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» Spotlight on DeucesCracked

By: Zimba
May 25th, 2009 (12:25pm)

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The best way to create a successful company is to have a good idea, executed well by good people.  Certainly that's how our latest spotlighted poker site - DeucesCracked - got its start.

 

 "We’re a pretty small team," confides Rob 'Entity' Cole. "We have five founders and we’ve divvied up our responsibilities pretty naturally over the course of the last year and a half. There’s a fair amount of overlap amongst us, so while we have a lot of official tasks that keep us busy, everyone pitches in wherever they can."

 

Chuck Danielsson (danzasmack) is the finance guru of the group and the CFO.  Beyond the financial and organizational duties, he also plays a pretty big role in DC's marketing and creative efforts – he was the brains behind their initial puzzle game, “I Heart Ducks,” that announced the launch of the site in late 2007. Chuck and Rob work together on many of the organizational tasks of the company – legal and payroll and accounting and all of the other nightmares that keep things running smoothly internally.

 

Chris Vitch (DeathDonkey) is the CTO – he manages development of site code and other tech-based projects like The Hand Converter (www.thehandconverter.com). He is frequently found staring at his computer at 3AM fixing small bugs, adding functionality to the hand converter, or dreaming up cool features to implement in the future.


Joe Tall is DC's fearless COO – the gears that keep everything running smoothly. He also tackles 100% of the site's support emails (mostly through his Blackberry) and runs the affiliate department at affiliate.deucescracked.com. It’s Joe’s job to keep the rest of the team on their toes, and he does that job quite well.

 

Jason Rosenkrantz (KRANTZ) is the Chief Creative Officer (CCO). He’s super involved in marketing, business development, and community building. In addition to that workload he and DJ Sensei manage the content map, figuring out what content is needed and how to balance the team's schedule, so that DC is delivering the goods to as many people as possible.

 

Rob Cole is the CEO, though usually he goes by something less formal -- usually “ninja.” Rob is involved in most of the projects at DC, from the site development to marketing and business development. Also working in the same office as the development team, Rob will lend a hand in making site improvements wherever he can.

 

In addition to the five founders, Dan Morris (DJ Sensei) and Aaron Wilt (WiltOnTilt) have recently taken on roles helping with the community and some of the more creative aspects of marketing. DC also has one full time employee, Rusty Brown (TazUltimate) who produces all videos and runs the coaching department.

 

On a day-to-day basis, running DC is definitely a full time job. As cliché as it sounds, the fact they all love what they do really helps there. "I think each of us works harder on DC than we have on anything else in our lives," admits Cole. "There’s a ton of work that goes into every aspect of the business, from site and code development to video production, communicating with all our coaches, and administrative work, and each of us wakes up each morning knowing we’re going to put in a full day’s work."

 

Fortunately for Deuces Cracked, a great team with excellent advisers was assembled, so even when they’ve stumbled, it’s been fun. The goal from the get-go was to work together in the most agile fashion possible, which allows the team to learn from its mistakes and move quickly to adapt to new situations, and DC has been able to keep true to that goal as it's grown.


When DeucesCracked relaunched in January ’08, some saw the site as a bit of a game changer – offering features most training sites really hadn’t touched. "Everything we did when we started off was designed to stand out from the crowd," Cole notes.  "Doing videos as series rather than stand-alones, adding series' intros to our videos, introducing a free trial and no DRM on our videos – all of these were very intentional decisions to break up what people saw as “poker training.”


It’s tougher now with how much the market has expanded in the past two years,but that’s still their goal today; the feeling within DC is that innovation is key. Says Cole, "We’re always exploring ways to help people learn how to be better at poker. That pretty much sums up our overall aspiration: it’s our goal to be the best at teaching people how to play."

   

The notion of a HQ office for Deuces is a bit of a myth. Rob works with three members of the DC development team in Seattle, but Chris and Joe work in Southern California.  Jay and Chuck work from New York, when they aren’t traveling.  Since they are rarely in the same geographical location, a handful of programs are utilized to keep communication flowing as best possible. The two main tools used are Campfire (a group chat client) and Basecamp (web-based project management software), so the team can easily discuss and communicate ideas and projects to improve DC.


As far as the work itself goes, a fair amount of time is devoted to continually refining everything about DC to be as topical as possible – sometimes this means improvements to the site itself, sometimes it’s more content-based, like shifting the balance of a season to include more of a particular limit/game.  Some projects might involve marketing and promotions to keep the community growing and participating.


