If you asked 100 people on ABestWeb what kind of experiences they have had interacting with B. Knoblach, they probably wouldn’t have a clue as to who you are talking about. But if you say the name Billy Kay, you’re likely to get a huge reaction.
Billy Kay is not just a screen name on ABestWeb; it’s the business identity of a man who has a huge personality and huge heart.
And yes, his first name is really just the letter “B” and no, it’s not short for something else. He claims that his dad was named Walter and didn’t want a junior so he named him B. Although it seems like there might have been other choices for his father, in the tale Knoblach tells that’s how it goes. Period.
One thing about Knoblach is that it’s hard to know just when he’s kidding or saying things for effect. Most of his talk seems designed to provoke and titillate. The way he says things is a huge part of who he is. He’s a fast-talking native New Yorker, who still has a noticeable accent despite having left his home state more than 30 years ago.
Back in the ’70s he made his way out west to California. He served in the Air Force straight out of high school and then used his GI benefits to attend college at CW Post. Armed with a degree in music and $10,000 worth of musical equipment (including keyboards, drums and guitars) to his name, he headed to Los Angeles with a big dream to make it as a professional musician.
But he claims that a shipping problem changed the course of his life. The instruments he shipped to LA arrived and were signed for, just not by him or at the correct address. Back then the tracking and authentication methods of package shippers weren’t as sophisticated as they are now. So after months of arguing with UPS about not receiving his instruments and also trying to file a police report (which was declined because the police said the goods weren’t stolen since someone signed for them) he called it a wash and started hunting for a job to pay the bills.
An ad in the paper looking for ex-New Yorkers who were musicians caught his attention. It was for a telemarketing job. He jokes that New Yorkers are ideally suited for telemarketing because they have the natural gift of gab. He has that in spades and thrived in the business. In fact, he did so well that he stayed there for eight years. He was a standout and not surprisingly was noticed by the owner of the company. His boss was apparently infamous for questionable money-making tactics. Billy Kay won’t reveal much more about those early days except to say that his tax forms listed his occupation as “publishing.”
But it was clear to him that something was missing. He had good money coming in and a serious girlfriend but he really wanted to be a parent. He thought about being a big brother but that wasn’t permanent enough. He jokes that he already had season passes to the zoo and lived near Magic Mountain, he just needed the kid. Someone suggested to him that he might want to think about being a foster parent.
So nearly 13 years ago Billy Kay took the steps to become a foster parent to a six-month-old boy named Jesse. He says it was the best thing he ever did. But being a parent meant undergoing some serious life changes.
In his personal life, Knoblach’s longtime girlfriend wasn’t willing to change her pampered lifestyle to accommodate a child, so they eventually split. “It changed our whole lives. Jesse wasn’t a puppy that could take care of himself. He needed someone who wanted to be there for him and share a life with him. She cared about getting her nails done and rubbing shoulders with stars.”
On the work side of things, Knoblach needed more “respectable” employment. He claims that he “knew what I was doing was wrong,” and started to look for other things to do. It all started with a Web ring for personalized gifts. He began his online marketing career as a drop shipper, and then one day in 1999 a merchant asked to place a banner ad on Knoblach’s page. He was stunned, given that the business wanted to pay him $5,000 and could have just put the ad up on the ring for free. Knoblach took the deal and the next thing he knew that merchant’s direct competition called and wanted to place an ad. Suddenly there was a bidding war and Knoblach was the beneficiary.
Then “affiliate marketing was invented” Knoblach says, and the merchant asked if instead of incurring the shipping charges and the hassles associated with drop shipping if Knoblach wanted to be an affiliate.
Meanwhile, four years had passed and within the California foster care system, you had to relinquish care of a foster child or adopt them. There was no question in Knoblach’s mind that he could never give up Jesse.
So he began the complex process to legally adopt, but there were some huge hurdles. The first and foremost issue was that Jesse is African-American and Knoblach is Caucasian and California had very strict state laws governing interracial adoption. After years of legal battle, racial sensitivity training classes and a yearlong court-imposed order whereby the two had to move to New York for a year to be close to Knoblach’s Long Island family, the adoption was legally sanctioned.
When the year in New York was up, Jesse was five and they immediately planned to move back to LA but “stopped in Las Vegas on the way home and never left.”
Viva Las Vegas!
Living in Sin City isn’t for everyone, but Knoblach isn’t like everyone. For him that straight-laced life conjured up images of parents that spent little time with their kids. “I didn’t want to see Jesse just 10 minutes a day. I wanted to have work that would let me spend my life with him.”
The pair has been living in Las Vegas for nine years and Jesse, who is now 13 and in the seventh grade, spends lots of quality time with his dad. Bill Kay can thank his job as an affiliate marketer for that freedom.
“I thought, all I have to do is put up a link and not deal with customers; why not?” he says. “I lucked out when I found this.”
