Kara Scott: Sideline Superstar

Kara Scott Interviews Gaelle Baumann
Kara Scott plays an integral part of the World Series of Poker broadcasts on ESPN, providing a much-needed balance. Now enjoying her third year in her role as a sideline reporter, Scott has become one of the most familiar faces to poker players and fans around the world.

It’s not her first rodeo, though.

“Before the WSOP, I’d done a fair amount of television work,” said Scott. “Most of it in Europe. But I’d never worked on such a huge scale before. Working on ESPN to a huge, live audience is both terrifying and exhilarating and if you’d told me 10 years ago that I’d be doing this, I doubt I would have believed it.”

Scott is in Las Vegas during the last two weeks of the summer, filming segments throughout the day for future broadcasts. Her time to really shine usually comes in November, when the action goes live from the Penn & Teller Theater.

“I think my favorite part has to be the live broadcasts,” said Scott. “I love the buzz and the pressure it brings. You never know what might happen — people swear in interviews, say things you’d never expect and you have to fit into the time given. That can change while the interview or report is already underway — you have to be flexible, which makes it a lot harder, but it’s way more rewarding for that reason, too. Plus, I absolutely love the crew at Poker PROductions. They’re incredibly professional and really want to make the best product possible but they’re also funny and easy going. They’re definitely the people you want to do live TV with.”

There’s a lot that goes into the broadcast every year. The stage has to be converted into a TV set, and each and every task requires a certain attention to detail.

“We spend a few days before the broadcast planning and setting up,” said Scott. “All of the technical things like lighting, sound, the running order for how it will go — that all gets looked at in fine detail. I also have informal interviews with all of the players so that I can ask them any questions that may have come up in my research. I like to get some of the personal stories so that I can do more ‘human interest’ reports from the sidelines.”

And that’s just the preparation for doing the TV show. As the curtain comes up, the pressure on each person is intensified.

“Once the broadcast actually starts, it’s a huge amount of work,” said Scott. “I’ll look for stories in the crowd among the supporters and try to dig up extra information, or I’ll find talking points based on the game play. I’ll research, write and memorize those pieces and deliver them to camera once or twice an hour.”

“While that is all going on, I’m also watching and listening to the table feed so I can stay up to date on the play,” said Scott, “Writing potential questions for each player for the break interviews or their bust out interviews. Plus, I’m listening to the director in my earpiece. There’s a lot going on all at once, although it may not always look that way.”

Scott also has the difficult task of closing out the broadcast by interviewing a brand new champion. While they’re overwhelmed by what’s likely the biggest moment of their lives, Scott has to try to wrangle them in and ask them to convey how they’re feeling. In 2012, Greg Merson was on the verge of tears when the cameras started rolling, in the aftermath of a life-changing moment.

“It was such a big moment and really quite emotional,” said Scott. “It was a hard balance for me — to give him space to collect and rebalance himself after that crazy moment, while at the same time asking the questions that as the sideline reporter of a TV show, it’s my job to push him on. I have a lot of respect for Greg and he’s clearly a person who knows his own mind. There were things he didn’t want to talk about and so he didn’t. You gotta respect that.”

Her role as part of the WSOP broadcast team is just one of many hats that Scott wears. She’s also a member of Team partypoker, which has her traveling all over the world to play in events among her many other jobs and roles in the industry.

“I’m not sure how but my pace at work has steadily picked up over the past few years, and I now find myself on the road the majority of the time,” said Scott. “It’s great as I get to see so many interesting places and having lots of work is never a bad thing. Without a doubt, partypoker have given me a real adventure over the last three years and I’ve had a lot of fun throwing myself into that. I am definitely trying to find more of a balance now though — I’ve missed a lot of big moments with my friends and family, so I’m shifting my priorities to spend more time with them and a little less on the road.”

Scott is also preparing for another momentous event in her life — she was recently engaged to Italian poker player Giovanni Rizzo. Her busy schedule has taken up a lot of her time of late, though.

“Because I’ve been traveling, I haven’t actually had much of a chance to start planning the wedding,” said Scott, “So that’s actually a bit scary as it’s in May. I’m really lucky that my fiancé and I both agree that we don’t need something big and fancy, but it still takes a fair amount of organization.”

There are a few more weeks of intensive work, but the poker schedule dies down quite a bit once the WSOP Main Event has wrapped up.

“Once the November 9 is finished this year, we’ll start tackling all of that stuff,” said Scott. “I’m loving settling into Italy and the more time I spend here, the more it feels like home. I am struggling a bit with the language, though. I haven’t been around enough to take proper Italian lessons so I’m still pretty basic. That’s just a matter of time.”

November 2013