"It’s the best job I’ve ever had. Period," offers Cole.  "As much as everyone gives each other a hard time, everyone really love working together, which leads to some great pranks and an awesome work atmosphere. My favorite prank so far was on Joe Tall (see http://bit.ly/guQLm on our Facebook Page for pictures), where we changed the background of the site, but just for Joe, and didn’t tell him. His reaction was priceless."

 

Balancing work, poker and a personal life is different for each of the DC team. "For each of us it’s different," Cole explains. "We really strive to achieve a good balance at DC. Some of us will be more dedicated to the site and keeping things running smoothly, but others will be more dedicated to poker. For each of us, I think our personal lives top the list, but it’s a constant juggling act – I’ve had many times where I’ve been putting in 100+ hours a week to Deuces and during those times, I have to make sure that I have a little perspective."

 

Deuces Cracked is a 24-7-365 operation.  "It’s round-the-clock. Each of us will take a break when it’s necessary, but the site is something that we really pour our heart and soul into, and that means being available more or less whenever, wherever," Cole admits.  "I’m usually at either a computer or my iPhone (where I can read forums and check email) from about 8AM to 11PM every day – that’s not really out of the norm for any of us. We’ve developed such an awesome community at DeucesCracked because of our devotion to it, and it’s not something that we’re going to let taper off."

 

It's well known Rob Cole plays the least poker of everyone on the team. "It’s become something I do in my spare time, but given the priorities I have, actually playing the game falls by the wayside frequently.  I’ve been learning to play PLO recently and have some goals to play a lot more in upcoming months, but the main game I’m known for, LHE, is something I’ve played very little of in the past several months."


Of the rest of the founders, Jay (KRANTZ) probably plays the most poker of the entire DC crew.  For the rest, it varies on a monthly basis and upon what videos being created for the site of late. When working on a series, a lot of effort is placed on playing a ton to make sure the content is as good as possible, which amounts to playing a lot more poker when recording. Joe and Chris both play a lot of different games and play a fair amount live, and Chuck plays just about every game known to man.


DeucesCracked was originally a LHE-only site created by Entity, DeathDonkey, and Joe Tall. A small but awesome community developed a good reputation as a place to learn the basics of LHE. When the trio started talking with Jay in the summer of 2007, it was pretty clear both parties felt the poker training market had a lot of things wrong with it. Obviously, their philosophies about coaching, poker, and poker education would mesh together pretty well, too. Over the course of a few meetings and lots of email, AIM, and Skype, the core of DeucesCracked was formed. Notes Cole, "We’ve grown since then, but our business model and our vision for the site is very similar now to the way it was when we launched."


The best part of being so deeply involved in poker is the people and the community, hands-down. The whole notion of a “gambler’s agreement” is something that doesn’t exist elsewhere. "There are lots of people who I’ve encountered in poker," Cole confirms, "where a handshake agreement serves just as well as a litany of legal paperwork."


The worst part of being so deeply involved in poker is the specter unsavory elements of the gambling industry can cast. "Several companies I’ve talked to have deferred from doing business with us because risk analysts have determined there’s too much gamble (pun intended) with any website that uses the word “poker.” Frustrating at times, such negativity is just the reality of doing business in this climate.


The youth of the DC principals offers the resilience needed to fight negative opinions. "Being young, makes it much easier to be ambitious and take risks rather than always playing it safe," Cole concedes, "and we’re surrounded by lots of other people who have been involved in startups and similar ventures, so we get to learn from them and their experiences. Being young has had a huge impact on our overall take on business, as we’re more focused on doing the right thing by the community and less about pure bottom-line calculations, and we’re definitely not afraid to take risks."

 

Having a broad spectrum of ages among the founders helps DC keep a balanced perspective. As much as being young has its upside, it’s nice to have people who have been involved in numerous other ventures. "Joe and I are the old guys on the team and while we’re young for business," Rob Cole admits, "we’re old for the poker world.  We have a lot of life experience that helps balance some of the frenetic pace that too much youth can drive."

 

Cole likes to think DC differentiates itself from the competition because of its focus on the community. "Joe has always been fond of saying “it’s your site –we just work here” – and it’s the truth," says Cole. "From series like PLO Dojo and the Real Life: Microlimit Grinder installments, where we take community members and work with them directly to improve their poker game, we always start by asking “what is best for our members?” and working from there. A lot of other training sites put their focus entirely in one area, like recording videos or recruiting huge names. For us, those are important, but they need to be balanced; education is something that doesn’t just happen through a single method or a single perspective, but is something to be worked at and approached from a lot of different angles. We keep that in mind and use each of our strengths to work toward creating a community where the number one goal is to make you better at poker.

 

Cole refused to hype any plans for a better Deuces Cracked. All we could get out of  him was "we're just getting started."


Check our PokerCurious' review of DeucesCracked.

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