WSOP 2015: Who is that new Team Pro?
Here at the PokerStars Blog, our familiarity with Team PokerStars Pro runs pretty deep. Our writing team has experienced earthquakes, floods, raids, robberies, tsunami warnings, joy, and pain with the people of the red spade brigade. We know them all pretty well, all things considered, and (with the exception of Marcin Horecki growing a very sneaky beard) we tend to recognize them all on sight.
That made for a very weird conversation when we found the man who is currently second in chips wearing a PokerStars patch on his chest and shoulder.
Ernie Cockrum, an insurance agency owner, entered the last level with more than 260,000 in chips, enough to put him in second place on the day, and enough to be sure all his friends back home in the sleepy town of Odessa, Missouri would take notice of his progress. Odessa sits outside of Kansas City, MO along I-70, the interstate that connects KC and St. Louis. Cockrum is one of fewer than 6,000 people who live in the home of the Odessa Bulldogs, a high school that proudly flies its red and black colors for every game.
This, however, is not why Cockrum is wearing the spade today.
In another time, it would've made a lot more sense. In the salad days of big tournament play, there were people from every online poker company in the world standing in the wings with patches to slap on tournament leaders. At times it felt like the patches were coming out of those t-shirt cannons you see at ball games. It was like Oprah Winfrey: "YOU get a patch! YOU get a patch! YOU get a patch!"
Those days, alas, are long gone. So, no one came out of the wings and signed Cockrum up for a limited-time love affair with the world's biggest online poker site.
But that doesn't mean Cockrum doesn't have friends in high places. When I finally got up the courage to go up to the guy and confess, "Sorry, I write for the PokerStars Blog, and again, very sorry here, but I have no idea who you are," Cockrum broke out in a great Missouri laugh.
"Well, I'm sitting next to Marc," he began.
And that's when the story began to make a lot more sense. Cockrum has spun his stack up to enviable levels today, and he's done it alongside Team PokerStars Pro Online member Marc-Andre Ladouceur. Anyone who has played all day at a table knows the sort of foxhole friendships that can form. In this one, Cockrum got to thinking about those old days where a chip lead could mean a nice little payday. He might as well ask his new buddy Marc.
As you might expect, Ladouceur's spot on Team Online grants him no sponsorship power, but it does give him a big stack of patches, one of which he offered to Cockrum. On it went, and though unofficial in every possible way, PokerStars now has a new person flying the flag.
Friendships made at the table can be as tenuous as one's hold on all the chips he earned in a given level. Who knows whether Cockrum will be at the top of the leaderboard at the end of the night or whether the sticky part of his patch goes dry. Or, maybe, Cockrum will drive this stack all the way to the November Nine, and maybe that patch will follow him all the way there. Who knows? I've seen crazier things happen.
In any case, Ernie, thanks for repping the spade, and best of luck on Day 3.
Brad Willis is the PokerStars Head of Blogging. Photos by PokerPhotoArchive.com