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How to host a no-limit Texas Hold'em poker tournament in your home

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About This Site

Site History

I initially posted this website in December 2003 with the intention of making my poker tournament rules available to other players. My original site consisted of about five pages with rules, blinds, and some information about poker chips. I posted a notice every week or two at the rec.gambling.poker newsgroup and averaged about 25 visitors per day.

I added a couple new pages to my site every month for the next several months. My most popular pages were my 'Poker Chips' and 'Poker Rules' pages. My site averaged 83 visitors per day in January 2004, 115 in February, 145 in March, and 175 visitors per day in April.

I began to notice that my 'Poker Chips' page received quite a few 'entry' hits, meaning that readers were entering my site directly to that page. It wasn't much of a page at the time but visitors seemed to enjoy it for some reason. Then it hit me ... the links to poker chip suppliers! I placed a tracker on those links and realized that many visitors were coming to my site because of that one convenient list of poker chip suppliers. I added more links to the list ... I received more visitors. At the beginning of May 2004 I was receiving about 200 visitors per day. Little did I realize it, but my traffic was about to increase by 100% per month for the next four months!

I decided that since so many visitors seemed to be interested in my poker chip supplier links, they might also be interested in a page with links on how to build a poker table. I placed about 10 links on a new 'Build a Table' page and forgot about it. I optimized my site for Google (see below) and by the end of May, the number of visitors to my site jumped to 400 a day. My Build a Table page became the most popular page on my entire site (and still is!). I quickly added more build a poker table links to my page.

At the end of May I typed 'how to build a poker table' into Google and ... HPT was listed as the number one link of over one million links! It felt a little like being dealt a royal flush! I typed 'how to run a poker tournament' into Google ... HPT was link #1. To this day, achieving those #1 ranked pages on Google is still one of the most pleasing experiences that I have received from this website.

At the same time as traffic to my site exploded, I received an email asking me to exchange links and ... "Would you be interested in accepting some paid advertising?". I thought long and hard (0.00001 seconds) before jumping into the air in jubilation! My hobby and love of poker had now become ... my part-time job! Two weeks later, another advertiser contacted me. Two weeks later, yet another advertiser contacted me. June 2004 was a month of learning about advertising rates and procedures, starting a business, and re-teaching myself accounting skills that I had first learned in grade 11. By the end of June, my site was averaging 800 visitors per day and I had made enough profit from advertising to pay my total business expenses for the next two years.

I spent the month of July re-designing the layout of my site and generally improving all the pages. I added three or four new rules pages and began to write my poker chip reviews. By the end of July I was receiving an average of 1600 visitors per day. By the end of August I was receiving an average of 3000 visitors per day.

Everyone keeps asking me if I had a feeling that this website would become so successful ... the answer is "No!". In the summer of 2003 I searched the internet for poker tournament rules but couldn't find any. My original intention was to build a small website that contained my own poker tournament rules for others to download. I intended to post a couple Party Poker ads on my site and figured that I would be able to recoup the $100 per year that it would cost me to run this site. As of June 2005 I receive about 4000 visitors per day.

Perhaps the most ironic aspect of the success of this site is ... I have been largely unsuccessful at what I originally intended to do! Go to Google and type "poker rules" into the search field. My original goal was to be listed as the #1 link. Until the beginning of June 2005, HPT was listed on page 49. The good news is that, as of June 1, 2005, I am now link #20 (the last link on page 2).

About the Links on This Site

I make no money (commission) from any links to poker suppliers and I am not enrolled in any affiliate programs. For example, if you click on a link on my Poker Chips page and then buy poker chips from that supplier, I make nothing, I do not get a 'cut'. The only exception to this are the Amazon.com links on my Poker Books page - they are affiliate links and I do earn a commission from sales made from the Amazon.com links on this one page. All other links and ads on this site are not affiliate ads.

I am constantly approached by poker suppliers who want to team up with me to sell or promote their poker products on this website - I always refuse those offers. I want to remain as neutral as possible and not favor any supplier over another. I feel that this makes for a better, and more objective, website. I do not accept money for doing reviews ... but I do love the free poker products that I am sent!

Monthly Advertising

This site does extremely well in attracting pre-paid monthly advertisers. I lucked into a niche market (poker tournaments) just as its popularity exploded. My visitors require poker supplies to run their home poker tournaments and these supplies are readily, and cheaply, available on the internet. These supplies are also somewhat hard to find locally, making internet purchases almost a necessity. When you combine all these factors you get near perfect conditions for advertising. I have never solicited any advertising on this site, every advertiser on this site has contacted me about advertising. It took six months of writing and developing this site before I was contacted by someone who was interested in advertising here.

Cost to Run a Website

It costs about $13 per year to register a domain name (www.homepokertourney.com). I have most of my domain names registered through www.godaddy.com. GoDaddy has become a bit of an 'industry standard' in registering domain names. I've had no problems with them.

