Let’s face it. If you’re reading this you may have once dreamed about becoming a professional poker player. Travelling the world, seeing great locales and playing in the biggest tournaments in the world. Maybe you’re still grinding your way up or maybe Black Friday pulled the rug out from under you. There are other ways to make a living from poker. The staff at BLUFF have put together a list of what we think are the ten coolest jobs in poker*.
*Outside of our own of course.
World Poker Tour
For the past 1.5 years Lynn Gilmartin has been at the anchor desk for the World Poker Tour and Alpha8 events. A big part of her job allows her to travel to WPT and Alpha8 events around the world, talking to poker players all while having a hand in the production of each WPT broadcast.
Sure, some fame comes from being a pivotal part of one of the most watched poker shows on TV, but ask Gilmartin what she loves most about her job and she’s rather emphatic.
“Getting to see the world while doing what I love, and getting to share hundreds of people’s most life-changing moments,” said Gilmartin.
It might be hard to imagine now, but just a few short years ago Joe Stapleton was at the bottom of the poker media ladder on his way to great things. Starting out as a reporter with CardPlayer at the World Series of Poker, Stapleton worked his way up, hosting podcasts for multiple outlets before ultimately getting his break as the co-host of PokerStars’ The Big Game before ultimately becoming one half of the European Poker Tour broadcast team alongside James Hartigan.
“I enjoy putting out shows that I truly believe are entertaining, funny, and appeal to a wider audience,” said Stapleton, who puts up to six hours of prep time for every hour of televised product.
The 33-year-old professional bachelor has called poker action for PokerStars events for the last five years. He takes a great deal of pride in being a part of a product that a lot of people enjoy.
When New Jersey legislated online poker one of the first companies to set up shop was bwin.partypoker. Launching in a new market meant the company – once the world’s largest online poker room – needed to add some talent to run things. One of the roles they needed to fill was eventually filled by Marc Brody.
As the Head of Sponsorship USA, Brody oversees the relationships that partypoker has with the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers, the NHL’s New Jersey Devils as well as working alongside the partypoker team pros and sponsored players. The job allows Brody, who had a hand in developing The Micros before Black Friday, to marry two of his greatest passions: sports and poker.
Working long hours is probably the norm for anybody on this list, but Brody might be taking it to an extreme, “I work seven days a week and have not taken a vacation in six years”.
Daniel Negreanu Inc.
The life of a successful poker pro can be time demanding. Being able to get to a juicy cash game at a moment’s notice or being able to dedicate 12 or 14 hour days to a tournament means getting to do the daily things most of us take for granted isn’t always easy. That’s why a number of top players have personal assistants to make sure bills get paid, grocery shopping gets done, time gets blocked off for interviews and travel booking is handled.
That’s the world of Patty Landis, long time P.A. to poker’s all-time leading money winner, Daniel Negreanu.
“Everyday is different. I’m not bound to a desk. What makes me good at my job is, I have had many jobs and that helps me be a jack of all trades with a gift of problem solving,” said Landis. “Another great tip in being a great assistant is knowing what Daniel may need and want before Daniel knows.”
Spending time with Negreanu has also helped her game. In 2014, Landis made the final table of the WSOP Ladies Championship, eventually finishing fifth for $33,279.
European Poker Tour
Maybe nobody gets closer to the professional poker scene than the photographers responsible for capturing the players in the lens of their cameras. Blessed with nearly unlimited access inside the tournament ropes, tournament photographers have the ability to take the moments that make tournaments so special and show them to the world.
For the last eight years Neil Stoddart has found himself front and center for some of the biggest moments on the European Poker Tour and World Series of Poker. While his job has enabled him to travel the world, it’s the history makers – the players themselves – that make his job so special.
“Jason Mercier announces his arrival on the scene by winning EPT San Remo – I was there. Steve O’Dwyer bests a final table including Negreanu, Lodden , Cody and Mercier to become EPT Monaco champion – I was there. Vicky Coren, becomes the first 2 time winner of an EPT – I was there, front and centre, witnessing and capturing it all,” said Stoddart.
Poker players can sometimes be a demanding, finicky bunch. Travelling the world to play poker tournaments sounds glamorous, and it certainly can be, but it can also prove difficult and tiring. That’s where somebody like Garry Gates, Player Liaison for PokerStars live events, comes in.
