There are plenty of poker media members out there whose work many poker fans don’t usually get exposed to because it’s not produced in English. One such writer is Brian Saslavchik, who runs CardPlayer Latin America. I first connected with Brian about three years ago, when I was looking to get reviews for my Poker Notes Live app after it became available in Spanish. We’ve stayed in touch ever since and got to meet each other for the first time back in January at the 2016 PCA.
My Spanish comprehension is relatively basic, but I speak, read, and understand enough to appreciate a good poker article, since I know enough about the subject matter. Brian has been called “Argentina’s Kevmath“, and one look at his Twitter feed would confirm that he’s a fountain of poker information for the Spanish-speaking world. Look a little deeper and you’ll see that he’s produced volumes upon volumes of comprehensive coverage of the Latin American poker scene.
It’s time to get to know Brian a little better. Once you read his story, I’m sure it’ll bring a new level of appreciation for the work he’s done to promote poker over the years.
How did you first get into the business of poker writing and for how long have you been doing it?
After graduating from Florida International University (FIU) in 2009, I went back home to Argentina and by some miracle got in touch with Juan Meryn and Bryan Droznes, two very smart Stanford MBA graduates who were about to launch a poker magazine. I was a massive poker geek and, in my opinion, a great fit for the job, so they hired me as the General Coordinator for what ended up being CardPlayer Latin America.
What poker outlets have you written for and which has been your favorite (one-time or ongoing) gig over the years?
I’ve only written for CPLA although I did work as PCA 2016 Media Coordinator which was somewhat a different experience. It was a very rewarding job because you get to choose what the most important stories of the day are and then the press around the world will use that information.
Besides writing, I had two poker TV shows on Poker Sports TV, the only Spanish language poker channel in the world. The first one was La Mano Perfecta (The Perfect Hand), where I analyzed online poker hands along with soccer commentator Rodrigo García Lussardi. The other one was Desde Cero (From Zero) and was a beginner’s poker school.
What is it that you love about poker that keeps you so interested in the game?
I’ve always considered myself 50% poker media person / 50% poker player. I’ve been playing poker part time for over 12 years and never had a losing year. Splitting my time on both sides of the business has helped me avoid getting saturated.
What sort of job(s) did you have before getting into poker writing?
I was only 23 when I started working at CPLA (I’m almost 30 now) and before that I was in college. My only previous work experience was at the front desk at FIU’s dorm rooms. As a foreigner, my student visa would only allow me to work inside the university, so I got that job. I worked from 1 to 9AM so I took my laptop and grinded $0.25/0.50 Rush on Full Tilt Poker all night. Sweet times before Black Friday!
Tell us a bit about your personal life; where you live, family, etc.
I was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1986. My mom, Clarisa, is an English translator. My dad, Dany, is a plastic surgeon. My brother (5 years younger) currently works as Show Host on cruise ships. My grandfather Pocho, who taught me how to play poker, is an architect. My girlfriend, Paula, is a yoga instructor. We met each other while working at the poker TV channel, where she was a producer.
I love them all very much and they, along with my extended family and friends, have played a key role in my life.
How often do you play poker? Home games mostly or in poker rooms? Cash or tourneys?
I play 2-3 times a week in private cash games. I’ve always been a cash game player as I think MTT’s nature of long stretches of losing followed by a single large score would affect my life in a negative way. I also think cash games are more profitable per hour so naturally that’s my game of choice.
In the past I have played online cash games (500K+ hands over the years), and I also stream my online play on Twitch occasionally, but as the games have gotten tougher I have had to look for softer games in the live scene.
— CardPlayer LA (@cardplayerla) July 31, 2016
Are you more of a No Limit Hold’em purist or a fan of mixed?
I consider myself a poker purist. By this I mean that I think of poker as a game where the best players are the ones who make the most money. Trophies don’t mean as much to me as they do to others, a reason why I don’t play many tournaments and focus more on cash games.
As for games, I play mostly NLHE but enjoy mixed games very much. I would say my weakest games are stud varieties because those are the ones I’ve played the least. I have played some PLO and Omaha8 so I’m decent at those. I’ve also played quite a bit of HU limit hold’em against very good bots. Lately I’ve been trying to learn Hold’em 6 Plus but haven’t made much progress.
What’s the biggest misconception people have about poker writers/writing?
I’ll answer it as if it was the biggest misconception about me as a writer.
Most people think I’m a good writer or that I have a background in writing. That could not be farther from the truth. I’m a terrible writer with an MBA.
