The Blogfiles: PocketFives

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Intro: Ok, "technically" PocketFives is not a blog. But as we’ve state numerous times, facts get in the way of things. PocketFives is a site many of you are a registered user of, as they can boast over 15,000 members. Equally impressive is that PocketFives’ registered users are approaching $1.5 million earned so far at the 2006 WSOP. The site is a true online poker success story, containing forums, advice, reviews, and online player rankings. We caught up with Cal Spears, PocketFives President, to get his take on what established the site as the primary authority for online poker players.

WCP: What gave you the idea to start PocketFives?

CS: I was playing online poker very heavily in 2004. After a while I began noticing the same names doing well over and over again. I also noticed these same screen names were winning tournaments on different sites. Certain players were clearly dominating the online game, and some online names were developing a fan base as well. There was a lot going on in online poker, but no site that really tied it all together into a community devoted to online poker. The idea behind PocketFives was to recognize these great players for their online accomplishments and to build a community around the idea that online players are legit. I discussed the idea with Riley Bryant, a friend, fellow poker player, and savvy programmer who loved it and was excited to build it. We also brought in another friend and poker player, Adam Small, for content once the site started to take shape and we realized he’d fit in perfectly with what we’re doing. We all loved poker, believed strongly in the idea, and worked hard at it, and all the pieces fell into place.

WCP: Did you ever think you’d get 15,000 members so quickly?

We always thought that it was an idea that could really take off.

Otherwise it would have been hard to put all the time into it that we did. That said, it’s still pretty amazing to sit back and consider how much the site has grown in a year and a half. The buzz we got even before launching was amazing, and the growth has been steady since then.

We’re getting about 50 new members every single day. We’ve got a lot of plans for continuing to grow – such as PocketFivesLive, where we’ll cover online players who qualified into the major live events, as well as a very cool new rankings system with an automated element and more content and images from the top players online.

WCP: Give us some of your background pre-Pocket 5′s…

PocketfivesguysCS: I grew up in Madisonville, KY, a quiet little city of 19,000 people. I graduated from Vanderbilt University in 2003 after studying Economics and History. I accepted a job at Rivals.com as Internal Marketing Manager. It was there that I learned and honed my abilities to run an Internet content-based community. My work at Rivals.com clearly laid the foundation for PocketFives. I had to get a job to pay the bills, but my real interest has always been entrepreneurial. I also have a Bar Trivia business that I have run on the side since my senior year of college.

At right, the guys of PocketFives: Riley Bryant (Tech Director) is on the left, Cal Spears (President) is center, and Adam Small (Chief Editor) is far right.

WCP: How’d you get hooked up with the PPA and how did the Write Your Congressmen Day campaign go?

CS: We wanted to do everything we could do make an impact in the fight
against the online gaming ban. Our recent success allowed us to hire a new employee, Dan Cypra, who excels in media relations. We came up with the idea and then he contacted the necessary people to make it happen.

He also got Greg Raymer and online star brsavage involved in the effort. We had over 5,000 emails sent to U.S. congressmen on Write Your Congressmen Day, so we feel that campaign was a success. However, there is still a lot of work to be done by everyone who supports online poker, and, for that matter, personal freedoms. We need to let the government know it’s not their place to tell us we can’t play the game we enjoy.

WCP: What’s the best online handle you’ve seen?

CS: The best online handle I’ve seen also comes with a funny story.

Adam and I have always chuckled at the screen name of a very good Paradise Poker player named "Soggy Vag." He’d been a member of our site and occasional poster for over a year but we had never met him before we ran into him in Vegas one day. We were walking through the Bellagio poker room and Adam was wearing a PocketFives shirt when someone stood up at a nearby table and yelled – "Hey, are you Adam from PocketFives?!? I’m Soggy Vag!" Obviously this turned a lot of heads.

WCP: If a chick ever told us her name was "Soggy Vag" we’d run for the hills. Anyway, what common trait do you most see from the really successful online players?

CS: Focus, stamina, and confidence are common traits in all of the best players. These seem simple, but anyone who has played a lot of online poker knows it’s easy to start making bad decisions and question yourself after seeing 500 hands in one day. Aside from these basics, many of them also just have incredible, seemingly natural ability to read, understand, remember, and react to situations at the virtual poker table.

WCP: What are your plans for this year’s WSOP?

CS: For the main event, all the PocketFives Staff is going to be there covering the online players for our new product, PocketFivesLive. P5sLive will cover online players that satellite into the biggest live events. There will be interviews, images, anecdotes, chip count updates, etc.

WCP: The Goodlatte bill just passed the House. Is a ban imminent?

CS: A ban is far from imminent. Something is going to have to change, but hopefully that will be some form of regulation. Millions of Americans play online poker responsibly. There’s a lot of money to be made if the government figures out how to regulate and tax it, and a lot of responsible, wealthy voters to piss off if they ban it. I could really go off on a rant about how it’s not the government’s place to hold our hands and tell us what we can and can’t do with our money, but I think it’s clear enough how I feel.

WCP: What’s the male/female ratio of Pocket5′ers?

CS: Funny you ask that now, we just did a survey last week. We are 96.6% male. I think my girlfriend and stepmom are the only female members on the site.

WCP: How often do you play pocket 5′s now in situations that you probably shouldn’t?

All the time. If I’m playing a cash game I will almost always try to see the flop with them. I know it’s silly, but it’s Pocket Fives. Plus, I’ve heard that hand has magical powers. If I’m in a bigger buy-in tournament I have to really step back and make sure I don’t do anything stupid. However, if the pocket fives that I get dealt are two red fives, there’s a good chance all my chips are going in the middle.

WCP: We always ask people to give us their dream six-person table…can be living, dead, or fictitious…for you, we want that answer, but we want it with online players (and what site you’d be playing on)…

CS: Intriguing question. I would go back to my roots here and choose the players that first made me realize that some online players were just flat out dominant. These guys are all among the first online poker celebrities: One would have to be Teecoy (nee Mike Tikoian), who used to win everything on Stars. Jim "KrazyKanuck" Worth and Mark "P0ker H0" Kroon, would certainly have a spot. I remember being shocked when seeing P0ker H0 getting some of the same treatment Annie Duke and Phil Hellmuth received in the UB table chat boxes. I would also want cash game star Spirit Rock/Mahatma (Prahlad Friedman) at this table. I remember playing two tables of $1-$2 limit holdem while watching him play three tables of $25-$50 NL with over $100 grand spread out between the tables. I’m more impressed by Green Plastic today, but back in the day I was one of the many players in awe of Spirit Rock. The final spot would go to JohnnyBax (Cliff Josephy), our number one ranked player for over a year, who has the most impressive online poker tournament resume hands down.

We’d have to play this out on the premier tournament site, PokerStars. I still like other interface’s better, but what Stars has done for online poker tournaments should be appreciated by players everywhere.

WCP: Thanks Cal, and readers, if you’re not already registered, get over to PocketFives and get signed up today.

 

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