Interview with Clare Fitzgerald of Casino City

Clare FitzgeraldTogether with my Top Pair Home Game Poker Podcast co-host Bruce Briggs, I recently interviewed Clare Fitzgerald, the Copy Chief at Casino City. A relative newbie to the poker world, Clare’s path to poker is a fascinating one to learn about.

Below, you’ll find the entirety of Episode 278 of the podcast, which includes the interview with Clare starting at the 23:33-minute mark. You can also read the summarized transcript below.


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Interview Transcript (Summarized)

We have a very special guest with us on this program, Clare Fitzgerald. She’s the copy editor for Casino City, someone whose work I’ve been following for the last couple of years. Welcome to Top Pair.

Thank you for having me.

As I said, as someone whose work I’ve become familiar with over the last couple of years, to the best of my knowledge you’ve just entered the gaming industry about a year and a half ago.

I started in May 2015 and before that I had pretty much no previous experience with poker or with the casino industry. I was just coming at it purely as a copy editing job.

In that case, let’s get to know Clare pre-May 2015. Tell us a little bit about yourself and your path, how you got into it in the first place.

I was drawn to editing work just because I am a massive reader. I just wanted a job where I got to read stuff all day, and the only way to do that is to go into editing work where you read stuff and fix it as you go along. I did that in a couple of different industries, such as technology and academic stuff. I worked in content marketing for a little bit and I thought that poker and the gambling industry seemed like an interesting new subject. I was an English major in school. I’m part of a writing group, so that had kind of been my main area of interest for most of my life, both in my studies and hobbies. I like reading and writing and learning stuff in general.

Was gambling or gaming part of your background as far as what you enjoyed?

My friend group is basically a bunch of nerds. A lot of my friends are big video gamers, but I was mostly into table top board games like Settlers of Catan. Gambling wasn’t really on my radar. I was part of the gaming club in college, which mostly meant playing a lot of Risk, playing a lot of Catan and Guitar Hero, so nothing that involved money. Then this new job caught my eye. It’s something I didn’t know anything about it and it seemed really interesting. So when I got here there were a whole bunch of things to learn.

Poker is something that did line up with the stuff I had already done. It’s a strategy game. It’s not pure gambling. I did have some friends that had played it a little bit. Other than that, if it wasn’t this I would have ended up editing for some other subject and who knows how I would have reacted to that.

That’s all very interesting. I know Casino City is the main place I’ve seen your work, and I’m sure you’ve gone through a lot of the pieces in your role as copy editor. Can you tell us a bit about the Casino City family of websites?

Yeah, we’re under the Casino City umbrella company. We have Casino City Times, which is our newsroom. Then there’s CasinoCity.com, which is a big directory of gaming properties so you can go there if you want to find out information about land-based casinos. We have Online Casino City which is the same thing but for online casinos, which means you can also go through and get bonus offers and stuff. And then we have the Casino City Press which is mostly business to business publications.

We do a lot of directories and so there’s a lot of information that people within the industry can use to find each other, to find vendors and that kind of stuff. We work with a couple of law firms to publish stuff about regulatory compliance in different jurisdictions. We also run the GPWA, which is the trade association for online gaming marketers.

Do your duties gravitate towards one or more of those divisions, or are you just floating wherever you are needed?

I do copy editing work across the board. On a day-to-day basis most of my time is spent in the newsroom.  The rest of it depends on our publishing schedules. We do a lot of interviewing with affiliates and affiliate managers so I have taken over conducting those interviews, but mostly I am everywhere there is text. I’m supposed to make sure it’s all correct and we don’t print anything embarrassing.

Is this a domestic-based company, or is it based offshore?

We’re in Boston. Our servers are here in Boston. Technically we’re incorporated in Louisiana or something, but we’re pretty much a Boston-based company. Since there’s not a whole lot in terms of casino gaming going on in Boston yet, that’ll change in a couple of years, we try and cover the industry globally.

