The 2014 PokerStars.net Caribbean Adventure $100,000 Super High Roller attracted nearly 50 of the world’s biggest poker players on the planet. Behind the six-figure buy-ins, luxury hotel rooms and private jets is a single man who is responsible that all their needs are met. This man is PokerStars Global VIP Host Garry Gates.
Gates has the momentous task of wrangling players from around the world and all walks of life to plunk down a buy-in that would make the common man cringe.
That doesn’t happen without tons of work and preparation. Gates has nearly a decade of experience in the industry that prepared him for job that has seen him travel around the world, juggle multiple tasks and has no real job description.
Gates had a humble start in poker, introduced to the game by his dad. “He was playing in a regular game at an Elk’s Club in a small Pennsylvania town. I became fascinated and by the time I was old enough to play poker I went with him to play,” he said.
“I got all the books, started playing online and started as a player with huge pipe dreams,” he said. “Then I realized there were careers to be had in the industry and I took a gamble and moved out to Vegas after college.”
Gates soon found a job writing in poker and started off as many industry types do – blogging on the floor of the World Series of Poker. “It taught me a whole lot – I’ve seen quite a few facets of the industry. I’ve played so I know the kind of struggles these guys go through with the swings and variance of that lifestyle,” he said.
“On the flip side I was a writer and blogger and you get to tag along for the ride and have a front row seat to what players go through,” Gates continued. “It can be exciting. More than anything it helped me develop relationships with guys that I work with today. You can’t trade that experience for anything.”
Gates worked his way up the ranks and in 2009 he presented with the opportunity to work for PokerStars.”PokerStars is a phenomenal company to work for and I’ve been with them for four years,” he said. “Jeffery Haas was the APPT President and he brought me on board as the Media Coordinator and when the NAPT was born naturally I transferred to that market.”
In the wake of Black Friday Gates’ career very much up in the air. “There was time where everyone was leery of what might happen. But PokerStars has treated me and others very well. They reached out and said they’ll make it work and that’s what led to this role.”
But what exactly does a Global VIP Host do? “Essentially my responsibilities include building relationships with players around the world and marketing the events to them on a personal level – making sure they know when and where the events are, making sure they know the buy-ins and assisting with travel and hotel arrangements,” said Gates. “Once the players arrive at our events I maintain their enjoyment and satisfaction.”
Any person familiar with poker players knows how fickle they can be when it comes down the details – which creates challenges in itself. “Poker players keep crazy hours so I could fielding a text or phone call at 3 or 5 am,” Gates said. “I have to be available 24/7. There’s a wide variety of things that can creep up and need my attention, it could be one of a million things.”
Some of those millions of things range pedestrian requests like hotel rooms to a certain type of beverage. But Gates is no stranger to odd and outrageous requests. “I keep most of those requests between myself and the players, but one of the requests from last year’s PCA came from a player that requested we find three high tech computer mice so he could essentially break them while playing online,” Gates said.
“I would say the thing that keeps me on my toes the most is dealing with all different types of personalities. Over time I like to think I’ve grown to be pretty good at,” he said. “These players players come from all walks of life – whether they’re a circuit grinder or a businessman who comes in with his family for a three-day weekend. Just being versatile and adapting on the fly is difficult but it’s also one of the more enjoyable parts of my job.”
But how does one prepare for a job catering to the biggest players on the planet? “I kind of learned on the fly. I also had some great people within the company that I looked to for advice in certain situations,” Gates said. “Mostly it’s just learning on the job and my experience coming up through the industry.”
“I was the live reporting manager for Pokernews for three and a half years and basically met everyone in the industry,” he continued. “Once I took on this new role with PokerStars I was prepared quite well. The players knew me, were used to my face and they trusted me – that made the transition pretty easy.”
Inevitably there is almost always one unknown player to show up for a high roller event and it’s up to Gates to make them feel at home and comfortable. “I’ve gotten to the point now where I just walk up and introduce myself. In my experience, players love knowing there’s one person on the ground at a given event they can call with pretty much any issue,” he said. If I don’t know the answer, I always know someone who will, so being able to offer that service and knowing I have the best team in poker backing me up makes that part pretty easy.”
“I’m lucky. I work with some pretty incredible personalities.” Gates continued. “When you walk through the field you see these guys laughing and sometimes even sharing drinks. For the most part, it’s a stress-free environment besides the fact that they’re playing for seven figures.”
Gates’ professional life has crept into his personal life over the years and now he may have the most exclusive contact list on his phone in the poker world. “My personal circle has gotten smaller and smaller throughout the years and I don’t mind that so much,” he said. “But I would say my contact list is probably ten-to-one of poker players to family and friends.”
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