Get to Know the Poker Media: Donnie Peters

Donnie Peters Media Award

Donnie winning the 2015 American Poker Award for Media Person of the Year | Image credit: revolutionpix for GPI

In the midst of the 2016 World Series of Poker Main Event, some pretty big news emerged away from the tables, within the poker media, as PokerNews Editor-in-Chief Donnie Peters announced he’d be moving on to a new position with the World Poker Tour.

Universally respected throughout the industry for his tireless work ethic, Donnie’s career arc reveals a constant upwards trajectory.

When I first met Donnie in a hotel lounge at the 2016 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure, I legitimately felt (and actually said out loud) that I was meeting a “poker celebrity,” having long appreciated and been a fan of the content he’s cranked out over the years.

I’m grateful to have forged a strong relationship with him, especially over the past year, and so happy that he agreed to do his “exit interview” here at Cardplayer Lifestyle before moving on to his new position.

Please join me as we Get to Know the Poker Media, Donnie Peters; I hope you’ll all enjoy!

How did you first get into the business of poker writing and for how long have you been doing it?

I was just a college kid at Elon University with a huge enthusiasm for the game. I played online and would blog about my experiences regularly. This was back in 2006 and 2007 when there were a lot of poker bloggers who became “personalities” within the industry. I followed them and wanted to do the same.

While playing on Full Tilt one day, likely while skipping class, I was chatting with a player at the table and we exchanged links to our blogs. He felt I wrote well enough that I’d be a good fit as a tournament reporter, and he suggested that I send an email to PokerNews to try and get hired for the 2008 World Series of Poker.

A couple of weeks later, following a rather extensive interview process, I was offered a gig to report on the 2008 WSOP. I’ll never forget when I got the offer, standing in the encyclopedia section of the Belk Library at Elon University talking on the phone as happy as ever.

You’re, of course, known throughout the industry as the Editor-in-Chief of PokerNews. Have you ever written for any other poker outlets?

Other than my own personal blog, no, I haven’t. My first published article outside of doing tournament reporting was for Poker Network, but Poker Network was the Australian subdomain within the PokerNews network, so essentially the same company.

Donnie PokerNews crew

Donnie, together with some current and former PokerNews colleagues

What is it that you love about the game that keeps you so interested in it after close to a decade in the poker world?

Everything in poker is constantly changing. It’s an ever-evolving industry with a regular turnover of new characters, new games, new events, and more. There is rarely a dull moment in the poker industry, but most of all, I’m just a giant poker geek at heart. I love to play. I love to follow the players and their results. I am attracted to all the stories, both good and bad, old and new, that come from the industry. It’s everything.

When I first got into poker, I was your regular college kid who caught the bug and had a dream. I played a lot, sometimes too much, and while I made some money playing, I sort of always knew the grind was a grind I wouldn’t want to do for a living.

I could never bring myself to drop out of school and chase the poker dream. I always wanted something to fall back on. It just so happened that I was able to land a healthy job in the industry of the game I love. That was too much of a win-win for me to pass up, and I’m happy that I’ve stuck with it throughout the years.

What sort of job(s) did you have before getting into poker writing? Have you done any other non-poker writing over the years?

Other than your run-of-the-mill summer jobs while at home during college breaks in the summer, nothing. I was hired to work the 2008 WSOP during my final semester at Elon, and PokerNews has been the only company I’ve worked for since graduation, until just now accepting a position with the World Poker Tour.

Tell us a bit about your personal life; where you live, family, etc.

I have been living in Las Vegas since November 2009 and I have absolutely loved it here. My new opportunity with the WPT will be taking me further west, so I’ll be headed out to California in the coming months.

I grew up in Buffalo, New York and lived there until I was 15. Then, my parents moved with my two brothers and me to New Hampshire right before I started high school. I lived on the small seacoast of the Granite State until 2009, when I made the jump to Vegas.

How often do you play poker? Home games mostly or in poker rooms? Cash or tourneys?

I don’t play as often as I would like to these days, but I do play some. I used to play a ton, both online and live, and mostly just cash games. The tournament grind can be long and restrictive, but the freedom of cash games has always been attractive to me.

I’m often working so much these days that I don’t bother to dive into more poker when I’m not working. I’d equate it to when you’re in school and the last thing you want to do when the bell rings each day is to go home and talk more schoolwork with your friends or jump right into that night’s homework assignments. My professional life evolves around poker, so when I’m not working I’d rather just catch a game with my friends, hang out at the bar, or play some soccer.

What’s your favorite place to play poker and why?

I don’t have one specific favorite place to play. I enjoy a comfortable room with quality dealers and a friendly, accommodating staff. Every place has its own unique feel and its own specialness about it, so I just can’t name one favorite.

As a known proponent of mixed games, why do you think so many poker fans and aficionados have stuck to primarily only caring about Texas hold’em?

It’s the easiest form of poker to learn and improve at. Texas hold’em is a very simple game; everyone gets two cards, and there’s four betting streets. It’s straightforward and easily explained. Plus, it’s the most widely spread game around the world and gets the most TV time.

It’s no secret that people hate change, and it’s hard to get someone to leave their comfort zone to try something new. That’s a big reason why a lot of people have stuck to only Texas hold’em and never explored other variants. We also can’t forget that all of the money is in Texas hold’em, and people want to win money when playing poker.

