Life as a Poker Journalist

 

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Whenever I talk to people that play poker, it inevitably comes up that I work in the industry as a journalist.  Currently, I do most of my work for PokerNewsDaily.com, MacPoker.com, and PokerSoftware.com.  I also lend a hand over at DurrrrChallenge.com and a few other spots as needed, which keeps me pretty busy.  Sometimes I’m asked what it’s like to be working in the poker world and to share some stories.  Well, here are some of the real gems in my short time in one crazy industry.

Meeting the Icons

Like many people that play poker recreationally or part-time, I try to watch a lot of poker on TV.  I usually catch the WSOP and WPT broadcasts and one of the many cash game shows on late at night.  This was basically my life in the poker world for a good five years before I broke in.  Once I did, though, and got to see the bright lights of the WSOP Main Event or a WPT final table, I gained a whole new perspective.

The first thing I am asked when I meet a big name pro is, “Are they really that way in person like they are on TV?” and the short answer is always a resounding “Yes.”  Phil Hellmuth is a nerdy, self-indulgent master of No Limit Hold’em tournament poker who is extremely nice to fans.  Phil Ivey really is an introverted and quiet person who goes to great lengths to make sure he’s photographed and seen as little as possible.  Daniel Negreanu is usually the chattiest person in the room and always great to the fans.

I used to think that a lot these personalities just ham it up for the cameras in an attempt to get themselves over for more face-time.  But, to my surprise, this isn’t true at all; a lot of these guys are just being themselves, just sometimes with the dial turned up a notch or two.

Insane Gamblers?

I get asked a lot if the poker players I meet are insane gamblers.  Some are the stereotypical helpless gamblers that take the money they win at one table and drain it off at another in the casino.  Many years ago, I sat with Annie Duke, who admitted that a lot of the pros she knew at the time had their bankrolls sucked dry by sports betting.

The most prevalent form of gambling among poker players, especially those under 25 years of age, is with their stomachs.  Yes, the famous game of “Credit Card Roulette” is the gambling game of choice and, depending on the circles you run with, could mean a four of five-figure wager.

I went to dinner with a few internet players, among them Scott Seiver, in Las Vegas just prior to the start of the series this past year.  I asked if “CCR” was a game they played often and was met with a laugh because apparently it’s very rare when it’s not played.  They told me that the absolute worst offender during “CCR” is Justin Bonomo, who will order his food by the dollar (not by the menu) to maximize his potential EV in the game.  For example, instead of ordering a steak and a glass of wine, he’ll say, “I’d like $500 worth of Kobe beef and a $150 glass of wine.”  That way, he comes out ahead in the long run by out-ordering the table.

Witnessing History

I’m not watching Lincoln deliver the Gettysburg Address or anything, but I have to admit, it’s awesome to be there when someone wins their first bracelet or as the November Nine plays down to its members.  Watching poker on television takes on a new meaning and sometimes I even see myself in the background.  “Hey, that’s me – that blurry guy in the blue shirt,” I’d yell while my wife rolls her eyes.  Good times.

“I Can Do That!”

The absolute most common thing I am asked is how you can break into the industry.  For every 1,000 people I meet that say that they would like to be a writer or reporter in the poker industry, probably only one of them actually has what it takes.  You have to be an excellent writer, be able to be passionate about poker to the point where you can talk and write about it for 40+ hours a week every week of the year, and extremely patient.  Usually, most people can’t get over the two-article hump when I ask them what experience they might have.  It looks easy, but trust me, it isn’t.

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