One common topic I often see discussed on the Poker Affiliate Program forums is in relation to forums – issues include affiliates not sure how to run poker forums, what software to use, how to bring traffic and how to make money from poker forums. I have had a lot of experience in regard to building, maintaining, administrating and consulting on poker forums, and so wanted to share some suggestions in regard to this.
This article will be focused more on people who already run forums, and suggestions in regards to topics that you can create which should incite discussion. One thing I do want to note however is that I think a lot of people currently make one major mistakes with their forum, in that they divide the community into too many sub-communities.
By this, I mean that creating a forum with various different forums in it, ranging from a “General Poker” forum to an “Omaha” forum to a “Bad Beat” forum, you are making a big mistake. When first building a forum you really need to focus on the community aspect, and have everyone together as a whole. Don’t put the cart before the horse – start with just one forum(and directly link to that forum rather than the main index), and create threads specific to those topics.
Then, if you have a forum thread on 7 Card Stud and there are many posts, and many different posters in it each day, you can look to branch out by adding a forum specific to that topic. By keeping everyone contained into the one community however, you increase the chances of that community growing drastically and encouraging people to converse with each other, which is the main point of any forum.
It doesn’t matter how many forums you have though – if you don’t have interesting topics, people won’t come to your forum and converse to begin with. If you look at any forum, you will see that the posts vs topics difference in numbers is about 10 to 1 – the majority of people just aren’t all that interested in starting topics, however they will contribute if one is already made.
So what you need to do is encourage people to start discussing, by creating topics that they are most likely to respond to.
One thing I also suggest, although it depends on how you feel ethically about this, is to create separate accounts for the topics. If I see an administrator or a moderator start a topic on a forum, I’m less likely to respond to it because I don’t think they are really interested in what I say, while if a forum member starts a topic, it gives the impression they are more interested in other peoples opinions, and encourages other members to post.
So, here are just ten of the many topics you can create on your forum to encourage discussion:
- Post Your Worst Bad Beat: If there’s one thing poker players want to talk about, it’s bad beats. It isn’t even just on forums – walk around your town one day wearing a Pokerstars t-shirt, and someone will come up to you and ask if you play online poker. More than likely, the very next words out of their mouths will be telling you about how their aces got cracked the night before. Poker players remember specific bad beats a long time after they happen, and just love to tell anyone who will listen all about how they got their money in as a 95% favourite. A thread like this is just begging for people to come and share.
- What Poker Pros Have You Played Against? One advantage playing poker has compared to the likes of golf, football or basketball is that people actually have the chance to play against the people they see on TV. You’ll never be playing a game of basketball in the local gym, and have Kobe Bryant walk by and ask to play. You’ll never play some touch football with your buddies from college, and be able to receive a catch from Tom Brady. However with online poker, you can be playing in an NL50 game and have Chris Ferguson or Phil Ivey sit at the table. By looking at the waiting lists or amount of observers when the poker pros are playing, there’s obviously a large interest in this and many poker players, no matter what stakes they play, have had the chance to sit at a table with one of these pros. Create a thread for this, and let everyone share their experiences in a $10 tournament trying to bluff Gus Hansen.
- What do you think about Gus Hansen? This is one of my favourite topics to create because it never fails to get a response. Love him or hate him, Gus Hansens reputation of playing any hands in any position has earned him quite the reputation, and always makes him an interesting discussion point. This doesn’t have to be about Gus Hansen of course – Phil Hellmuth and Daniel Negreanu are two of the many players who make for interesting discussion.
- Did Something Stupid – Played Poker Drunk!: The majority of online poker players that we target are in their late teens or early twenties. Odds are, the majority of them have attended the odd keg party or two. Lots of poker players have stories about how they got stupidly drunk, woke up the next morning and realized they’d gambled away their $2000 bankroll that they’d spent months grinding. Let them share those stories!
- Post here when your aces get cracked: Much like the bad beat thread, people just love to tell you how their aces got cracked. It happens – a lot. By creating a thread specific for this, you are encouraging people to return to your forum often just to mention that their aces got cracked. And when they visit to post that, chances are they will stick around and participate in more discussions.
- Off-Topic Discussion: One thing you don’t want to do when building a community, is restrict them to just the one topic to discuss. Create a thread specific for off-topic discussion, and when the need comes this is a great thread to expand into its own separate forum. It also works well when it comes to strengthening the community, as it’s threads like these were people finds things in common with each other.
- Funny Things from the Chat Box: If you’ve played online poker at all, you’ll know that people love to use the chat box, mostly to call other players names after a suckout. You see this all the time – so create a thread specific for it, and encourage people to come post the times where poKeRpRo[-420-] ranted for 20 minutes after his AK lost to pocket 7s.
- Running It Twice: This isn’t a thread that is really necessary now, however is just an example of using a hot topic to encourage discussion. When the TV show High Stakes Poker first started airing, it introduced the viewer to the concept of running it twice. This was something a lot of people were confused about or wanted to discuss, so creating a thread about it encouraged a lot of discussion.
- Post Hot Poker Chicks!: This could work for hot poker guys too of course, but poker players are predominantly male. Have a thread dedicated to posting pictures of players like Vanessa Rousso, Clonie Gowen and Shana Hiatt, and watch the males that visit the forum return time and time again.
- I’m an Idiot but don’t know it: This is one of the favourite topics I love to create. I create a new user, and have him create a thread where “he” rants about how bad everyone is online, and how they always suck out. However “he” then posts hand histories where it exposes his bad play, like calling a raise preflop with 75o, hitting a flop of 752, then losing to AA when a turn deuce hits. Or post ridiculous concepts that “he” does, like losing to at $1/$2 and moving to $3/$6 where it’s “less rigged”. Topics like these create lots of response, with people offering serious advice, people mocking him, and people just quoting ridiculous things “he” said and laughing at it. And although you might not realize it, by everyone “picking on” one posters, it makes them bond closer as a community.
One thing I want everyone to note however is not the specific topics I mention, but more the general themes of the topics. The topics either create interesting discussion or encourage people to visit repeatedly. These should hopefully get you started in regard to building a forum, and I haven’t even touched other ideas like controversial topics, which always bring the visitors in, for example. The best thing to do is sit back, and think “as a poker player, what would make ME post on a poker forum?” and then go with that.
So the next time you’re trying to encourage people to post on your forum, always remember these concepts when starting a topic. And send me a link to the “hot poker chicks” thread 😉