Hiring prop playersThis article was posted on September 24, 2007
What's the first thing you need after you've opened an online poker room? Players, of course.
You run an advertising campaign online and through other forms of media, you let everyone know you're room is open for business, and you set some very attractive bonus offers to entice players. You spend a bunch of money on it all, and then you see things are not working out the way they should be.
Getting an online poker room on track is rather similar to getting started in any kind of business. There is a certain critical point, which you have to tug and push your business through, in order to set things in motion. Do you know how the wheels of them old steam railroad engines used to be like? They had a big dead weight welded into one side. The purpose of the weight was to roll the wheels through the critical point (the point where the steam-pistons moving the wheel were fully extended) via inertia.
You need something like that weight for your poker room too. The way to tell whether you've managed to get past the critical point or not is to check your critical player liquidity. I layman terms: if you don't have some people playing 24 hours a day on all your limits/stakes (small, medium and high), you're in trouble.
Why? Simple: let's say a high-roller hits your poker room, eager to get to unlocking the generous bonus you've given him. He doesn't fiddle around at low limits, so he checks your high-limit/stakes tables, only to find that the wind is blowing there, and there are no games he could join.
Trust me, it'll be some time till that same guy sets foot in your poker room again. If you have a few people there though, (the more the merrier) things will be different. Action attracts other players, who give birth to more action, which in turn attracts even more players. The contraption was set in motion.
How exactly can you get past the critical point? You need some people playing in your poker room 24/7. You need some people you'll be able to control to a certain extent and distribute in the areas where help is most needed. You need people who won't shy away from playing short-handed and heads-up tables with crappy odds. You need Omaha players, and Stud players, too. You need prop players.
A prop player is a poker player whose job is to generate action. You'll give him an outstanding rakeback offer, (possibly above 100%) and in exchange for being paid to play, he will provide action and he'll do so where it's most needed. Don't look at it as if it were some kind of desperate measure or whatnot.
All the industry greats (including Party Poker and PokerStars) have done it. Smaller poker rooms still do it. It's kind of like sex-life. Everyone does it, but you don't hear them talk about it much.
Once the wheels are set in motion, the whole system picks up momentum by itself. You don't have to keep hiring props forever. Once you reach a proper critical player liquidity, you no longer need them, unless you want to overcharge the whole thing and speed things further up.