Gates ensures that players have everything they need to have a good time at nearly every important PokerStars live event. Some of it might seem simple, like coordinating airport transfers for a couple of players landing in Barcelona just hours before EPT Barcelona kicks off, but sometimes it’s Gates’ job to do things out of the ordinary, like finding tickets to a soccer match for players who might have busted from an event and want to experience the city they’ve travelled to.
For Gates, being able to work with an amazing group of people is the biggest perk of the gig.
“Five years ago I would’ve said ‘the travel’. My job has allowed me to visit some of the coolest places on earth. Today, my answer is the people; both colleagues and clients,” said Gates. “Every day I get to interact with the most eclectic assortment of thinkers in the world which helps me battle complacency and never fails to keep me engaged. I think that’s pretty cool.”
Making hundreds or even thousands of poker players happy sounds like a tall order but WPTDeepStacks founder Chris Torina loves every second of his job. A former LA cop, Torina launched the DeepStacks Poker Tour four years ago and has since partnered his grassroots, recreational-player focused tour with the World Poker Tour to create WPTDeepStacks.
The tour features buy-ins around $1,000 with the season-ending Championship event running at $2,500. Travelling around the world to extend the WPTDeepStacks brand is part and parcel of the top gig, but Torina points out something else that makes the gig worthwhile for him.
“The opportunity I have to get to work along side some of the most talented and hardest working people in this industry,” said Torina, who also points out that grinding isn’t just for the players. “The amount of work and attention to detail it takes to successfully manage the WPTDeepStacks brand and cultivate our overall strategic partnership with the World Poker Tour.”
World Poker Tour
Following a tournament, like the WSOP or a World Poker Tour or European Poker Tour stop, from home is easy. Sit back, enjoy an adult beverage and stay up to date on the big hands and happenings from the frequent updates provided by reporters on the floor. That’s where the easy part stops though.
Tournament reporters are front and center as the tournament plays out but that means 10-14 hour days of being on your feet and alert, making sure you capture every key detail of the big hands and eliminations. BJ Nemeth has been doing live updates since 2004 and is considered by many to be amongst the best in the business.
“It’s tough to choose a single favorite aspect of my job, but the travel opportunities probably top my list. Ten-year-old me is thrilled that I commute to work by flying around the country. While most of my work is in the USA, I’ve also covered poker tournaments in Canada, the Caribbean, Europe, Asia, and Africa, and I don’t have to pay my own travel expenses. How great is that?,” said Nemeth. “I also love the work schedule — I’ll work a week or two straight, and then get several days or weeks off with zero work obligations or responsibilities. I’ll never get rich working this job, but it’s hard to put a price on the total freedom I have between tournaments to do whatever I’d like.”
Calling the shots on a poker broadcast sounds like a decent way to make a living. Poker PROductions’ Dan Gati, the producer of World Series of Poker broadcasts and the company’s General Counsel, is the man at the helm every year for the November Nine – and while he’s had a hand in other poker TV programming, that alone takes the cake.
“The World Series of Poker live final table is the biggest event in poker, and producing it is the most fun part of my year. I also love the day-to-day variety that comes with my job,” said Gati. “And none of this would be possible without Mori Eskandani — working for Mori is something everyone should get to experience.”
Gati has also worked on the NBC National Heads-Up Poker Championship, High Stakes Poker and Poker After Dark. In fact, when commentator Ali Nejad was playing during an episode of Poker After Dark, Gati took a turn in the commentator’s booth.
Finding out who won a big buy-in poker tournament is relatively easy. Results databases list the names of all the players that cash and press releases go out after each tournament wraps up. But finding the story behind that new champion or the players who came from far and wide for a chance at life-changing riches is a totally different beast. That’s where a writer covering a tournament excels and there’s probably none in the business better than PokerStars Head of Blogging Brad Willis.
“The best part of my job has been the exceptionally talented people I work alongside. I’ve been fortunate to work with poker’s best writers and photographers. Many of them have become friends I’ll have for the rest of my life. They are people who make me want to work harder and write better,” said Willis. “I tend to get a lot of the credit for the PokerStars Blog’s reputation, but a lot of that credit should go to my friends who have put in the long hours all over the world. How often does a guy get to say he works with the most talented people in his industry?”
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