Reflections on Premium Poker Tools: Part 4 - Smaller things that I've learned

by adamzerner5 min read11th Oct 20198 comments

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Postmortems & RetrospectivesStartups
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Previous posts:

In the previous post, I talked about what I've learned. That post focused on bigger things. But there were a lot of smaller, more miscellaneous things that I've learned too. Those are the things that I want to talk about in this post.

People think of a mobile app when you say you're building an "app"

Even when I clarify and try to explain that it's a web app, most people are still confused. So sometimes I call it a website, which I hate because that sort of implies that it's static. Sometimes I describe it as poker software. I still haven't found a good solution to this. I think "website" is probably best.

Ghosting is normal

This is a huge pet peeve of mine. I hate it. But apparently it's just a thing that many people do. At least in the business world. Let me give you some examples.

1) I reached out to this vlogger on Twitter. I asked if she'd be interested in working with me. She said she is. Then she proposed that I pay her as an advertiser to promote the app. I said in response that I'm only looking for revenue share partnerships right now, and asked if she's interested in that. No response. I follow up in a few days. No response. Follow up again. No response.

2) There was a guy who I would study poker with via Skype every week. I swear, we had a good relationship, and had productive study sessions. At some point he was going to be away for some trip for a few weeks, so we said we'd resume when he gets back. After the trip I reach out to set up a time for our next session. No response. I reach out again. No response. Again. No response. I eventually start spacing it out over months, but I never get a response from him. Eventually he signs up as my second paid user. I email him to thank him and ask if he wants to catch up. No response. At this point maybe he just feels too awkward to respond. I'm really confused though. I have no clue what happened.

3) There've been a few times where I'd try to set up lunches with people for advice. Many times the conversation would go:

Me: Want to get lunch?
Them: Sure, how about next week.
Me: Sounds good, what would be a good time for you?
Them: Silence.
Me: Just checking in for lunch next week.
Them: Silence.
Me: Still want to get lunch?
Them: Silence.
Me: Sorry we missed each other last week. Want to reschedule?
Them: Silence.
Them: Hey, sorry I didn't respond previously. How's this upcoming week for you?
Me: No worries. I'm free. How about Wednesday?
Them: Silence.

I could go on and on giving examples of this sort of stuff, but I think you get the idea.

Additionally, I've found that when people want something from you, this phenomena completely disappears! Mysterious, huh?

Book authors are just people

In the beginning I'd get star struck when I met or talked with book authors, or similarly "famous" people. But now I just see them as people. People aren't banging down their door. You can email them. It's not implausible that they'll get coffee with you.

There's no such thing as "just throwing out a number"

"Suppose we said it'd be $100/month."

"Suppose we say it's 50% revenue share."

I've made statements like this, intending for it to not mean anything and just be, y'know, throwing out a number. But in my experience, people get attached to these numbers. Or at least they become heavily anchored to them.

A few kind words means the world to an early stage entrepreneur

Sometimes I'd get emails from people saying that they really like the app and that they're thankful that I created it. That stuff really meant so much to me, and made me so happy. I almost want to create some sort of effective altruist movement of doing things like that, given the amount of utility it produces.

Paying for people's meals doesn't seem to induce much reciprocation

A lot of times I meet with people and will pay for their meals, in hopes that they'll reciprocate and spend more effort trying to help me out. But I've found it to be incredibly ineffective.

Here's an extreme example. There was a point where I was pushing hard for people to sit with me and allow me to do user research with them. I would offer to buy someone lunch if they would do so. I posted this on Reddit, and one guy took me up on it. So we met for lunch when he was in town.

He ended up bringing along two friends. They were both only vaguely interested in poker. Not good.

During the lunch, the table was a bit too crowded to take out laptops and do the user research. That's another thing I've learned — don't plan on doing things that involve a computer over lunch. So anyway, we have lunch, we realize that the user research part isn't working out because there's not enough room, so we say we'll do it after we finish lunch. Then one guy says that they're actually super tired from being up all night last night, and maybe we could do the user research tomorrow, or via Skype when they get back home if tomorrow doesn't work out. I say sure.

I pay the bill for all four of us. It must have been about $80.

They're busy the next day. Afterwards, I text him/them a few times trying to set up a time to do the user research. Not responsive. Sometimes they straight up ignore me.

Later on when I launched, I emailed them. No response.

You'd expect a little bit more from a group who you treated to an $80 lunch. Maybe these guys were the exception, but I get the sense that they're more the norm.

Cialdini — are you part of the replication crisis now too?

ROI isn't enough, even for high stakes pros

I talked previously about how poker software is easily a +ROI investment, and how I've been surprised at how unwilling people are to see it that way. But I was particularly struck by the fact that high stakes poker pros wouldn't see it that way. I would have thought that such people would be logical enough to jump on +ROI opportunities.

