PocketFives’ Cal Spears Talks About the Launch of Local Poker Communities



Last week, PocketFives.com, a leading online poker community dating back to 2005 and catering to online and live poker players, launched PocketFives Local, which are localized poker community pages that “provide a unique medium for poker players to view local activity and interact with players in their area.”

As part of the PocketFives Local initiative, a specialized page has been established for every country in the world and each U.S. state featuring a wall “that displays activity like the latest posts in the PocketFives forums, new members joining the site, the newest player accolades earned, the latest cashes in live and online tournaments, and general chatter.”

As PocketFives Co-Founder Cal Spears said: "The central feature of this page is a column displaying updates on players in that location. Any time a player in that location does something noteworthy, such as cash in a live or online tournament or win a new PocketFives badge, we’ll automatically generate a post to this column."

In addition, each page will designate several "Leaders;” for example, the member with the most referrals will be designated as the page’s “Ambassador.” Similar title will be awarded to the players with the largest cash in the last three months, most Local posts and most cashes in the last three months.

Essentially, PocketFives Local is a social media site designed for poker players where members not only interact with one another and keep abreast of the latest poker developments in their area, but also "Raise" updates (similar to Facebook’s “Like” button) while maintaining the ability to comment on any item that appears in the main stream. They’ll also be updated, via PokerNearMe, of scheduled poker tournaments in their area.

PokerNews recently caught up with Spears to learn even more about PocketFives’ latest innovation.

How did the idea for PocketFives Local come about?

After Black Friday, the original team that developed PocketFives regained control of the website. We looked at the site and figured we needed to find a way to make it more relevant and more modern, given what had happened with online poker. It looked like poker was going to be a lot more localized. Different countries around the world were setting their own requirements. In the U.S., it could go the state-by-state route.

Basically we just had the one forum in English that gets a lot of action but isn’t very inviting for people around the world, so a big part of PocketFives Local was to get something relevant to every community around the world. We had all this information in our database already. We already have a lot of non-U.S. traffic because people want to be in the rankings, but we haven’t given them much in the way of community, and this was the perfect solution for that.

This seems social media-esque, almost like a Foursquare for poker. Would you agree?

I think it’s like Google+ meets Facebook because you have a wall where people can interact, you “raise” stuff the way you "like" other people’s activities. The biggest difference would be that we’re feeding a lot of stuff to the wall, like our deal with the Hendon Mob where anytime somebody in our database scores in a live tournament, Hendon Mob feeds us that result and we post it on the wall. Of course, we have the online scores in our database, so anytime someone scores online, we have a lot of automated feeds going in. I think that’s the biggest difference between a site like ours and a site like Facebook, which is entirely social interaction, whereas ours is a social interaction mixed with automated updates from our database giving you news on what’s happening in poker in your area.

How will the “PokerNearMe” be updated? Will someone within PocketsFives be updating it in each page or will members be responsible?

PokerNearMe is the actual name of the company. So if you go to pokernearme.com, you will find the company that has a pretty robust set of searches, and, from what I can tell, every single relevant live poker tournament. We checked them out early. I liked what we saw and we’ve got a deal with them to post on our local poker communities. It seems to be working out really well, so far.

When I visited PocketFives Local, I was immediately taken to the Wisconsin page, which is where I’m from. Are visitors always automatically routed to their proper page?

It looks at your IP address and then does its best to match you to a location in our database. If you’re already a member of PocketFives and you have your location in your profile as a lot of people do, it falls to that first, so it will look and see where you are in your profile. If it doesn’t have that in the profile, it will just look at your IP address and send you to the most appropriate page.

Is there anything stopping someone from, say Florida, viewing and posting in the California page?

No, it’s all open right now. You can post on any wall that you want to. That does open us up to some concerns with spam, but right now we really just want to figure out exactly what we have and how people are interacting with it, how people are using it, so we’re looking at every post right now that happens and getting a feel for what this is exactly to our users. From there, we’ll decide where we want to go with it and what changes we want to make.

In the press release you state that the local pages are Phase I of reaching a broader audience. Do you have an idea of what Phase II may be and can you share it with us?

We have a lot of ideas, but we’re still in that feeling-it-out phase in determining which direction to go next, but I’m happy to tell you the direction we have in mind, what we have on our plate right now that we’re deciding between. The first would be expanding the local pages to the rest of the locations in our database. Right now we have country and state, but we go as far as city in every single country in the world. So if you wanted to use our sortable rankings that we have on the front page, you could look up rankings just for Paris, France.

The plan is to eventually have a local community devoted to Paris, France, as an example. That’s going to expand and multiply the number of ranking pages we have exponentially, so we haven’t decided if that’s what we want to do yet as we want to see how people are interacting on the country level first.

In the meantime, we’ve been thinking of some other things we might want to do, one of which is a PocketFives Rail idea. With this, you would be able to “Rail,” which basically means to follow, any PocketFives member of your choosing. So every time you see a username on PocketFives, whether it be on a community page or a forum post, there would be a little button beside their screen name that says “Rail.” We’d design a rail page just for the people you want to follow, so instead of putting you into a location page, where you may or may not get enough people playing poker around you, the rail page would be specifically the people that you told us you want updates on. It’s going to look a lot like the middle column on the local pages where it posts live updates, but this would be just for the people that you’ve chosen to follow.

That’s something I’m pretty excited about. I think we’ll be in market with that very soon. We already have the foundation for it, so it wouldn’t be an enormous project. We’re also thinking about doing PocketFives group-style pages where your groups can have their own pages on PocketFives where you interact with each other but no one else can see it, similar to a circle on Google+.

You’re also going to be designating various titles to members such as “Table Captain” and “Grinder.” How did the idea for these leaders come about?

We wanted something kind of fun and something that could give people an extra sense of pride outside of just the rankings, and we also wanted to promote two of the big things we want people to do, which is post on the walls and to have people refer their friends. The “Ambassador” and “Table Captian” are based on that.

“Grinder” is the person with the most cashes, and that’s always cool to know who’s playing the most poker . . . we didn’t have anything to recognize that person, though they do typically show up in the rankings, so that’s what the “Grinder” title is. It only calculates it over the last three months, so this is the guy who is playing the most in your area right now. The “Chip Leader” is pretty straight forward, that’s just your biggest score in the last three months, so that’s the guy who stuck it big recently.

Do you envision ever using these local rankings to hold some sort of competition among the top performers? For instance, it would have been easy, prior to Black Friday, to host some sort of online tournament for qualifiers.

Yes, it’s something we’d like to do, and you kind of touched on what makes it difficult. It’s a little bit disjointed now because not everybody can play on the same sites. What we’d like to do with the P5’s leaders, the four guys in every single location, we’d like to invite them to a monthly freeroll or something where they compete and the winner gets a nice prize of some sort. That is something we have in mind, but haven’t actually executed on it yet.

To learn about your PocketFives Local community, visit PocketFives.com and click on the yellow "Local" link at the top of the site.

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