When I tell someone new to online poker about our site, the first thing I’m asked is “Why Pocket Fives?” This is often followed by some comment like “Aren’t Pocket Aces better?” To this last question, I, of course, reply, “No.”

Pocket fives is the most culturally rich hand in poker. Nicknamed “Presto,” this hand has developed its own subculture over the past 15 years, particularly in online card rooms and message boards. This culture was initially developed on rec.gambling forums in the early 90’s. The proliferation of online poker has since solidified this hand in poker lore.

As I’m sure most of you have seen, players love to show their pocket fives any chance they get. It seems that for many players, especially online players, there is a mystical aura surrounding this hand that somehow makes it special and gives it a better chance of winning. Some players will go to great lengths to “suck out” with this hand so that they can exclaim “PRESTO!” in the chat box once the cards are show down. More sensible players still get a kick out of showing their pocket fives as they fold. You also may remember Raymer exclaiming “Presto” after winning a race with 55 at the 2004 WSOP final table on ESPN. I’ve seen numerous posts in which people claim 55 must be a rigged hand because it wins WAY more often than it should on this or that poker website. The subculture surrounding this hand has intrigued me ever since I started playing online.

When we were planning the site, we knew our niche was online poker and we wanted to find a name that reflected an online feel to our users. This was no easy task considering almost every domain name under the sun was already taken. During one of our brainstorming sessions we thought of PocketFives.com. We all thought it was perfect but figured someone had snatched up that domain name long ago. To our surprise, the domain was available, and we had a name for our new site.

For those interested, the development of the name “Presto” for pocket fives can actually be traced by looking through old rec.gambling threads. These threads show that Presto began as an exclamation for a natural 21 among rec.gambling blackjack users in the early 90’s. Poker players shared this forum with blackjack players, and they wanted a hand of their own to call “Presto.”

A friend sent me this post below that does a great job of summing up the origin of Presto and how pocket fives acquired the nickname. So for all you curious folks, enjoy:

From: Abdul Jalib Subject: Re: Presto? Date: 1999/10/12 Organization: Positive Expected Value, Unlimited Newsgroups: rec.gambling.poker

DrToast writes:
I’ve noticed the recent discussion on Presto, so I’m gonna be brave and admit I don’t know the origins of Presto. Okay, sure it’s 55, but how ’bout some long timer RGPer explain the birth of Presto.

Response by “Abdul”:
In ancient times, Steve Jacobs would get annoyed when I jumped over several steps in my mathematical derivations or logical arguments and he would write “Presto!” Frank Irwin knew me by sight, and as fate would have it, Frank Irwin, Steve Jacobs, Blair, and I were all in Vegas one weekend. (I had a different name then, before I went into hiding from all the blackjack pit critters getting onto the net. If you are net.sage enough to know the name of the other person involved in the presto story, then you probably know my real name anyway.)

I was playing single deck at Four Queens, and Frank pointed me out to Steve and Blair, who sat down at my table, unbeknownst to me. Every time someone at the table got a blackjack, Steve Jacobs yelled “Presto!” This did get me suspicious that it was he. Finally I left the table and so did he and he confessed and we laughed about it with Frank. There was a drunk following us who had done a completely boneheaded play at the table, so I didn’t think it could be a rec.gambler; I was wondering why a boneheaded drunk would be following us around… but I then found out it was Blair!

Thereby “presto” on blackjack became the call sign for blackjack playing rec.gamblers. “Irwin?” became the countersign, due to the popularity of his chip in the toilet story and his involvement in the caper.

This was long before the newsgroup split, of course, so the hold’em players heard this story and they wanted their own hand to yell “presto” on. The obvious choices were either AA or AT-AK, but no consensus could be reached. There were several threads posted in which 55 had miraculously won, and people started nominating 55 to be the presto hand. Then I made a post in which 55 miraculously won. At this point Steve Jacobs stepped in and declared 55 the official presto hand.

To this day, hundreds of years later, 55 retains the name “presto”, immortalized on BARGE chips just about every year.