Example: I was having a conversation with Cy where he was saying that $100/month is pretty expensive, and I said I don't think it is at all. Consider some quick math. Say a high stakes poker player plays 10,000 hands/month, and the software improves your winrate by 0.1bb/100 hands. That's 1bb/1,000 hands, 10bb/10,000 hands, or 10bb/month. If you're playing $25/50, which him and Brad play, that's $500/month. And those are pretty conservative assumptions. The software could easily improve your winrate by more than that. And online poker pros often play way more than 10,000 hands/month. But this logic did not change his perspective. He said that he just doesn't see it this way, and that he knows his other high stakes friends don't either.

I deleted my backlog, and it turns out nothing terrible happened

I was inspired to delete my backlog by Jason Fried wants to delete my backlog. It's worked out pretty well for me! It alleviated some stress, and I didn't feel like I was missing something.

Getting people to do user research with is hard

I figured it wouldn't be that hard.

"Hey, let me sit down with you over lunch and watch you use my app. I'll pick up the bill!"

"Hey, let's Skype and let me watch you use my app. I'll coach you for free!"

I would think that stuff like this would easily get me dozens and dozens of volunteers pretty quickly, but it didn't work out like that for me. I found it hard to find people to do user research with.

E2E testing wasn't worth it for me

I've had a very love-hate relationship with e2e testing. It's so awesome when you have all your tests and can run them to make sure things work. But I really hate the framework I'm using, Nightwatch.js. It's slow and cumbersome. Maintaining the tests proved to be really time consuming. There were so many weird bugs. I ultimately just decided to stop maintaining and writing e2e tests, because I didn't feel that they were worth it, given how time consuming they were.

Long inferential distances is the realest thing in the world

One example is that I was talking to a professional poker player and coach. He didn't know how to read a 2d graph with x-y coordinates. I said "x-axis". He said, "what?".

This made me decide to change the text on my app to say "horizontal axis" instead of "x-axis".

He also struggled to understand that a point on the graph refers to a pair of data points. And to understand what the slope means. And how to calculate expected value.

He wasn't the only one. I have plenty of other examples of stuff like this.

I don't want to come across as being mean though. Just sayin'. I certainly have my own share of incompetencies.

I often felt a strong urge to get out of the house

Furthermore, for some reason, I felt an urge to get far away. There's this coffee shop I like to go to that is about an hour long bike ride away. I found myself wanting to go there a lot. This urge confused me, because the coffee shop isn't that great. Eventually I realized that I really liked the bike ride, and being far away from home. Maybe because it acted as a divider between "work day" and "relaxing time".

Other stuff

There are definitely things that I'm forgetting. Hopefully I'll add to this post as I remember them.

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8 comments, sorted by Highlighting new comments since Today at 8:31 AM
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Re poker pros not understanding the ROI of your software:

When you build a better tool/platform but people/companies refuse to use it, you can often just use your own tool to compete with them at their business. In this case that would mean training yourself to kick their ass at poker.

If your tool can’t let you do that, maybe find an up & coming poker star who you set up with your tool and you could somehow invest in the upside of their winnings.

That makes sense in general, but in this case I don't think the software is strong enough to do that. It'll make you better at poker, but not fast enough to blow everyone else away and make them think, "Wow, that software sure is doing a good job, I need to get it myself."

Thank you, great sharing.

I want to add my 2 cents about things I disagree.

1) In the last post there was a thought like "I'm rational and proactive, and they're lazy and irrational, and therefore I do not prosper". That can be very dangerous mindset and it's incorrect by definition I think. That's not about pro poker players don't want to take +EV decisions. Vice versa, they have a lot of +EV decisions (check out new software, watch/read theory, discuss hands on forums, private discussions, group/individual classes, soft skills development, analyze statistics in Holdem Manager etc etc). The cost is not only $, but thier time as well, and your option just doesn't seem to them to be "the most profitable", not "just profitable". That's the bar you need to hit, not just to be +ROI.

2) I played poker professionally some years ago, and a lot of (full-time) players I was interacting don't have a flopzilla. I may be wrong, but if I remember correctly Equilab is free analog to flopzilla (which is less powerful, but still, moving to more complicated software may just seem not the most valuable investment of your time, like when you still have some simple leaks jin your game which you can try to fix).

Anyway, best of luck in the future projects

You're taking the talk about lunches too literally. "Let's have lunch sometime" often means something more like "let's pretend that we like each other enough to eat lunch together, without actually doing it." As long as the lunch is hypothetical and in the indefinite future, it's easy to agree to. When you try to pin down a time and place, the other person finds silence easier than scheduling a lunch that he doesn't really want, or explaining that he never intended to have lunch with you anyway. Let it go.


People think of a mobile app when you say you're building an "app"
Even when I clarify and try to explain that it's a web app, most people are still confused. So sometimes I call it a website, which I hate because that sort of implies that it's static. Sometimes I describe it as poker software. I still haven't found a good solution to this. I think "website" is probably best.