Was there a move to Boston for the job or did that just happen to be where you were located?

I’ve been in Boston for a couple of years. I went to college out in Worcester, which is a slightly smaller city west of Boston, but most of the publishing houses and newspapers are based in Boston so I moved after I graduated about five years ago.

At some point in order to know what it is you were editing about you needed to some sort of understanding of the gaming industry, so what was that process like for you?

When I first got here I had a lot of training sessions with some of the guys who had been here for longer, like Vin Narayanan and Aaron Todd, but one of my projects for 2016 was more to self-educate, especially since we talked a bit about me doing more writing. The first bit of writing I did for Casino City was at the end of 2015 when all the episodes of the WSOP were aired. I watched those and wrote a piece about those specifically from the point of view of someone who had a background on media criticism, but really didn’t know anything about poker. That was fairly well received, but I didn’t know if I wanted to continue writing. Writing “I don’t know what I’m talking about” stories is only funny so many times.

So, I spent a lot of time during 2016 getting book recommendations. We get a lot of book reviews, so I took over them and edited all the reviews. I basically asked for homework and recommendations from people who had been around a lot more. At the end of this year I wrote a “Top 10 favorite gambling books I’d read this year”.

That’s a lot of reading! I guess when you opened up you said that was your objective – have a job that would pay you to do your favorite thing, which is reading. Is that something you’re doing during work or in your personal time?

I’m not usually reading when I’m in the office unless I have downtime when I’m copy editing. I’m waiting for documents to come in, so if I have something I’m reading I’ll be reading during that. There were definitely some days when it got a bit quiet I was like “Can I just leave?” and sometimes you just have dead-spots and I really think the best thing I can be doing now is going home and reading.

Sounds like a great job, sounds like something I’d love! My Kindle hardly leaves my side. If I could get paid for reading stuff, then that’s super. Now you’re very well read about the game, what is it that attracts you that you find so interesting?

Some of it’s just that it seems really complicated. I pretty much only play No Limit Hold’em at this point, and at the beginning the rules are so simple. I had never played it at all growing up, but I soon realised that everyone’s talking about the game and that we were sending people to cover the WSOP (I didn’t even realise there was one!) Eventually I called up one of my friends and I asked them to teach me to play it. He taught me to play in one afternoon, but it just kept going from there. I’d seen from the stuff I was covering that there are people who make a living off this or people who make a ridiculous amount of money off this.

There are hundreds of thousands of books which had been published on all sorts of topics. To me it seems like this was a really, really big thing that I didn’t know anything about so I wanted to go find out more about this whole wide world that I wasn’t previously aware of.

One of the things that is pretty well known within the poker universe is that there are a lot more men than women involved in the game. From your perspective when you tell people what it is you do, do you find that men and women react differently to it or is there a difference at all?

I would say that the men are much more likely to tell me that they play or that they used to play online back when you could in the US. The women are more likely to be ‘Tell me all about it!’ Obviously there’s a big discussion about how to get more women into poker. Giving them all jobs in the industry is probably not a really scalable solution. I think it’s something that is going to need to start at the home game level. I joined an all-women home game group and that’s a lot of fun. As far as the game goes, when I tell other women that I play in an all women home game group and it’s fun, a lot of them seem like they’d be pretty interested and I’ve taught a couple of my girlfriends how to play.

I’ve never really heard of a home game like that, so that’s kind of interesting. Was that already in existence when you joined or were you part of the innovators that started that going?

I didn’t start it. I found a group of players that seemed beginner friendly. There’s a woman who lives in Cambridge who actually used to be semi-pro and she used to play at Foxwoods and at other places along the East Coast. But she didn’t like playing at casinos that much. She now deals games out of her apartment and basically does that for a living. She started this group which was specifically for women and for beginner poker players in order to be a low-pressure way for people in the area.

