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Head of Strategy Insight How poker strategy can help your content marketing

Head of Strategy Insight: How poker strategy can help your content marketing

Poker and content marketing have many similarities. They both require a lot of thought, a high level of strategic knowledge, and just a little bit of luck.

In this article I will explore some common poker terminology and strategies and how they relate to content marketing.

Slow playing

Poker: Slow playing means to play your strong hand cautiously in order to convince your opponents that you have a tough decision to make

Content Marketing: Slow playing your content marketing strategy is less about hiding anything, but more about taking a calculated approach to your decision making.

In poker, slow playing can backfire because you give your opponents opportunities to get lucky. Though if they don’t get lucky, your payouts will be huge.

Your content marketing strategy should slow down when you are unsure. When this happens, take time to assess the data and make an informed decision. Once you are confident again you should move into a quicker and more aggressive strategic style.

Bad beat

Poker: A bad beat refers to getting extremely unlucky. An example of this might be having a 90% chance of winning the hand with one card still to come, and then losing.

Content Marketing: This happens in content marketing all the time. You might create an amazing piece of content and despite your best efforts, it just doesn’t perform as expected. The reasons might be something as simple as a competitor having a slightly better optimised website that ranks their content above yours.

What you need to remember is that you can always be on the other side of the bad beat – the one getting lucky. You can’t let unfortunate circumstances deflate you. This will always hurt your content marketing strategy as a whole. The lesson here is that when you play a long game – like poker or content marketing – ‘bad beats’ inevitably crop up from time to time. But if your overall strategy is sound, you’ll win out in the long run.

“You’ve got to know when to hold’em, know when to fold’em”

Poker: This is a song lyric made famous by Kenny Rogers in The Gambler (see video below). The song talks about picking your battles and making logical decisions.

Content Marketing: There is plenty you can learn from this quote (and the song as a whole) that can be applied to your content marketing strategy,

The biggest takeaway is about timing.

As content marketing evolves with technology, timing becomes crucial. Gone are the days where content marketing was about slapping as many blog articles on your site as possible. While this still has some benefits, you will be behind the competition if you’re not strategic about when you do what.

A real world example of poor timing is companies starting their Christmas marketing in October. Every year people run to social media to complain about their local supermarket flooding the shelves with Christmas items too early.

As a simple remedy, you should at least ensure you know when to hold ‘em by creating a content calendar that lays out the timing of your campaigns.

Overplaying your hand

Poker: Overplaying your hand in poker refers to trying to be too tricky or fancy instead of adhering to basic tactics.

Content Marketing: This is one of the biggest emerging trends in the world of content marketing. Marketers are always looking for new, creative ways to market to their audience. The problem is they are trying too hard and the results aren’t great.

When it comes to planning your content marketing activities you should always start with the basics and ensure the foundations are in place.

An example of this would be not properly defining your target audience or not building out user personas. This can be a costly mistake. Having this information allows for stronger guidance with your content marketing strategy leading to fewer mistakes.

Too many marketers get way too excited about getting their content live that they forget the basics and are confused when the results just aren’t there.

The rake

Poker: In poker, the rake is the cut the house takes. Poker is a game you play against other players not the house (a casino or poker room). In order for the house to make money, they take a percentage of the money bet each hand.

Content Marketing: In the world of content marketing, the paid advertising platforms are the rake.

Let’s take Google for example. Their whole business model revolves around selling advertising space.

Given how competitive organic rankings are, most content marketing strategies need to utilise a paid advertising platform to see results.

Just like the rake in poker, this is a necessary evil in order to amplify your content, ensuring you get a seat at the table.

Outplaying your opponent

Poker: Being able to see what cards your opponent is holding would almost guarantee constant winning. However, because the cards are face-down, you need to constantly assess your opponent to figure out what they are holding. Using this information can let  you outplay them, regardless of the cards you are holding.

Content Marketing: When it comes to analysing the competition, many companies aren’t looking at the content marketing others are doing.

While it’s always more fun to be original, if your competitors are doing it successfully, you need to swallow your pride and do something similar. This is not to say you should copy them, but instead keep up.

A great example of this is resource libraries, like the one created by Hubspot. These are clearly effective and popular with their audience – yet all that HubSpot has done here is take all their assets and put them in an easy-to-use section of their website.

Many of Hubspot’s direct competitors also have great assets, but they haven’t thought to use them in the way Hubspot has. Even though simply by emulating Hubspot (and attempting to do an even better job of it, while they’re at it), they could easily nullify their competitive advantage.


Poker: The act of moving all-in means to bet every single chip you have in front of you. This is typically an aggressive move that carries high risk. If you lose you are out.

Content Marketing: Do not go ‘all-in’ on any one content marketing activity. This tactic sometimes works in poker because it can intimidate your opponent into folding their hand. Content marketing doesn’t need that much aggression.

Putting all of your eggs in one basket is a recipe for disaster. You need to spread your risk and be constantly looking for new opportunities. You can’t do this by only focusing on one thing.

A chip and a chair

Poker: This phrase was made famous by the answer to the question above. He managed to win the World Series of Poker Main Event after being down to a single chip. This helped coin the phrase ‘a chip and a chair’. It means that you might think you are down and out, but until you have nothing left, you’re still in it.

Content Marketing: This applies well to content marketing. It’s a really tough game when you’re competing against other sites who are trying to win over the same audience.

Many marketers think that if they haven’t had any results from their content marketing activity yet, it will be impossible to see any. This is very far from the truth.

The key is to understand that the competition is likely far ahead of you. If this is the case then you need to think outside of the box, which can open up other opportunities for you to make your move.


Poker: When you are bluffing in poker you typically think your opponent has a weak hand and you make a play in the hopes they think you have a stronger hand, even if you don’t.

Content Marketing: So there is a reason this is at the bottom of the list. Content marketing is quite a pure marketing form and doesn’t benefit from any kind of deceit. When it’s really obvious what your content marketing strategy is, you are probably doing the right thing. Anyone interacting with your brand knows you are trying to educate and inform them and you WANT this to be the case.

Remember, in content marketing you aren’t playing against your audience – they’re more like a spectator who you trust to show your hand. And if they like the way you play, they might even stake you another round.

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Trent Paul About the author

Trent is Castleford’s top SEO expert and Head of Strategy for the business. His monthly Head of Strategy Insights column digs deep into SEO, UX, CRO and the world of social media and Google Ads campaigns.

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