This is really a blessing in disguise, because words like "app" and "software" sound like potential users would have to download and install something and potentially fumble around with settings/permissions before they can get a first glimpse, and also having to delete/uninstall afterwards. You mentioned people are lazy, but you might still be underestimating just how lazy people are. Patience is measured in milliseconds on the web.


Ghosting is normal
This is a huge pet peeve of mine. I hate it. But apparently it's just a thing that many people do. At least in the business world. Let me give you some examples.

I think ghosting is so ubiquitous in every facet of life that at this point, we'd all be better off to just accept it as a neutral fact. In particular:

  • If someone doesn't respond after the second request, assume he is guilty of ghosting with no way of proving innocence because let's be honest, technical problems with communication are rare these days and even if it's actually the case, a third request is almost certainly going to run into the same problem
  • If at some later point contact is reestablished, pretend like nothing happened and don't push the other person into coming up with an excuse if you deem the interaction still worthwhile

Paying for people's meals doesn't seem to induce much reciprocation
A lot of times I meet with people and will pay for their meals, in hopes that they'll reciprocate and spend more effort trying to help me out. But I've found it to be incredibly ineffective.

I'd be surprised if it was effective. From the perspective of the receiver, what you're signaling isn't "I'm nice and forthcoming", it's "You better be worth my money", and if you're not demanding immediate reciprocation, you're making them indebted in a gift economy they have no interest in participating in. The only people you're likely to attract with this strategy are people who are unscrupulous to take advantage of you.


Long inferential distances is the realest thing in the world
One example is that I was talking to a professional poker player and coach. He didn't know how to read a 2d graph with x-y coordinates. I said "x-axis". He said, "what?".
This made me decide to change the text on my app to say "horizontal axis" instead of "x-axis".
He also struggled to understand that a point on the graph refers to a pair of data points. And to understand what the slope means. And how to calculate expected value.
He wasn't the only one. I have plenty of other examples of stuff like this.
I don't want to come across as being mean though. Just sayin'. I certainly have my own share of incompetencies.

But how could one reasonably expect people in general to have such obscure technical knowledge? I mean, this sounds weird to say on Lesswrong, sarcastic even, but that's just due this forum being a bubble within a bubble within a bubble. Even though stuff like expected value are not very hard to grasp per se, people outside STEM fields don't just bump into such topics by casually browsing the internet. To classify it as incompetence seems misguided; I'd be much more worried about a society where people broadly speaking understood these topics, because then you have to wonder what other non-universally useful stuff are they wasting everybody's time with?

This is really a blessing in disguise, because words like "app" and "software" sound like potential users would have to download and install something and potentially fumble around with settings/permissions before they can get a first glimpse, and also having to delete/uninstall afterwards.

That's true. Good point.

I think ghosting is so ubiquitous in every facet of life that at this point, we'd all be better off to just accept it as a neutral fact.

My perspective here is that even if it is ubiquitous, that doesn't make it ok. I don't think it's ok to treat people like that, and thus, I think that ghosting should be frowned upon. (There could of course be an innocent explanation for the ghosting, in which case I have no problem with it.)

But how could one reasonably expect people in general to have such obscure technical knowledge?

I see "x-axis" and the ability to read a 2d graph as something that the great majority of the high school educated population should know, even if it's been a while since they've been in school.

Expected value I wouldn't expect most people to know, but I certainly would expect a professional poker player to know, especially when you are also charging people money to coach them.

Expected value I wouldn't expect most people to know, but I certainly would expect a professional poker player to know, especially when you are also charging people money to coach them.

I would agree if we were talking about Poker AI or Poker software developers here, but I don't see why a professional poker player would need to know about expected value any more than a Go player needs to know the Minimax algorithm - humans can't do these calculations in their heads and have to rely on gut feeling anyway (or am I wrong here? Do Poker players actually calculate probabilities? I thought it was just a cliche from Casino Royale).

There are a lot of times when you have to do actual math in poker. For example, if you bet $50 into a $100 pot, I'd have to risk $50 to win $150, and thus need to win 1/4 of the time to break even. If I have a flush draw, I have to estimate how often I'll win with that flush draw, which there are shortcuts to help you do. But the example I just described is a simple one. What if there is more money left behind, so when I hit my flush I can expect to win the $150 in the pot, plus some more? And how do we incorporate the possibility of you having a higher flush draw and me losing a lot to you when we both hit the flush?

You can get by without doing any actual math, and instead just winging it, but actual math does help in these situations.

Anyway, the bigger point is that the same thing probably applies to expected value: you can get by without it. But to me, that doesn't mean you should try to get by without it. It's a very fundamental concept, and if you're going to make a living with poker, why wouldn't you take a little time to learn them?