) so it can be used in real time.
Aren't online gambling sites some of the biggest spenders on online ad sales? With revenue of $6+ billion per year, I think a good chunk of that must go to lead generation.
I don't know if you're doing ICM calcs or what, but anything beyond a simple odds calculator should be a native app.
My marketing and advertising are weak.
And sure, most people probably already have accounts at their preferred sites, but it doesn't hurt to have it as an option. It's easy enough to open a new poker account (well, it was when I was playing before Bush messed things up) and getting the typical bonus + software could be enough to play for a week at a second tier site.
With a lot of work it might one day make some decent change, but again, it's not worth it at this point.
I'll point this out, though: games do well when the economy tanks, so I wouldn't give it up just yet. (Monopoly was invented, in its modern form, during the Great Depression.)
If I told you what I made off of this sort of thing in the pre-UIGEA days (and especially before Party spun off its skins sites) you'd shit your pants.
Top rakeback providers made 6 or maybe even low 7 figures per month at the pinnacle. The Poker Tracker guys have sold many thousands of copies at $50 a pop.
Games in general are the only thing monetizing well right now on Facebook and MySpace platforms too, and the #1 most profitable is almost certainly Zynga's Texas Hold'em.
I remember looking at the casual games business in 2006 and realizing that there was almost no money in it at the time, but that changed, and Texas Hold 'em is, anyway, it's own beast.
I'm very surprised, though, that the Texas Hold 'em blip is still sustaining. It's a fine game, but you'd think people would get sick of playing the same game after a while, and look into something more adventurous.
I think TV ratings have come down a bit, but I'm pretty sure it'll be around for a while. I wish other games like pot limit omaha and badugi were more camera friendly, as they're a lot more skill intensive.