It costs about $5-$10 per month to host a website on a computer server connected to the internet. I used to host this site on www.lunarpages.com. The $8 plan is probably more than you will ever need and you also get one free domain name. This means that you can obtain a domain name and host a website on the internet for under $100 per year.

Homepokertourney.com used about 5GB per month when it had 400 visitors per day, 10GB when it had about 1,000 visitors per day, 60GB when it had about 4,000 visitors per day, and as of June 2006 uses about 150GB per month (including the forums).

Update 2013: It now costs $44 per month to run this website. I outgrew the $10 per month hosting plans and they could no longer handle the amount of traffic that this site receives. The HPT Forums now receives over 5,000 visitors per day and this additional traffic overwhelmed the basic hosting plans. I now lease my own server in Kansas City at a cost of about $44 per month from wholesaleinternet.com.

Cost to Place an Ad

I charge $150 per month for a 120x60 pixel banner ad and $200 per month for a 120x120 pixel banner ad. These costs are rather high and I would prefer to lower them so that some of the smaller poker suppliers could afford to advertise on this site. The problem with lowering my advertising fees is that I already have too many ads on this site and if I lower my rates - even more advertisers will want to jump on board! I don't have enough space to place more ads. There is a fine line between having enough ads on your site to generate revenue, and having too many ads on your site. Being unable to offer cheap advertising to newly established poker suppliers is one of my biggest regrets about running this site.

Donations

Donations? I don't need no stinking donations! See all those ads on the right and left side of the page - those advertisers pay for the upkeep of this site (and my lifestyle). I am a firm believer in providing FREE information that is supported by a reasonable amount of advertising. Purchase some product or visit my advertiser's websites if you really want to help support this site!

Search-engine Optimization

It is very important to optimize your site so that it is search-engine friendly. Go to Google and type in 'Google optimization" or "search engine optimization". Do what it recommends if you want your pages to rank high on search engines! This website receives about 1/3 of its visitors from various search engines, with Google accounting for at least half of those hits.

Look at the layout of this website, you will notice that it is very Google-friendly. There is a lot of text near the top of every page and that text includes certain keywords geared towards that page. If you look at the first paragraph of my Build a Table page you will find the phrases "build a poker table", "homemade poker table", "poker table plans", "poker table designs", and "construct a poker table". You will also find important keywords needed to build a poker table - "poker cloth", "billiard felt", "velveteen", "rails", and "cup holders". If you look at my homepage (www.homepokertourney.com) you will see that the majority of the page is made up of search phrases that someone might type into Google. It is always a challenge to write content that is easy for a visitor to read, but at the same time contains numerous, and sometimes redundant, 'catch phrases' for the search-engines to notice.

Do not use 'frames' on your website. If you do, search engines will only see the first page of your site, it will not see any of the inner pages. Do not use Flash or Shockwave since search engines cannot 'see' your text (content) through the Flash or Shockwave format. The same applies to images - an image with a title of "poker image number 1" will have much less meaning to a search engine than a paragraph of text that contains the words "image of a Nevada Jacks poker chip". It is also very important to use proper headings (h1, h2, h3, etc.) when coding each page. Search engines will use your headings to help determine the nature of your web page.

The more links that you have pointing from other websites to yours, the better. Google loves websites with lots of links pointing to them. Contact other websites that are relevant to yours and ask them to post your link. Don't be surprised if your link requests get ignored and go unanswered. Do not be a pest! I receive about 10 requests a day to post links on my site. I am very selective and only end up posting about 1 of 20 requests.

Content

If you want people to visit your site, you must have valuable content! HomePokerTourney is successful for one main reason ... I have a lot of valuable poker information on this site! Think about it, every one of my pages is loaded with paragraph after paragraph of poker content (text). This site receives a lot of visitors because ... they know there is information on my site that they can benefit from! They know it's free and they know that if I don't have the information on my site, I probably have a link to a site that does!

You probably have little chance of having a successful website if you do not have valuable content on your site. Search engines look for paragraph after paragraph of original written text and if your site has little content (or your site is all images rather than text) there is probably little chance that your site will do well with search engines.

Design Your Website to Accommodate Your Visitors

Design your website so that your target audience feels comfortable using it. If I was creating a high-tech computer-related website, I would make my website appear very sleek and high-tech. If I was designing a music website, I would try to make it look like a music video - lots of sound and movement. But I run a poker website - many of my visitors are 60 year old curmudgeons who might not feel comfortable using a computer. I make my website very easy to navigate (simple menu on the left of every page) and I make the text large and easy to read. You don't have to search for the content on this website, it's right there in the middle of the page. Black text on a white background makes it very easy to read.

Good Luck

There you go - "How to build a successful website in one page or less". Now the hard part ... you have to come up with a reason why a couple thousand people per day will want to visit your website. Posting photos of your cute cat "Fluffy" will not get you many visitors. Good luck!

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