Facing the Firing Squad: Robbie Strazynski
MEET ROBBIE STRAZYNSKI
I can’t explain it, but for some reason, poker has attracted some extraordinarily talented writers in recent years.
Arguably, foremost among this generation currently pushing boundaries and giving us all in-depth news and fresh perspectives almost daily is Robbie Stazynski. Somehow, living in a faraway land works to his advantage. He sees what many of us don’t see. He hears things we don’t hear. He contemplates thoughts we don’t ponder. And, he says and writes what many of us can’t (or won’t) say and write. Indeed, Strazynski’s body of work is consistently bold and brave, much like the 33-year-old himself, who has lived a full life that’s the subject of admiration and intrigue — this from my perspective.
Strange thing is — I have almost nothing in common with Strazynski. We hold vastly different religious views. We are at odds politically. We have opposite views on the Middle East, and U.S.-Israeli relations. Still, I do enjoy and often learn from what he writes and says when he speaks his mind, which has become a perpetual dialogue. I have come to respect his passion. I do appreciate Strazynski when he speaks his mind in whatever forum he so choses, whether it’s about poker or politics. And after hearing his viewpoint, I feel as though I’ve gained something. Unfortunately, this respectful discourse between activists is rare nowadays. Sides that don’t always see eye to eye have become entrenched in echo chambers of isolation. I suppose that’s the biggest reason that I cherish this unusual friendship that we’ve developed just over the past year.
Late in 2014, Strazynski and I engaged in an extended debate (in print and on video) about a major poker controversy when two poker players wore t-shirts at a tournament in support of Palestinian independence. Turns out, Strazynski almost single-handedly was responsible for getting the tour sponsor, PokerStars, to adopt a new dress code, prohibiting political expression (at the tables). I took strong exception to this decision and voiced my vociferous opposition to not just the decision, but Strazynski’s reasoning. FIRST ARTICLE HERE, then READ FULL TEXT AND SEE VIDEO HERE
Following our debate, I was eager to know more about Strazynski, who was a formidable adversary. I found out that he lives in Israel, where he’s now raising his family. I became fascinated with his personal lifestyle, far beyond anything having to do with poker. Although the game and writing about industry issues initially brought us together, I prefer to think of us as like-minded comrades in the army of curiosity. We’re excited to learn more about whatever, one of the things that makes writing such an interesting (and often fulfilling) pursuit.
Robbie Strazynski was born and raised in Los Angeles. He moved to Israel in 1998, at age 16, after graduating high school. After a year of yeshiva study, he enrolled as an English Linguistics major at Bar Ilan University, eventually earning his BA and MA there. He and his wife married at age 20 and they have three children.
Robbie held numerous positions over his career as an editor and copywriter before landing his first full-time job in the online gaming industry in 2010. Just a few months prior, Robbie founded the Cardplayer Lifestyle poker blog, which he maintains independently to this day. He is also the co-creator of the Poker Notes Live mobile app and, since June 2014, the co-host of the popular Top Pair Home Game Poker Podcast.
Robbie’s articles have been published in numerous poker media and gaming industry outlets including All In Magazine, PokerUpdate.com, PokerStrategy.com, The Hendon Mob, Titanbet Poker, Casinoaffiliateprograms.com, iGBAffiliate Magazine, and others.
Robbie was recently tapped to be the Head of Content Strategy for WebPals, whose parent company XLMedia is publicly traded on the London Stock Exchange.
My sincere thanks to Robbie Strazynski for putting himself to the test, and Facing the Firing Squad.
What are some of the things you stand for?
I stand for being “genuine” inside and out (as opposed to fake or two-faced). I also stand for merit-based advancement, working hard and playing hard.
What are some of the things you stand against?
Pretty much the opposite of things that I stand for.
What living person do you admire the most, and why?
That would have to be my Dad.
He was born in post-Holocaust, communist Poland in 1948 and had a tough childhood, to say the least. One of only a handful of Jews in his school, he still remembers being singled out and beaten up just for being Jewish. After high school, he was accepted into a six-year medical school program. Upon graduating, he was drafted and served briefly in the Polish army as a sniper.
Dad escaped Poland (he still hasn’t told me the full story of how) and lived for a year in Vienna and another year in Rome before making it to the United States. While he already knew half a dozen languages fluently (no, that’s not a misprint), he barely knew any English.
Upon arriving to Atlanta, Dad taught himself English by reading the dictionary. His certifications from Poland weren’t recognized, so he had to first re-earn his undergraduate degree (which he did, in just two years) and then go back to medical school. He was valedictorian of the first graduating class of Western University of Health Sciences.
After building and running a thriving medical practice in Los Angeles over the next decade and a half, Dad (and Mom) moved the family to Israel, where he essentially had to start all over again. While dealing with all the challenges of moving with a family to a new country, at over 50 years old, Dad learned to communicate fluently in Hebrew (medical Hebrew, mind you!) and has now been running his Vascular Treatment Center for a decade.
If that’s not someone whose story is worth admiring, I don’t know whose is. Love you, Dad!
What living person do you despise?
“Despise” is a pretty big word. Respectfully, I’d prefer to list a couple qualities that I’m just not a big fan of, as I believe that people can always change. With that said, I can’t stand arrogance, self-centeredness, and people who feel a sense of entitlement.
If money were not an object, what profession would you chose?
