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Posted by on Jul 4, 2023 in Blog | 0 comments

Every Picture Tells a Story: WSOP Writers Trifecta (2016)


LAS VEGAS (2016)

The World Series of Poker Main Event starts this week. It’s been seven years since I attended, or even set foot inside the building. Nonetheless, living here in Las Vegas and seeing so many of my friends who are looking forward to playing in poker’s world championship, I can’t help but share their anticipation and excitement. It’s wonderful that so many people of different backgrounds from all over the world come together each year to chase their dreams.

Before I served as WSOP Media Director (2002-2016), I was a columnist for Card Player Magazine, which was then the game’s leading source for news before the Internet exploded and changed everything. I was initially hired by Linda Johnson, who I will always revere for giving me the opportunity. I knew enough about poker to write about it, but at the time, I’d never done any “tournament reporting,” which is an entirely different skill set. If you think playing at the tournament final table is long and stressful, well covering it was often just as grueling. We often stood on our feet for 10-12 hours at a time, writing down the action of every single hand. And once the tournament ended and had a winner, the competition may have been over for the players. But for the tournament reporter, now the real workday was just beginning. There were interviews, photos, the write-up, printing the reports on copy machines, sending the results out via the Internet, posting to the casino website, and various administrative details. Oh, and then there were the overnight chip counts from other tournaments happening simultaneously (which was the worst part of the job). I loved most of the work, but the days were long and the nights were longer. When one final table ended, there was certain to be another the following day (sometimes two). Back then, the WSOP crammed 30-35 tournaments into just 30 days. The most reports I did at a single WSOP was 63.

As I said, I’d not done tournament reporting before. So, sometime in 2000, I called up the two biggest icons of poker tournament reporting — Max Shapiro and Mike Paulle. Both were writing machines. They put out amazing daily content, always clear and concise, yet also marvelously entertaining. Max and Mike covered many of the tournaments in Los Angeles, which ran year around (LA was the center of the poker universe back then). They also covered the WSOP, Hall of Fame Tournament, Gold Coast Open, Queens Poker Classic, the Orleans Open, and way too many other Las Vegas poker tournaments to mention. What I admired most about Max and Mike was their sense of humor, which was always abundant in their write-ups. To do that job, you had to have a sense of humor and enjoy the work.

My questions must have seemed dumb, given they were such experienced veterans. But they never made me feel dumb or inadequate. How close should I stand to the table? What should I do if I can’t keep up with the action? How do you quote players when they’re trash-talking? Should you interview the pissed-off guy who just busted out? I had no clue what I was doing, but Max and Mike provided the templates and the gold standards of tournament reporting, still copied to this day.

Today, poker tournaments and poker history have only written reports (as well as old photographs) from those times. Now, the biggest events are on television and/or streamed online. And, some poker websites do a really good job with coverage, though they have armies of staff (which are obscenely underappreciated by most tournament players, especially the big names). But in the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, and early 2000s, the *ONLY* record that exists is the written words and the official tournament reports, always done by a single person. To get some idea of the void of reporting when it does not exist, just think back to the earliest WSOP championship final tables. There is *NO RECORD* of what happened. Yeah, we know Johnny Moss, and Amarillo Slim, and Doyle Brunson, and others won. But there are no records of their achievements and nothing to study, nor look back upon. Why not? There were no Max’s and Mike’s back then, and poker shall always have a blank void for the rare opportunity that was missed. Just one example — it’s a crime there’s no official record of what happened in 1982 with the famous “chip and a chair” story, when Jack Straus was down to a single chip in the tournament, and somehow stormed back to win poker’s world championship, hours later. Who wouldn’t want to read that legendary report of what happened if it existed, even all these years later?

This photo was taken at my final WSOP in 2016 at the Rio in Las Vegas. I believe this is the only photo of the three of us together. I will always owe Max Shapiro and Mike Paulle a tremendous debt for their encouragement and friendship. If I haven’t thanked them enough in the past, then please let me thank them now.

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