This is a multi-part series of articles meant to be a resource for current and future writers in the gaming space. This is not all inclusive to poker writers, as there are plenty of workers out there grinding it out writing sports or casino copy. That said, my main experience and strengths of this type of entertainment writing come from a poker bias.
The top 20 gaming writers in the world, the crème de la crème, may laugh at these articles. But they shouldn’t. The topics jump around, but worth a chuckle. Gritty real talk.
I’m kicking it off with these three concepts below.
Part 1 – Psychology and Industry Pitfalls
- Don’t Gamble (too much)
This is a tricky one.
Nothing is as soul crushing to a talented wordsmith as grinding out a months’ worth of poker or gaming articles, only to lose that paycheck at the tables. Whether losing it in one shot or wasting a few weeks to go broke, it is a horrible feeling.
It is especially difficult for poker writers. No other job is like this. Imagine following the biggest names in poker, looking up to these players. Wanting to be these players. Learning from these players. Travelling all over the place. Then Ms. Jane Pokerwriter sits down on a day off only to lose to a two outer on the river.
Not exactly a huge motivator to get back to writing about it.
- Journalism Shnournalism
Gambling is entertainment writing at its core. The main purpose is to drive traffic to engage in gambling.
If we take live reporting (poker and industry) and newsjacking out of the global gambling-news-sphere, what are we left with? Probably somewhere between promo spam and plagiarism.
How many writers can say they have ever picked up the phone and tried to get facts or quotes out of a local gaming commissioner or politician? I think the answer is very low. How many actively hunt to get the drop on a big story? Not many. Some, but it is rare. (Editors Note: Please enjoy our wide variety of interviews with politicians and gaming commissioners)
Why not? Because it probably gets tiring and politically dangerous to constantly be out gunning for stories that may never be run.
I really enjoy the writers that do it, we all do.
I recommend every burgeoning writer to check out this website linked: It is the Reuters handbook of journalism.
Journalism skills are tested in gambling entertainment writing because the information flow of the industry is skewed. The ‘news’ cycle is a big vacuum.
The bulkiest part of the news cycle is like this:
- Someone posts something on 2+2 or someone wins something somewhere, probably in an event hosted or sponsored by an online poker company.
- Story is picked up by Pokerfuse or similar.
- Story is re-written 300 ways for various sites and marketed via various means.
- Repeat cycle.
It simply isn’t worth it to dig deep very often.
The fascinating part to me is whenever some of the real journos start digging into something, they get a big following of supporters. Forums have massive threads about scammers, for example.
The bad with the good.
Speaking of scammers, unfortunately, bad headlines seem to linger as this industry matures. Big events, like Ultimate Bet scamming everyone, have shook the foundations of gambling journalism to the core.
Thankfully, the good companies stuck the true course and reported on everything.
It is a question, because on one side, big news sites want to protect their revenue streams, but on the other side, they are a ‘news’ site, so shouldn’t they be reporting the news?
That isn’t journalism.
Solution: Tell the truth. Dig for originality and innovation.
- Yes Man, No Man, Every Man
I want to discuss something that touches us all, daily. Doesn’t matter how smart or how rich you are. And that is digging into the psychology of workplace dignity and workplace purpose. This deserves far more than one article.
In the workplace, there are usually managers and co-ordinators. These people are the decision makers. Thus they work as filters. In poker writing, they are usually called editors. They control the flow of information and approvals. They decide what goes to publish and possibly the content roadmaps.
You, in the workplace, are a writer. Tasked with making content and keeping sanity intact. Before agreeing to write anything, frame in your mind if you are being a yes man, a no man or an everyman (or woman). Do this for your own sanity and your own framing of your position. There is so much ambiguity in these fields and this is a way to temper that down.
A “Yes Man” is someone that says yes to everything and does what is told. My problem with yes men is that they are occasionally lying or doing things for political reasons. Maybe they think it will help them get ahead.
“No Men” are those individuals that are not scared to challenge authority and can say no to things. Say no to copy writing 15 articles on online casino rules because you think it might lower your writing juices? Then you are a probably a no man! If you are a no man, you will be a master of your own writing destiny, but you might upset some editors.
“Everyman”- these are the rare few, the ‘unicorns,’ that not only understand how to balance yes and no decisions properly, but they also understand online marketing process. In tech, ‘Unicorns’ is a really stupid cliché that is used way too often. But the idea is solid. A writer that knows some SEO and how to get links is a more valuable writer than one that simply hands in ‘good enough’ articles about aces beating kings to meet a deadline.
There are some strong ‘everyman’ candidates in this industry to look up to, thankfully.
Decide what areas above may interest you, decide how much blah copy you can do for the team, communicate all the time and you will have some keys to success in your hand.
Solution: Control your own destiny. Reconcile your standing in your position. Make yourself valuable. Say NO and learn new skills.
Writing is not easy. Nobody can say it is.
In gambling, it is even harder. It is fun, and I love it.
I am running a few more parts where I discuss more issues. Such as all of us being lazy, negativity bias, change management, purpose, novelty and several other important components. Components that I feel make for an outstanding writer.