Seven Questions for Sam Pocker

The owner of Sin City Speed Dating on approaching strangers, the benefits of being revealing and why showing off can be a turn-off

sam_pocker_by_jon_estrada_WEBSin City Speed Dating is relatively new, with the first event held last month. What inspired you to start the business?

I’ve been in the event and ticketing business for about 20 years. I looked at all the events here, and it was just such an obvious thing that needed to happen. I read a local newspaper article that considered Las Vegas to be the worst place in America for single people. The only speed dating I could find here was like once a week, in a casino. It was just for straight people in a set age range without anything else to it. It was the most basic thing. I thought, “What can we do to improve on this?” I started coming up with ideas, and I took it from there.

Your events have very specific themes: green passions, BBW and furry fandom to name a few. How do you generate these ideas?

Mostly from doing market research. I wrote the book Retail Anarchy [Running Press, 2009] about consumer behavior. The data’s out there. But I came up with the idea for green passions just walking through a Whole Foods Market. I noticed that they sell clothing, and I thought, “Who buys clothing at Whole Foods? God, I would hate that person.” As I’m thinking this, a woman comes up and starts looking at a pair of pants. I start talking to her, and she tells me how passionate she is about the environment and how she knows they don’t even look that great, but she wants to support this, that or the other.

Do people suggest themes to you?

Definitely. People tell you what they want. I just run the numbers to see if there’s enough interest. If I like the idea, why not? That’s how I came up with the 50 Shades of Grey [BDSM] night. Somebody said to me, “I kinda like that, but I wouldn’t even know how to go about it. I don’t even wanna Google it, because I’m sure I’d find a bunch of creepy stuff.” I said, “Oh, that’s a good idea. Let’s Target-mom that up and make it comfortable for people.” I don’t even have to run the numbers on that; there’s a movie coming out!

Do you ever have a hard time pitching venues on what you do?

Everybody’s very accommodating. I’m not associating their venue with anything. I never put them on the posters. A couple of venues have actually asked to be put on the poster. We talk about that if the customers are confortable. My fear is, honestly, having a television news crew come down to cover these things in person. There’s a long history of it. I’ve done a lot of research, and the people clam up when that happens. I don’t want people clamming up. I want people to have the best time possible. Anything that interferes with that, I don’t want. I’m sure if you advertised “Furry Fandom” with the address, unfortunately, sooner or later somebody crazy would come down and cause a problem. I don’t want that, and I’m sure the venue doesn’t want it either. It’s just better to keep it private.

What are the most important things to try to learn about someone during a speed date?

Their faults. You know within the first 10 seconds if you like the person or not. I don’t know if I necessarily believe that, but that’s what the studies show. We have different tricks in place to learn people’s faults. When you reveal something extremely personal about yourself to a stranger, you’ll find that they’ll reveal something extremely personal about themselves. Then you’ll feel more of a connection than if you asked, “Hey, where do you work?” In fact, [at Sin City Speed Dating events] you’re not allowed to ask people where they work, for privacy concerns.

We [also] don’t use anybody’s real name. One mistake I’ve learned from other companies is that most have a huge stalker problem. I don’t want anyone to feel unsafe.

What do you do with an odd number of attendees?

I have a few tricks to keep that from happening, but we also have a thing that we can’t control in speed dating: A certain percentage of people buy a ticket, get too nervous and don’t show up. The ticket includes a Skype session with a dating coach to get them prepared so that won’t happen. People will still bail. We had a social anxiety-themed event where half the people didn’t show up. That was the nature of that event, I suppose.

How would you define a successful speed dating experience?

You leave feeling that you got your money’s worth. Even though we’re competitively priced, people work so hard for their money. We don’t want them to feel ripped off for even a second. Also, if you went there feeling alone, depressed, shy—even if you didn’t meet anyone—you should leave feeling a lot more confident and a lot more worthwhile than you did when you walked in. That’s really important to me. The ideal thing is that you go in, meet a stranger and that you start a relationship with them and it works out great.

How do you know if you’re compatible with someone?

You just know. We all have our checklists in our head. You’re either gonna be the person who gets to be 40 and has never been married because nobody ever lived up to that imaginary checklist, or you start to decide which things on that checklist you can part with and which ones you can’t. You just know. There’s no science to it. There’s no secret. Anybody who tries to sell you a secret, don’t give them money.

Is there a benefit to meeting people in person for the first time, rather than online?

Of course. 46.5% of my Facebook friends in Las Vegas list their relationship status as “Ask,” which means private. That’s a huge percentage! Especially in Las Vegas, people are very secretive online. I guarantee that 46.5% of the people you meet online are not telling you the truth about themselves. It’s a lot harder to do that in person. It’s a lot harder to lie about your looks. It’s a lot harder to lie about all this stuff. I think it’s much more beneficial.

What are your thoughts on the popularity of online dating sites or apps, such as Tinder?

Tinder here is all spam. The ones that aren’t spam are usually someone I know, ’cause it’s not that big of a place. You see the same people on, on Plenty of Fish. You know which ones are real and which ones are fake already. I’ve been on the radio talking about that here; it was very controversial. I said, “If you’re gonna join an online dating site in Las Vegas, pay a fortune to join It’s the only one where there’s real people. People say, “That’s for people who are cheating.” And I say, look at it, it’s not. Most of the people on there are single people. They’re just using it because they think it sounds dangerous.

What’s the biggest mistake you see daters making?

The one mistake I see guys make here that makes me nuts is—because it’s Las Vegas and you can do this—when they go way too over the top with the first or second date. “I got the best table at the best restaurant and we’re gonna go to Cirque [du Soleil] and we’re gonna sit in the front row.” You’re putting a lot of pressure on a complete stranger who’s supposed to be having fun. That’s not fun. That’s you showing off in a very awkward and uncomfortable way. Go get a slice of pizza and a beer and sit in the parking lot, and I guarantee you’ll both have a better time … not that that’s a great idea for a first date. But these guys who spend $3,000? That’s stupid.

Sin City Speed Dating will host a free event 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Feb. 14 at Atomic Liquors, 917 Fremont St.,

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