Wednesday, April 11, 2007

ESPN at the WSOP > Monte Carlo Reprise

By Pauly

I have good news. I'm the newest feature writer for Yes, it's true. Andrew Feldman hired me to cover the 2007 WSOP for I have huge shoes to fill... following in the footsteps of legendary sportswriter Steve Rosenbloom who provided the content for ESPN last summer.

I guess this makes it an official announcement. I'll be covering the WSOP for and writing feature articles for their poker section. I'll be focusing on writing features and not blogging... which is something I really wanted to do.

The official media guidelines have not come out yet, so I have to wait and see which other outlets that I will be working with. Rest assured that I will be posting on the Tao of Poker and contributing to as well, I just don't know in what manner or frequency yet.

The ESPN gig is a major milestone. Aside from getting a book published, selling a screenplay, and writing for Rolling Stone... landing the ESPN gig is one the four major goals I wanted to accomplish as a writer. ESPN has published some of my favorite writers including Hunter Thompson, Chuck Klosterman, and Steve Rosenbloom. I'm still a little dazed and confused over the good news.

This has to be of the most humbling and exciting moments that I've ever experienced. I was dreading the WSOP and now I can't wait for it to get here. By the way, check out the 2007 WSOP Schedule.

I never could have made it this far as a poker writer without the support and friendship of my brother and so many of you... friends, readers, and bloggers alike. Special thanks goes out to Flipchip and the Poker Prof for being the first organization to hire me to cover the WSOP back in 2005. Without their initial support, I never would have been in a position to be hired by other outlets and get recognized by ESPN.

And an extended thanks goes out to people who had faith in me and hired me to write for them over the last couple of years. That list includes Flipchip and Poker Prof at, Wilko and Mickey, Stan Sludikoff at Poker Player Newspaper, Otis and everyone at PokerStars, Trey at FoxSports, Lou Krieger, John Caldwell at Poker News, Johnny Quads at Poker Pro, and last but not least.... Feldman at ESPN.

My first featured article will be published in a couple of weeks. Now I just have to come up with something to write about.

Moving on...

Monte Carlo was a bitch of an assignment and perhaps the toughest assignment of my tournament reporting career. My responsibilities were the most that I've ever had to handle. I grew a deeper respect for people like the Poker Shrink and Otis who have to manage entire blogging teams during poker tournaments. I'm obviously more comfortable with writing than managing. My most dreaded moments occurred when I had to tend to managerial duties instead of sitting down to crank out some writing.

Poker News was shorthanded in Monte Carlo (due to a bad back from the Poker Shrink and the last minute addition of an extra day thanks to the EPT who scheduled it 10 days before the start). But you wouldn't know we were running on a skeleton crew from the coverage since everyone involved did a kick ass job despite the obstacles.

Filipe's photos were some of the best I've seen in the business. Tiffany's work in the videos is excellent and her ability to get players to commit to doing them on their breaks is even a more valuable asset. Shronk was always a professional from the moment I met him in Australia and his video work is the best in poker. He's been able to think quick on his feet and work in difficult environments. He provides the best quality despite having to deal with plenty of technical problems. Shronk is the Charles Oakley of Poker News. He does all the necessary dirty work that doesn't show up in the boxscores.

Sure the workload in Monte Carlo was intense, but I was fortunate to work with cool people, just like in Australia. Whenever you have a core group of people you trust and can get along with, anything is possible. I used to be serious when I said that I could endure working in an Alaskan fishery gutting fish on an assembly line as long as I got to pick the people working next to me.

One of the biggest problems I faced in Monte Carlo was proving my worthiness to the European media reps. Over 200 media badges from organizations from all over the world were issued. The media room was immense and the same room that they held the tournament in the year before. The EPT media room dwarfed anything on the WPT or the WSOP. In short, the EPT and PokerStars treated us tremendously well which included free coffee, tea, Evian water, cokes, and bottles of Pellegrino.

I might be known in some poker circles in Las Vegas or in AC but in Europe I'm a nobody. In some people's eyes... all Americans are the evil offspring of George Bush and I had a Scarlet Letter superimposed on my forehead everytime the other media reps heard American English spew out of my mouth. To some, I was the guy who showed up at the EPT Championship and skipped all the other events along the way. I became the media guy that I loathed at the WSOP who showed up the day before the main event.

