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From Noble beginnings, a Titan is born

From Noble beginnings, a Titan is born 0001

In December of last year, an online poker room opened. Actually, probably fifty online poker rooms opened that month. But, almost immediately, one new room distanced itself from the pack. Noble Poker's visibility was very quickly highly disproportionate to the amount of time they had been in the market. And, in part due to that high visibility, a funny thing happened. Noble was able to build a player base in a ridiculously competitive environment. With all the new entries in the market thrashing about, and indeed many of the older rooms fighting to gain (or in some cases regain) market share, Noble was able to gain traction, and build themselves a nice business.

So, what happens in an industry growing at the speed of light when a small room gains itself a good amount of business? That business gets acquired. That is exactly what happened to Noble Poker, as Empire Poker came calling, and made Noble an offer they couldn't refuse. The deal was done, and nearly as quickly as they had formed, Noble Poker was sold.

This sale left the people who had built the business without a baby to tend to. So, what did the people who built Noble choose to do? They opened a new online poker room, Titan Poker.

In only a few weeks since their September 1st launch, Titan Poker has become one of the more visible online rooms out in the market. Only time will tell if the folks at Titan will be able to repeat the success they had with Noble. I recently sat down with Micheal Katz, to talk about the last year of his life, and the transition from Noble to Titan. Michael is the CEO of Traffic Sales, the marketing company that built Noble, and has set out to build another online poker room into, well, a Titan.

PokerNews (Caldwell): You had a whirlwind nine months with Noble. Is there one thing that surprised you the most during the process?

Michael Katz: What surprised me the most? I don't think there are any big surprises along the way. It is very, very hard when a new network starts off and you're the first room on there that is really pushing it. The liquidity of the network just isn't there to begin with. So, if anything, I'm surprised how well we did in the time we were running. If you think about it, we actively marketed from December 2004 to August 2005, and what we achieved in that nine months, I don't think that has ever been matched in the past with any other poker network that set-up preparation of that kind, so that's probably the thing that surprised me the most.

PN: So, you had Noble for a year. Then you sold. Was that sort of a strategy?

Katz: There was never a strategy to sell Noble, not one I know, anyway {smiles}. However, once we had built up a liquidity, and an offer came in from Empire, then business wise it made perfect sense for Noble to be run by another entity who had the funds to continue the momentum that we built up, for us to set up a new room to enter a network that had an existing liquidity and we're seeing already the result of that existing liquidity of Titan. That's the big surprise, how well Titan has done at the moment in such a short time.

PN: How do you think Empire will do?

Katz: That's a difficult answer. I really don't know. They are a bit aggressive. They are aggressive with everything. They have good affiliate managers working for them. They are a network is so totally different to iGlobal Media, that it is very hard for me to say. They are obviously going to be able to do things on a network basis regarding tournaments that they have been unable to do so far with iGlobal Media. I think they will do well. I hope, for the benefit of the network, which involves everybody ..that they do do well, and the liquidity of the network grows..... That is good for everyone.

PN: One thing that impressed nearly everyone in the business is how fast Noble was able to build up a player base. Do you expect the same thing from Titan?

Katz: Probably even more so.

PN: How will 'more so' manifest itself?

Katz: We know exactly what we are looking for. The difference this time is we are going for player quality instead of player quantity. We were very aggressive in the early days with our 10 dollar free offers, big bonuses, with incentivized sites that didn't have too much of a raked hand requirement. We now are doing the reverse to that. We've got very structured bonus programs, we want to encourage the players to stay around, we want to nurture them to play ring games, to play tournaments, to play sit n gos...basically just stay with us and enjoy the experience. I think with what we've learned in the last 12 months, we will do that with Titan.

PN: We all learn lessons as we do business, right? I'm sure you learned some with Noble. Is there one lesson you can really point to that you can and will apply to Titan?

Katz: There are a number of lessons. One thing that we have learned, you have to build up the core first. We need to concentrate on the business where it is, now the business is on the Internet, so we need to advertise and be seen everywhere on the Internet. And that may involve things like cutting down on some of the media campaigns we did offline. It may not be has hurried as we did with Noble. We rushed into a lot of offline campaigns and promotions with Noble, and I think that with Titan we are just going to take it slower with offline promotions and build up our business where it is going to grow the fastest.

PN: Do you feel that online dollars spent are more effective than offline dollars?

Katz: Absolutely. You can always see your return investment on online dollars within the first month of spending. With offline dollars, you don't see it until six months to a year.

PN: With respect to the infrastructure that is in place now, was it simply a situation where you sort of flipped one switch on, and flipped another switch off, with respect to Noble and Titan. Will it essentially be the same infrastructure, from top to bottom?

Katz: For us, things haven't changed that much. We have built up some very good advertising and affiliate relations which are now in the process of switching over, if they haven't already, to Titan. Even now, we are quite dominant where we positioned on the Internet within the first few days. You can already see Titan all over the place when your doing organic searches related to poker. Its probably just a case of switching everything over to Titan now.

PN: I assume you have a couple of things up your sleeve for Titan that you maybe want to talk about here. Or, maybe not? Did you just wake up on September 1st with some new ideas. Anything you want to share or talk about as far as what you guys are trying to do?

Katz: Basically, as you said, things are possibly up our sleeve and I think the best thing to do is just to stay tuned and keep watching {smiles}.

PN: We still see a lot of new entries in the market. Where does it stop, when does it reach a critical mass and where does it go?

Katz: That is the sixty-four million dollar question right now. I think speculation may play a great part in that. Speculation has started due to what's happened recently with the flotation of Party Poker. I don't think personally that actually represents the majority of online poker sites. I don't think that the whole of the online poker industry can be judged by one particular poker room. I don't see it slowing down in the immediate future. I see more and more rooms, however I do think what will happen is that the small rooms will just fade away if they don't make it. It is very, very hard to make it if there is no investment money.

PN: So, these smaller rooms, do you actually see them fading out or just see mass acquisition and whatever.

Katz: Both. I think there will be definitely both.

PN: What happens to the money when the room just fades out? Security is more of an issue.

Katz: That's a thing with online gaming as a rule that players coming in are always scared that they are going to make deposits and then everything is just going to disappear. Which is why it is always best to go to established sites like Titan and the iPoker Network.

PN: Where do you see yourself, let's say in three years? Are you going to stay in poker or have you thought of branching out to other types of games or have you done that already?

Katz: We represent online casino owners as well as poker... Me personally, I'm only involved in the poker side and it is the only side I actually want to be involved in. So, in three years from now, I wouldn't be too upset if I was just doing what I am doing now.

PN: Did you get involved in poker because of your personal passion for poker, or is it because you think it is the best business?

Katz: I enjoy marketing and I enjoy poker marketing. For me right now, I am in the best job in the world.

PN: What is your strategy for Titan?

Katz: To grow, and be a command post in the online poker market.

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