All of my poker-related activities, from my writing for my poker blog and other poker outlets to marketing my Poker Notes Live app, to co-hosting the Top Pair Home Game Poker Podcast are things I do during my free time. I decided to get involved in the poker world quite simply because I love it so much and want to be as big a part of it as I can be.
If money weren’t an object, I’d love to pursue all of those things full time, with a focus on the writing, and also have the ability to attend poker events around the world.
What is it about yourself that you are most proud of?
I’m particularly proud of two decisions I’ve made in life, namely choosing to stay and live in Israel and choosing to get married and have kids. Choosing this lifestyle has very much made me the man I am today.
Concurrently, I’m also very proud of all the hard work I’ve put in to clawing my way towards a little bit of recognition in the poker world. While mine is obviously not a household name or anything like that, it’s especially rewarding to see all of my “extracurricular poker labor” bearing fruit:
– My articles have been published in numerous top poker publications.
– My app will soon notch its 10,000th download.
– Top Pair podcast listenership has grown 25% since I joined Bruce Briggs as co-host one year ago.
– My Cardplayer Lifestyle blog posts are regularly being read, shared, linked to, and responded to by over 6,000 people a month, among them top poker pros and poker media members.
I know all of that sounds like one long plug, but the fact of the matter is that I’m a family man with a full-time job living way out in poker’s “anti-Mecca”. I haven’t allowed any of that to be an obstacle in the way of my passion for poker and I’m very proud of what I’ve accomplished in my free time.
What is it about yourself that you’d like to change?
I’ve naturally got a bit of a short fuse, and that’s a trait I’ve worked very hard on improving over the years. Unfortunately, my temper still gets the better of me sometimes, too often with those dearest to me. I wish I could snap my fingers and fix that flaw, but I’ll have to be content with gradually continuing to work on it.
What’s the most exciting thing you’ve ever done?
Marry my wife, Miriam.
What’s the most unusual time and place you’ve ever visited?
I was 15 when my parents took the family to the Galapagos Islands. It doesn’t get more unusual than that. That was an incredible trip!
As for an unusual time, I visited Moscow in the summer of 1992. I was 10.5 years old and the contrast there vs. my life in Los Angeles at the time was extreme, to say the least. This was a time when you could pretty much bribe your way to get anything there with some packets of American gum, Tylenol, and imported coffee. As a matter of fact, a big package of Tylenol and Coffee paved the way for my family to see the REAL crown jewels in the Kremlin Armory… the ones Russian citizens had to wait three years to get tickets to.
Name a place you’ve never visited where you still want to go.
I love to travel and was fortunate enough to have had my parents take me to many places back when I lived in Los Angeles as a kid, but a full-time job and three kids don’t make continued travel as easy as I’d like it to be. It’s impossible for me to name just one as there are many “big trips” that I’d love to take in order to see and tour places I’ve never been. It’s not a bucket list, but boy would I sure love to have the time and resources to travel to (in order of preference):
1. A U.S. cross-country road trip with stops in: Milwaukee, Chicago, Detroit, Indianapolis, St. Louis, Louisville, San Antonio, Houston, Denver, Salt Lake City, Seattle, and Portland.
2. A Caribbean cruise – doesn’t matter where we stop…. I just want to see all that gorgeous blue water everywhere.
3. Canadian cities tour: Montreal, Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver.
4. Hawaii and Alaska
5. A week to drive all around Ireland
6. Australia: Melbourne and Sydney + an Outback tour.
Also, I can’t help but mention, I’ve never attended the World Series of Poker. I often dream about being there, soaking in the electric atmosphere, and meeting all the wonderful poker people with whom I’ve been able to establish great relationships via social media. Quite honestly, I wouldn’t even need to play in any of the tournaments, but I’d just want to be there and finally experience it in person. I feel that an experience like that would give me enough material to write and talk about to last a lifetime.
Favorite book, favorite movie, and favorite musician.
Pondering this question, I realized that I clearly don’t read enough books, watch enough movies, or listen to enough music .
With that said, my favorite song is “More Than Words”, by Extreme, I like comedies as well as action movies, and I’ve liked pretty much anything I’ve ever read by John Grisham, Michael Crichton, Tom Clancy, and Jeffrey Archer.
I will say though that my favorite poker books are Jared Tendler’s The Mental Game of Poker and Eric Raskin’s The Moneymaker Effect.
What upsets you the most?
It’s hard to say what’s MOST upsetting to me, but there are a few things that really piss me off. These include:
– Baseless anti-Semitism and hatred of Israel
– Internet trolls – seriously guys; you have NOTHING else better to do with your time?
– Instances when elected officials demonstrate being out of touch with their electorate
What bores you?
Hours-long meetings that could’ve in retrospect been summarized in the few good bullet points I end up jotting down as notes. I always exit those meetings bothered by how much more productively I could’ve used that time.
What’s your favorite quality in a man or a woman?
Something that endears me to a person is when he or she is “true to themselves”. Whether I may agree with that person’s opinion’s or deeds is immaterial – everyone’s entitled to their opinions and to live life how they see fit. Someone who can “be real”, both inside and out – and who lives their life that way ¬ is someone who I want to get to know better.
Do you believe in an afterlife and why do you believe it so?
Yes. It’s one of the 13 Principles of the Jewish Faith. Believing in a “world to come” helps gives one’s life in this world purpose. I feel as though G-d gives me X years on this Earth to be the best person I can be and it’s my responsibility to use the opportunity as best I can, in preparation for the next world