I had to gain the respect of the European press and their biggest pros. Even though I had covered two WSOP and poker tournaments all over the world, I was still a fresh fish and a rookie in the eyes of the other people in that media room. I had to prove my worth fast. And unlike prison, I couldn't just walk up to the biggest and baddest motherfucker in the room and pick a fight. I had to do things in more subtler terms. That involved booze.

Pacing yourself during the first two days of any major poker tournament is vital to a reporter. Figuring out the backstory is the second most important thing. That involves collecting gossip from any of the other media reps. Good relationships with other media outlets is essential to attaining information when it matters the most. It's a shit job but when you are able to pool information down the stretch, the job gets a little easier. That's what is lacking in the American media that covers various tours. There's so much paranoia and competition that the grunts on the ground are having a tougher time covering events because of the strict rules put forth by their bosses who are in constant pissing matches with each other. In Europe, it was a much more relaxed working environment... that is, when they know you. Otherwise if you need help, you get that stonewalled expression that most Scandi poker players have made famous.

Booze is a social lubricant in any language and the bar saved my ass in Monte Carlo. The act of buying someone else a drink is a timeless gesture of good will. Garth told me that I should buy rounds or "shouts" in Australia to get on the good side of the Aussies. And you know what? He was right. Same thing worked in Monte Carlo. I offered to buy everyone drinks at some point. That time at the bar within steps of the media room was used to mellow myself out and forge new friendships and alliances. I also used my new contacts to attain essential information on the featured players from their home country. I had no idea who 95% of the players at the EPT Championships were. I needed a crash course in tournament poker in Europe and the other media reps helped me out. A few like Snoopy and Chris from Blonde Poker physically walked the floor with me pointing out wild Scandis or unknown Brits that I had no clue existed.

You also get juicy stories from other media reps, like Dave Colclough catching his wife Rhowena in bed with another guy or a famous Scandi poker pro who had a penchant for hookers and blew most of his winnings in Germany on one of the many working girls. That's stuff is gold in my eyes and I could never get those types of stories if I did not schmooze the "local" press.

I wanted to use the first two days to socially interact with as many foreign media reps as possible. By the third day, I knew who the top Dutch, Norwegians, Swedes, Brits, Italians, and French players were. The slow process of schmoozing and learning new players took a lot of time, something I had very little of during the EPT Championships. I did what I could during those 18-20 hour days.

Overseas poker is on the rise. 200 media reps? 706 players in the EPT Grand Finale? 1.8 million Euros (or $2.4 million) for first place? In short, I was impressed with the output that the entire EPT put forth. I'm looking forward to covering more European Poker Tour events in the future.

When I was wandering around Amsterdam, I considered getting an apartment there for a few months to write and stay at if I decide to focus on more EPT events. I even looked at a few places. Amsterdam is a major airport hub in Europe which is essential. You can take the train some in many other places. It would be a great home base for me and I'm sure the location would give me even more inspiration to write. And it's only a 7+ hour flight to NYC.

Amsterdam is another place for me to consider moving to after the WSOP is over. I have narrowed the choices down to NYC, Amsterdam, and LA. I guess a lot of that decision hinges on what I do at the end of 2007 and see what the state of poker in America is at after the WSOP ends. If I walk away from poker and focus on writing, I'll settle down in NYC or LA and crank out a book. If I decide that the next season of the EPT is for me (or if some really hip and cool publishing company wants to give me a fat advance to write a book about one year on the EPT), then I'll consider Amsterdam. Then again, if ESPN has any interesting projects for me, I'll be up for them.

Currently, I'm in NYC for a few days with a trip to Hollyweird and Las Vegas on the horizon. The EPT will have to wait a while. I have the WPT Championships at the Bellagio coming up at the end of the month and then there's the WSOP this summer, which I'll be covering for ESPN. I still can't believe it.

Photo Credit: Thanks to Otis for the original photo and to Mookie for the photoshopped version!

Original content written and provided by Pauly from Tao of Poker. All rights reserved. RSS feeds are for non-commercial use only.

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