Suddenly he started expanding, going from his mail order collectible site (MailOrderShoppe.com), which is still his main moneymaker, to niche sites (ceramic baby shoes, business cards, golf gifts, etc.) and coupon sites.
Currently he runs about 20 sites and typically wakes up each day at 4:00 a.m. to begin his three hours of work to update all the sites. By the time he’s through with that process, it’s time for him to get Jesse off to school. Once Jesse is gone, Knoblach gets into what he calls the experimental stuff and then he claims he’s burnt out by 10:00 a.m. When Jesse gets out of school at 2:30, he and Knoblach often go to one of a handful of casinos.
Knoblach takes his laptop and often works from a casino, whether it is the lobby of the Mirage or in a poolside cabana at the Palms. In fact, taped to the bottom of his laptop is his business license so that his place of business is wherever he happens to be working on his laptop at the time.
It sounds like something out of the movie “Casino.” One day he’ll be working at the MGM; the next he’s at the Excalibur. He’s treated well because he’s got host contacts at all of these casinos. That means he can call up his host at whatever establishment and say, “Jesse and I would like to see a show, or, we’d like to come swimming on Friday,” and whatever the request (within reason), it will be arranged immediately.
He boasts that he once had the presidential cabana at the Palms and that they kicked out Vince Neil of Motley Crue in order to make room for him and Jesse.
To celebrate Thanksgiving last year, the Luxor flew the pair up to Reno in a private jet. And then put them up at a swanky hotel. Jesse is also probably one of the few teenagers that receive a personalized Christmas card from the Maloofs, the billionaire owners of the Palms. Often one of these hotels will send a car to Jesse’s school to pick him up, where the 13-year-old will be greeted by a limo driver holding a sign with his name on it.
The high-roller treatment occurs because Knoblach is a regular and loyal gambler. Video poker is his game of choice. He says you don’t have to be super rich to get perks. All it really takes is loyalty and showing up at the same casinos. His coin-in rate (which is the amount of money you put in and how much that added up to before you cashed out) at the Palms last year was $1.8 million. He allows himself to gamble for one hour each day. He doesn’t set a money-spending limit but instead just sticks to his set time limit. During that hour he gives Jesse $20 to go to the casino’s arcade and lets the boy play video games.
After that the two get together for regular stuff – like dinner and homework. They enjoy spectator events such as movies, shows, sporting events. Although lately Jesse has been trying to get his dad into more participatory things like playing baseball rather than just watching it.
Creating a Family
Knoblach is anything but a spectator on the message forum ABestWeb.com. He’s an active and vocal poster at ABW, which he likens to a family. That’s very important to him because he says he’s not particularly close to his own family.
He also gives back and treats his ABW “family” well – especially when he gets to play host in his “hometown.” At the Affiliate Summit conference, which was held in Vegas last January, four hotels gave Knoblach comp rooms. He ended up passing on that good fortune to several out-of-town affiliates attending the show to help them defer costs. He also generously offered a few of his colleagues some friendly gambling tips. And in one case his advice helped net a friend a $500 payout.
He credits others with helping him along the way – especially Haiko de Poel Jr., ABW’s founder [and Shawn Collins]. “If it weren’t for Haiko, Billy Kay wouldn’t exist,” he says. “They are both really good at what they do and I got so much from both of them.”
The rest he’s learned through much trial and error and lots of research. “You’ve got to do your research. It’s 90 percent of your job as an affiliate.”
He also says that he works backwards. When he was planning to create a site for license plate frames, he did a search to check on what search terms people are using for them. Then he made 48 pages using the 48 exact terms people searched for. No more; no less.
Research is important but so are common sense and good instincts. Because of his previous work, Knoblach claims that he can think much like the bad actors out there trying to steal commissions. This helps him put in place ways to thwart parasites and other bad folks. It also helps him when analyzing his numbers. He’s good at spotting inconsistencies and looking for the angles.
So, the obvious question is, why hasn’t someone who has an aptitude for fast talking and making money, perverted his online business (which is always ripe for scammers) into that kind of operation – especially since so many of these scammers do it because it’s very lucrative?
“I have a conscience. It would only take a second for me to do something bad, but I won’t. I spend half of my day trying to defeat the bad apples. It’s a pain. I truly believe that some congressman’s wife will get a bug about this and then there will be regulation regarding this behavior.”
Instead, he’s fallen in with a crowd that abhors that type of behavior and is not shy about making it public.
Meanwhile, Knoblach spends a lot of his work life looking into new things. “Copying and pasting links is drudge work. Thinking about new ideas is the fun part.” He’s getting into a partnership with some peers from the affiliate space, but he coyly declined to provide any details except to say that “it will be bigger than eBates.”
But Knoblach’s life as an affiliate is really just about having a job that allows him to focus on raising Jesse. His work gives them both freedom and a good life filled with fun and enjoyment. We’re not a regular family but “life is great. Who could ask for more?”