Lee Davy continues his confessions series by handing out some advice on how to get a job as a live tournament reporter.
Do you have what it takes to become a poker writer?
I ask because my attention has been drawn to an advert at pocketfives.com that has been posted by an affiliate of the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, in Atlantic City, seeking writers to work at the Summer Poker Open, June 10-27.
The advert only asks that, ‘those interested should have extensive poker knowledge and availability during the event.’
Whilst I agree that availability during the event is essential, I don’t believe an extensive knowledge of poker is necessary. In fact, it doesn’t even make my cut of the important things you need to know if you are going to apply for this job.
Here they are…
1. Go Above and Beyond the Call of Duty
I have just spent the past two hours talking to my son’s schoolteacher about his end of year report.
My ex wife, my teacher and my son think he did very well.
So why am I the only one who walked away from the meeting a little miffed at the progress my son has made this year?
It’s because he has done ‘just enough.’
He has managed to scrape through into everybody’s good books by using his natural raw talents and intellect to make the grades that his teachers are expecting him to make.
He doesn’t have any intention of doing any better. It hasn’t even crossed his mind to do more than he is being asked to do. He is never going to go above and beyond the call of duty, and unless he learns this he will struggle in later life.
If you aspire to become a sought after live reporter then you had better learn to hustle. You grab the camera and you take photographs, you grab the microphone and get in front of the camera, you sit down and you interview that poker player.
But they haven’t hired me to do that….TOUGH!
But they aren’t paying me to do that…TOUGH!
Two writers, who both have equal talent.
Which one gets the job?
2. Be a Storyteller
The job of a live reporter can be a little daunting.
I remember the first time I had to cover a World Series of Poker (WSOP) $1,000 event on the first starting flight. Thousands of players divided between three vast poker halls, and I was on my lonesome.
It was enough to give me a coronary.
Life is tough for the poker outlets. Unless you are fortunate to work for a live reporting team that falls under the guise of PokerStars, then you are very likely to be working on your own, or at the very least a team of two.
Keep the concept of baby steps in mind.
Instead of thinking about the vastness of the job, just concentrate on writing one cracking post after another.
A wise person once said that when someone interjects with a ‘but’ you could forget everything that was written before that point.
Your posts needs to knit together like those baby grows your grandma knits in preparation for the big reveal. You need to tell an interesting and consistent story. Find the right cast, pick out the emotions and then splatter them all over the pages.
Make sure that the whole things make sense. Create protagonists, create antagonists, and create plotlines and interesting tales. Weave it all together. It starts with that first opening post and it ends with the recap, but in between, every else needs to make sense.
3. Be Self Sufficient
Manpower levels vary dependent on two things.
1. Budget of the hirer
2. The value they believe the blog provides for the hirer
If both of these have low priority then you had better get used to working on your own, and what I mean by this, is to get your head down and crack on.
There is nothing more infuriating than working with an employee who moans and groans about everything. Think about this for a moment. When you ask someone to do something for you, do you just want it to be done, or do you want a lecture first?
If you are working on your own then you have made the choice to do so. Stop whining. If you whine then you will not be hired again. If you get your head down, work hard and produce a quality product, without answering back, then you will be asked back.
This doesn’t mean you turn into a deaf and dumb mute who just takes it up the Gary Glitter. I don’t mean that at all. You can provide constructive feedback by all means. Just make sure you know the difference between that and whining before you open your mouth.
If you can work on your own, then you keep costs down for your employer, and this makes you valuable to them.
4. Don’t Be Shy
When I had more green behind my gills than a really, really, green colored fish, Gloria Balding – once of PokerNews – told me that a great live reporter needed to walk into a poker room and know at least 50% of the players who had their butts firmly wedged into seats.
She was exaggerating slightly but the point was a great one.
I knew nobody.
In poker, a story without characters is not much of a story at all. Characters are defined by their names, and if you don’t know their names you are forced to refer to them as the name of the position they are sat at during the hand you are reporting on.
“The Button raised to x and the Big Blind folded.”
It’s just not good enough.
If there is one thing I have learned in the past four years of live reporting it is never rely on the casino, or tournament organizers, to hand you a seating chart with everyone’s name on it, and when they do, never rely on the players to show you their media cards.
I don’t know what it is about poker players but some of them just love to make life difficult for the writer. They will turn their cards upside down, hide them under their stacks, and the most self-important of them won’t even take them out of their pocket.
If you want to tell a great story, and keep your readers glued to the ever-changing post count, then don’t be shy.
When I was learning I was told to never bother the players when they are seated at the table and this ranks as the worst advice I have ever been given.
You need to build relationships with these people. They are your eyes and ears when you are sat at your desk writing up your last two posts. How else does a solitary live reporter manage to capture all 24 bust outs of a tournament?
Just be cordial and respectful.
Don’t talk to players when they are involved in a hand, stacking their chips, receiving cards, talking to someone else, or texting on their phone. Wait for a moment when you can politely talk to them, introduce yourself and fire away.
One last thing.
Never ask them what their name is. Especially, if you work in Europe. The last thing you need is for a Ukrainian to give them your name and you have to try and figure out how to spell a five-word name that you don’t understand.
Just politely ask them to write it down on a piece of paper and BOOM. The Button has just turned into Vasiliy Fishfacelaces Vaginas Kristalnuts.
Now isn’t that far more interesting?