There weren’t really enough people in it when the group started but after a while we started to get the ball rolling and ended up having much more meetings. It’s been a blast. I’ve met some really interesting people that I wouldn’t have met otherwise. They’re very low-stakes games, and people will show up who’ve never played before and don’t know the rules.

That’s interesting. That’s awesome. Do you ever get any pushback from male comrades or anything like that? Do you ever get any pressure like that?

Sometimes they’re joking a bit, but not really. I think most people that are in poker know that not a lot of women play and if a bunch of women want to get together and play, then men have plenty of other places.

So how often do you play?

Usually a couple of times a month. Through most of the summer we were playing almost every Friday. Since we got into the holiday season we haven’t played as much. We played once in November and once in December, but then everyone got really busy. We’ve got another game on Friday so hopefully we’ll get back into a semi-regular schedule now that all that is over.

You can let them know you’re now a home game celebrity because you’ve starred in the only Home Game orientated podcast in the world! Are you strictly just hold’em right now in that game, or have you branched out yet?

We’re just doing Hold’em, especially since we do keep periodically getting new people and we’re all still working on that one. I’m pretty sure that given some time if people wanted to branch out into other games, so long as our hostess knows how to play them, I’m sure she’d be perfectly happy to teach us. But right now a lot of the people in the group are still sort of trying to get a hold on doing No Limit Hold’em properly.

It’s always at the same lady’s house or do you rotate it?

It’s always at her house, because she also does it sort of as her regular job, and she’s got a pretty good set up. She’s got a real poker table and she always has snacks and drinks. She’s very used to running it. Also in Boston it can be hard to find a space that’s really good to have a lot of people over. I’ve been thinking of maybe trying to have friends over to play at my place once in a while just for fun and I’m trying to schedule around my roommates and just the fact that it’s like a small apartment full of stuff!

You guys should plan a trip to Foxwoods after you get a little more comfortable with it. Everyone should go and say “Let’s all carpool to Foxwoods for an evening and play for two or three hours at the real table”.

I’d like to do that eventually especially when the casinos in Massachusetts open. I definitely want to do a field trip to those. There’s one under construction in Springfield. There’s another being built right outside Boston. That won’t be up for another two years but when it does I think we can be expecting to spend a little bit more time there since it’s in our back yard.

Have they actually passed the legislation then to pass the casinos in Masachusetts?

They actually passed the Expanded Gaming Act several years ago and since then it’s kind of been slow. Anything involving Massachusetts and construction always takes twice as long as you think it’s going to. There are always a lot of regulatory things to do, like environmental studies and things like that. I think the site where the Wynn is being built use to be on a chemical plant or something so it needed a clean-up. And everyone likes to sue one another for one thing or another.

We’ve been following it closely because it’s relatively local news for us, and it’s just been a very Boston-type of story. There’s another Indian casino that started being built that’s currently on hold because somebody sued someone over something.

So besides your personal plans for growth as a player, do you have any hopes and goals as far as the industry concerns? Maybe doing a bit more writing or meeting particular players, or learning anything else about the game?

I definitely do. I spent most of this year sort of doing my homework but I really am hoping to get out and about more. I went to my first real poker tournament in Atlantic City a couple of months ago. There was a PokerStars live event at Resorts so that was the first time I went down there. I met a couple of people like Jennifer Shahade, Fatima Moreira de Melo and I sort of met Daniel Negreanu. Not in that I was introduced to him, but he walked past me in the hallway and he started talking to me because that’s what he does. I’m hoping to do more of those. I’m also hoping to eventually get out to Las Vegas during the WSOP one of these years.

It’s great to hear your story about someone who really didn’t have the exposure or driving desire to join the gambling or poker industry, but ran across it by chance, and thought it sounded a fascinating slice of life and then jumped in with both feet!

We definitely appreciate you spending the time with us today. Before we let you go is there anything else you’d like to tell our listeners?

If you want more random poker ramblings, and also lots of jokes about grammar you can follow me on Twitter.

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