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It’s been a wild ride but just two months after its start, Poker Shares has attracted over 1,000 costumers and was in for $1m on one bet at one point.
There’ve been hiccups, but you can now invest in practically any poker pro in the world, just like real-life high-stakes backers.
Mike “Timex” McDonald presented this new venture to the world at the PSC Bahamas in January.
We met up with McDonald during a break of the $25k High Roller to get the inside scoop on Poker Shares.
PokerListings.com: How has Poker Shares been doing?
Mike McDonald: The first two months have been going really well. The biggest thing we wanted was for the community to adopt the concept.
Obviously, you can’t expect to have a million users right away, but we wanted it to be understood in the poker world.
People are constantly betting and constantly referencing us, and it’s nice to see how it’s getting established.
The biggest problem we’ve had is moving money around. Between poker players, almost everything is done in cash, but you can’t do that obviously in a regulated business.
Dealing with payment processes and making sure that everyone has the option to deposit the way they want has become a much bigger component of our business than we realized.
But we’ve now set up Bitcoin, Neteller, Paysafe Cards, and we’ll add more credit cards next month.
It takes time, as there’s a lot of paperwork and bureaucracy to deal with. It’s funny how poker is such a fast-moving industry on the one hand, but on the legal side of operating a poker business, it’s the complete opposite.
PL: What are the early numbers?
MMD: We have a number of users in the low four digits, somewhere between 1000 and 2000. Of these, roughly 40% have deposited, so we have around 500 active users.
Growth has obviously been huge in the beginning, as a couple of hundred players signed up the first day.
Since then, growth has been linear, about 20% per week. The more payment options we can offer, the easier we can make it for the players, the more will sign up.
Let me give you an example of what we’re looking for. A female player Tweeted at us that she was spending the Sunday evening having a glass of wine and railing one of her horses in the PokerStars Sunday Million.
She said it was more fun than playing. We now have maybe a dozen players who talk about their betting on social media.
Once that gets to be hundreds or a few thousands, it’ll be much more adopted in the poker community.
PL: What was the largest and the most unusual bet you’ve seen so far?
MMD: One thing that we didn’t expect was that a lot of people bet on Joe Ingram’s challenge to write a book in under a month or something.
It was kind of funny seeing the market move around. We’d see three straight players betting on him to fail, so suddenly we were wondering if these guys knew something we didn’t, and also the other way round.
Most of the time, we know what we’re doing, but for this one the odds were pure guesswork. That was probably the strangest thing yet.
Regarding the biggest bets, we’ve had a player risking about $85,000 and the biggest risk for us was one where we were in for over a million dollars.
PL: Did you expect to be in so deep?
MMD: Oh, yeah. We know that people like to gamble. Take the $25k high roller event here for example. No matter how high the buy-in is, there will always be players wanting to play higher, and we accommodate that.
We give recreational players who have money the chance to turn a $25k event into an event where they can invest $100k, and we’ll do it at a discount.
We’re offering a pretty strong product to non-professionals. Big bets are a big part of why we’re doing what we’re doing.
PL: Are you introducing any new features?
MMD: There’s one new feature that people are pretty excited about. So, we started posting our rates, and there were people who said they didn’t like them and thought they were too high.
They said, we want to bet the other side of that, we want to bet against your rates.
So now, we’re allowing people to do that. If you look at the high roller events here in Panama, you can bet on, let’s say, Erik Seidel to cash, but you can also bet on him to not cash.
At first, people were basically betting on players to better than we think they are, but now you can also bet on players being worse than we think they are.
You can bet both sides of the market.
Also, we’re redesigning the website, as it admittedly isn’t very pretty at the moment, and we’re going to come up with an affiliate program.
This will make it easier for people to invest and send players in the right direction.
By now, we have probably spent $40 for marketing, and that money was for Mike Watson to wear our T-shirt in the Bahamas.
PL: And he was on the first photo ever taken with these T-shirts…
MMD: Exactly, so that $40 really paid off nicely. We’re now in a spot where hardcore poker fans know us, but there are way more bettors who’re buying action at much worse rates.
I guarantee you, there are players in this high roller field who’re selling with mark-ups of 1.2 or higher, while you can bet on anyone on our site for less than 1.1.
It’s important for us to be known by people outside this inner circle of the poker community. That’ll allow us to expand a lot, not necessarily outside of poker, but on the outskirts.
We’re going to make that happen with the affiliate program, the new website, and maybe banners or by paying Twitch streamers to talk about us.
PL: Thank you, Mike.