I write about poker because I know poker, not because I know writing. I wish I was 1/10th as good as actual poker writers such as Brad Willis or my Mexican colleague Samuel Albores.
Having attended university in the United States, and as we can all tell by your responses here, you obviously have a tremendous command of English. Do you ever see yourself branching out into English-language poker writing so that non-Spanish speakers could be exposed to your work?
I definitely could branch out and start writing in English. Most of what I read, poker-related or not, is in English, so I’m used to it. However, my writing in general still has some improvements to be made.
In retrospect, do you feel as though you wasted time getting your MBA considering that you chose a somewhat less traditional career path of poker writing? In other words, if you could do those years over again knowing that you’d end up in this career, would you have chosen to study something different and perhaps more useful?
Not at all; I don’t feel like I chose an unconventional career path. I run a company that publishes print and online magazines. The fact that they are poker magazines is not really that relevant. I could be running Playboy magazine (the same company that owns CardPlayerLA owns Playboy in Latin America) and I could do it just as well in my opinion. I feel that my job is more business-oriented than journalistic.
The MBA has helped me learn very important tools for planning and executing projects. It has also connected me to brilliant people who shared their knowledge and experience. I love being around smart(er) people.
Contrary to what some players might believe, poker writing doesn’t pay too much, especially if you’re a freelancer. Do you do any other sort of work, writing or otherwise?
Over the years, my job has migrated from writing to a more all-around role, which includes being a sales person and CardPlayerLA’s face. This has helped me have a decent income which allows me to have a comfortable life. The additional income from playing poker doesn’t hurt either.
What other hobbies do you have? Tell us about them.
I love travelling and eating, two activities which fit perfectly in my life. As a media person, I get invited to most of the big tournaments in Latin America. All my flights, hotel and food expenses are included and most of the times we get to stay at amazing 5-star hotels and eat at fine dining restaurants every night. I also enjoy reading non-fiction books such as Freakonomics and The Signal and the Noise.
What’s your favorite place you’ve ever traveled to as a poker media member? Was it the destination itself or the poker event that made it special?
I can’t choose between Lima, Perú, and Medellín, Colombia. Lima is the food capital of Latin America. You could go have lunch in the worst hole-in-the-wall place and have an amazing meal. The people are very friendly and the Atlantic City Casino might have the best service in the world. I remember going to the poker room with two colleagues, ordering food and when we asked for the check they said food was free. We hadn’t been (and weren’t planning on) playing a single hand of anything. We had just gone there to have dinner. They treat their customers as if they are family.
Medellín is one of the most beautiful cities I’ve been to. The El Poblado neighborhood is sort of a jungle within a city, but the city itself is very modern and clean. The “paisas” (locals) are friendly and welcoming. I had the pleasure of travelling to 7 or 8 cities in Colombia and would highly recommend visiting.
What do you enjoy writing about most in poker – lifestyle/feature pieces, op-eds, promotional stuff, tourney recaps, live/online poker news, or live reporting? (and why)
As a person who enjoys travelling and eating, that’s what I enjoy writing about. A few years ago I took a break from LAPT Perú and had lunch at Maido, which currently ranks as the 13th best restaurant in the world.
It was a memorable experience and I wanted to share it with all the poker community so I wrote this review. Of course, I liked the restaurant so much that I went back the following night.
What’s something you still haven’t yet done/accomplished in poker that’s on your bucket list?
I’ve always aspired to work in a live or online poker company. I think my skills as a media person/poker player are a good fit for that. I also think it’s the natural next step for any successful person in poker media. There are many people who have done this, most recently Donnie Peters, former Editor-in-Chief of PokerNews who is now a WPT Marketing Manager.
Alright, the stage is yours – go ahead and let loose about something you just HAVE to get off your chest.
In CardPlayerLA I have 100% complete freedom to write about any topic. I could write about politics, sports, and even cats, and that would be fine. This means I don’t have stuff I have to keep to myself.
So, I’m going to use this space to promote Poker Por Los Chicos (Poker for the kids), a charity event I’m organizing. We are receiving donations for non-profit organization Por los Chicos, which feeds children in need in the poorest parts of Argentina.
Last year $10,000 in donations were collected from over 200 poker players; I hope we surpass those number this time around. If you want to donate, you can do so here, via PayPal or credit card, or, alternatively, transfer to my PokerStars account (ID: briansas) and we will make sure to withdraw those funds and send them to Por los Chicos.
— CardPlayer LA (@cardplayerla) August 10, 2016