I will say that I have seen a growth in mixed games in the recent years, which is great for poker and refreshing to see.

What’s the biggest misconception people have about poker writers/writing?

The travel portion of it, while nice and something I’ll forever be thankful for having the opportunity to do, isn’t as glamorous as it can seem at times.

While many of us in the poker media are on the road several times throughout the year, we don’t get to enjoy it as much as one might think, unless we’re sacrificing sleep.

What other hobbies do you have? Tell us about them.

I’m big into sports and love playing soccer. I played competitively through college, but now just play in some competitive recreational leagues four times a week.

I also love roulette, does that count?

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?

The more you grow as a member of the media, the more you hope that your content grows with you. That said, I love writing features and op-ed columns the most, but I will always have a big place in my heart for tournament reporting. Tournament reporting is often the only way an audience can view what’s happening at an event, and it’s our responsibility to provide the coverage and a historical archive of it all.

If I had to pick and choose, I’d prefer to not write promotional stuff or the straight news articles, but it’s not because I don’t like them or don’t believe they have a place in the content stream. They do, it’s just that I prefer the other stuff more.

Beyond poker writing, your career has also seen you produce a ton of additional poker content – in audio form on the PokerNews Podcast and on screen for Poker Central’s Prime Time Poker Report. You’ve mentioned publicly that moving beyond print media wasn’t an easy transition for you, as you’re more of a “behind-the-scenes” kind of guy. What have you learned most from making the transition to audio and video poker content?

PNPod Guest

Donnie and his #PNPod co-host Remko Rinkema had me on as a guest for episode #349 during the 2016 PCA

Listen to people and take everything in. There are so many great people in this world that have so much to offer. Even if it’s something you don’t agree with or work into your repertoire, you can still learn from it. They say knowledge is power, and it really is.

Equally as important is experience. Just dive in and do something. Sure, you might fall on your face a couple of times — and I’ve definitely fallen on my face too many times to count — but you pick yourself up, you learn how to improve, and you try again.

When I first wrote an article, I was petrified it would be published and read by people who weren’t me. But I did it, received feedback, started doing it more, and constantly repeated this process — learning, doing, learning, and doing again, over and over.

It’s the same with the podcast and video content. As long as you go into something with the excitement of a new challenge, but also the respect that you’re going to need to learn and stay hungry to grow with it, you’ll be fine. Practice makes perfect. I’m certainly not perfect, by any means, nor will I ever be, which means I’ll continue to practice in order to get better and better.

You’ve just made a BIG announcement that you’ll be leaving PokerNews for a Marketing Manager position at the World Poker Tour. Congratulations!

That does beg a few questions though. First off, will you still contribute occasionally to PokerNews (in written or audio form on the PNPod)?

Unfortunately, I don’t think so. I might occasionally be a guest on the PokerNews Podcast, but you’ll have to stay tuned for that.

Besides being a “great new opportunity”, what was it that made you decide it was time to move on and do something new in the poker world?

PokerNews will always be family to me. Being with the company for eight-and-a-half years was a dream come true, and it wasn’t an easy decision for me to leave. To make an analogy to poker, you could say I had the clock called on me, but I decided to stick my chips in and take this opportunity to advance my career. It’s going to be new and it’s going to be challenging, but I’m up for it.

I’m extremely fulfilled with everything we accomplished at PokerNews, and I’m confident the team I’m leaving behind will continue to carry the torch. I wouldn’t have been able to come to this decision without the experience I had working alongside the amazing professionals at PokerNews.

What are you most excited about with regards to your new position?

Learning something new and taking on a new challenge would be at the top of my list. Don’t get me wrong; if I’m going to be honest with you, I’m also a bit nervous for what’s to come, as I would be with any new challenge. That’s just human nature, but it’s an excited nervousness of taking on a new challenge.

I’ll be working with an entirely new group of people, and everything I’ve come to know of the WPT is that it’s comprised of a really great, intelligent team of professionals. I’m looking forward to learning from all of them and doing my part to helping the brand grow.

What’s something you still haven’t yet done/accomplished in poker that’s on your bucket list?

Being on the media side of things for so long, and being a giant poker geek at heart, I just want to talk to everyone in poker — all of the legends and stars of the game, newcomers, too — I want to hear their stories.

Even if things are off the record, for my ears only, I want to know about it all. This is a goal that will never end, so it’ll never be complete, but it’s what makes our game so amazing.

On the playing side of things, one thing I haven’t done yet is play the WSOP Main Event. As weird as this may sound, I gave myself a rule that the first year I play the event will be the year I know I can assure myself playing it every year thereafter. I love poker — it’s why I originally got into this industry — and I look forward to playing in the WSOP Main Event for the first time.

Other than that, I’d love to make a big final table of a major poker tournament, whether that be a WPT event, an EPT event, one at the WSOP, or something else. More than anything, win or lose, I would just love to feel that rush.

Alright, the stage is yours – go ahead and let loose about something you just HAVE to get off your chest.

I would like to see the poker community go back to embracing the sense of “community” more, instead of going the other way like it feels like it continues to go.

The poker industry is a small one, but together we have strength in numbers. Whether that’s supporting one another, fighting for online poker regulation, attracting more players to the game, or something else, let’s aim for it to be less about “me” and more about “us.”

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