min read
Inside the Pokercode - The start - Pokercode Origins Part 2
Johannes Mansbart
CEO @Pokercode

So, we all know now the story of the very early days. How Fedor got to know Matthias, how they instantly found respect for each others' game, how they casually went for breakfast the following morning and the bromance would evolve, making it easy for them to work together, hopefully for years to come. We found out about the other owners and partners at the Pokercode, who were and are eagerly working on the success of our community behind the scenes. We found out how Fedor asked me at a casual dinner, whether I wanted to grow his next baby for, and together with, him.

Starting out

Now, today's read should try to give you a good insight into how the next months would play out. Imagine me going to the, back then Primed Mind headquarters and home of other endeavors of Fedor, office in Wipplingerstraße 42/2/12, Vienna's first district, for the first time on March 23rd, 2019. I had high respect for Fedor's companies and products he had built, yet I never had gotten to know anyone from his team(s), or his office, or anything about it. It was just the stories and perceptions I could rely on. From talks with him, from his speeches, you can find on the web, from the stuff you find when you casually google your friend, Fedor Holz.

Fedor Holz at Web Summit 2017.

First day at the office

I entered Fedor's office and was immediately welcomed by a very positive and calm atmosphere. I instantly felt welcome, even though it was surely busy and quite crowded. With Under the Tree, and Primed Mind, Fedor was running two companies already back then, despite his numerous investments and other ventures he had partnered with or invested in. So, with quite some respect, I introduced myself as Johannes, the guy who would be responsible for Fedor's poker course, and got to know everyone. Lisi was there, head of marketing for Under the Tree, the community space Fedor was trying to build in Vienna. Jakob, the chef de cuisine and Culinaire, Klemen, the lead designer of all Fedor's own projects, Mariella was there, Andrew the beast-developer, Felix, head of Primed Mind together with Christian, Niklas, and maybe I even forgot one or the other, in case, I apologize. I massive crowd of hand-selected gems Fedor surrounded himself with. Pure talent compiled. I was impressed yet motivated and moved into my office space: the sauna box in the very back of the office. No other table was available back then, and the sauna box seemed just fine. A little isolation audio-wise, a small bar stool, a lamp, electricity, wifi. It'd be enough for Pokercode's first steps. My memories for the exact first day are limited, I can just recall how I got to know everyone, got a very warm welcome despite being a complete stranger to everyone, how I moved into the sauna hut with my notebook and nothing but some vague ideas and imagination of where this was about to go, and with a lot of dedication and motivation to turn this great unknown into something great and fulfilling for everyone involved.

The Team

Obviously, it is not just Kate, Stefan, Fedor, Matthias, Simon, and Johannes. Obviously, those are not the ones, who will start writing emails, start designing landing pages, start writing terms of service, social media posts, grow partnerships with other tools, pull up the legal framework. There actually was a small team of warriors right from the beginning, without whom nothing would have been possible. First to mention here is and will always be Jan. Our design lead. Jan is a fantastically gifted, talented, and skilled young man from Poland, and without him, the Pokercode would be nowhere close to where it is today. Jan is not only the founder of Pokercode's branding, but he also ramped up the design of our "course" back then, adapting over 1200 graphics split into over 23 graphic groups, no, he also pulled up all landing pages, is our UI/UX lead, does the prototyping, and is the heart and soul of our team. Thanks, Jan, for being there and with us since day 1. Grinding your arse off, having to bear the chaotic project management and unprofessionalism I sometimes expose you to without even knowing. Also, Wojciech was an important part of our team for the first 1.5 years, before we parted ways this winter. Wojciech took care of the engineering of the whole platform for the first many months and moved mountains in that time. As a group of three, with help from Fedor's network such as my early sparring partner Mariella, and marketing beast Magda, we managed to get going and achieve impressive stuff in little time and with very limited resources. The fact that few players carry many and big responsibilities, is still the fact up until today, even though our team has grown a lot and many more players are involved in a growing and more and more complex ecosystem of the Pokercode.

The Production

In April 2019, the happy news arrived us in Vienna, that we would finally be ready to record and build the actual poker course. Now, we could finally turn what Fedor, Matthias, and Igor had been working on so hard for so long, into practice. The camera team and cinematic production scenery were ready, and we would go to Bochum, Germany, to produce the "best poker course ever", we were still convinced of that, holding onto our vision of combining the masterclass production quality with the most advanced poker content ever, in May 2019. When I booked my Airbnb everything I was looking for was: cheap. Save company money. So, I obviously booked the cheapest Airbnb anywhere close, around €20/night, no heating, one room, a small bathroom. Had I known that Fedor would join my stay, maybe I would have acted differently. However, props to Fedor that he really stayed in that "apartment" for the first four out of five nights, before he finally booked a nice hotel for the last one. To make things even worse, from night #1 on I didn't sleep at all during the nights, since I had to c&p the copy from the framework onto a "teleprompter"; a tool that would show the copy that is to be read out loudly by the speaker, in a good, readable motion. We didn't know that had existed, but what we realized from day 1 was, that Fedor couldn't properly ready any text from the google spreadsheet on the improvised monitor. So, he had the monitor with the solutions, graphics, and charts on the one monitor, and from day2 on the text on the teleprompter. It was no surprise that I started sleeping during the days whilst Fedor was recording. Not a good setup, because now, no one at the set, apart from Fedor, had any clue about poker, so no quality-control about what was spoken could happen. It was a tough grind. Add the fact it was freezing cold in the factory we were recording, so we had to demand tea constantly, and even install a heater behind Fedor's back, and the 10hrs marathons/day is hopefully well imaginable for you as a reader.

After that insane week, we celebrated the production with some parts of the crew with a good pizza in Bochum town, before parting ways and heading back to Vienna via airplane. Little did we know that the grind was just about to start.

Fedor Holz with his cup of tea in the cold recording studio.

Post-producing the Pokercode

We had no idea. We had no fucking idea. We had no idea how much and what it would take to turn those around 45 hours of raw material, the thousands of lines of google spreadsheet, the thousands of graphics Igor, Fedor, and Matthias had put together out of countless hours solving PIO & Co. We had no idea how much and long it would take, to turn it into our desired result. Pascal "Diggi" Schröder had already cut the 45hrs into roughly 15-18hrs before I went to Hamburg so we could shift-chop the Pokercode, despite me never having chopped anything with adobe or anything, before in my life. All that, whilst our designers Jan and Giang were adapting the thousands of charts, solutions, and graphics into Pokercode's CI, so it would be truly beautifully enjoyable content. Not only did it mean splitting those thousands of graphics into graphic-types, and then naming them after each "sheet-line-graphic type-number" for every single graphic. All this, whilst cautiously scripting the exact graphics into the video, so Giang would know when to insert them after Jan had fine-tuned and adapted them. On top of that, we wanted animations, so I detailedly scripted every single animation for Giang to enter. We soon stopped the animations, or at least drastically reduced them, because it was simply not humanly doable. This was one side of the medal. A process, that took us many months and cost us a healthy five-digit sum. After having produced the Pokercode for a healthy six-digit in the first place already. It was because we were so convinced of the ideal picture of a product we wanted to build for our Team Pokercode members, who we stayed in contact with through social media and e-mail back in the days.

Las Vegas

In July 2019, Fedor, Matthias, and I gathered in Vegas. We gathered in Vegas not only to show off our brand new and fresh orange presale package hoodie, available for our early adopters from the moment on, but Fedor and Matthias also went online with their presale launch stream directly from Las Vegas. Running giveaways on the side, reporting through social media and e-mail two weeks of the WSOP, wearing our hoodies, sharing our passion and vision with the poker industry for the first time.

Triton Series London

The next highlight in our kickoff year was the 1,000,000 pounds buy-in super high roller directly from Triton London. Entering the tournament hall, I just took the best table in the press area, sitting there Pokercode-branded, interviewing the likes such as Manig Löser and Jeff Gross. The hype was real once again and we elevated our Presale to phase 2, anticipating the nearing launch of the Pokercode course, by Fedor Holz and Matthias Eibinger.

All the Pokercode Pre-sale packages in front of the post office.

Presale gets intense

Obviously, when we promised presale packages including the orange legendary hoodie, hand-signed cards by Fedor and Matthias (shipped to - and back from - Vegas!), a stress ball, hat, branded box, Pokercode chip... we had no idea what process we'd have to endure in order to have them shipped and arrive at the actual first Team Pokercode members. We had to buy and quality-control all the assets, gather them in the headquarter, package them... Then, at the post office, we realized we'd need tens of custom papers to fill out and put on the packages, which was insane. We, Anna, her sister Sophie (nowadays responsible for the merch), and I, spending hours in the heat, with all those packages in front of the Klosterneuburg Post Office, melting away whilst filling out those fucking custom papers, so that we could finally send out those Presale Packs we were so passionate about, to our day-1 members from all around the world, finally.

Being passionate

All this is the up- and downside of being passionate about what we were doing. We had no idea, just thought about what was great and fantastic and what we would love to get and do, and that's the way we made decisions and enjoyed the process. Even though, maybe now knowing, we would not have done all that again ever.

Greetings from Vienna and thanks for being interested in Pokercode's journey!

This is just the start.


Pokercode CEO & Co-Founder

This was the second part of "Inside the Pokercode", where we try to share insights and provide behind-the-scenes disclosure of how the Pokercode truly is built, and works. Subscribe to our YouTube channel and follow along as we take you back to our origins and show you behind-the-scenes footage!

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