One year ago today, I had the idea to write up a post of this nature, thanking 17 people in poker for having made 2017 such a wonderful year for me. Thankfully, 2018 was another year I can happily frame up on the wall, with many people in the poker world having brightened my days, exhibiting massive kindness towards me, and overall just making my poker media work so worthwhile. So, I’ve decided to follow up with another similar post this year to highlight 18 individuals who’ve made my 2018 so wonderful. To be sure, there are plenty more people in poker beyond those who I’ll be naming below who’ve brought smiles to my face and with whom I’ve enjoyed interacting this year. These are just some exceptional ones who deserve a big shout out and thank you, without whom my 2018 most certainly wouldn’t have had as much luster. You have my tremendous gratitude, folks.
From the bottom of my heart (and in alphabetical order):
For the second year running, this past summer I spent two weeks working on Poker PROductions’ Player Bio team during the WSOP Main Event. Considering that I regularly work alone from home these days, it’s unusual for me to suddenly have teammates. I enjoyed working with all my colleagues during the two-week stint, but chief among them was Christina, with whom I had also worked the previous year. We’ve had so many great conversations not just on-site at the Rio but also throughout the rest of the year. Thanks, Christina, and I hope to keep collaborating with you in the future.
It’s no secret that I take a lot of pride in the work I do with Cardplayer Lifestyle, and I’m fortunate to have this site be the cornerstone of my being able to make a living working in a field I truly love. While I’ve been interviewed quite a few times in the past, I remain genuinely flattered that Barry took such a detailed interest in my work in the interview he conducted with me for his PokerMediaPro site. I’m grateful that we finally got to meet in person this past summer after having been virtually connected for so many years. Your kind Linkedin recommendation from back in mid-2013 will forever be etched in my heart.
With what words can one praise the scribe’s scribe? There’s so much I can say about Nolan and how terrific he’s been to me over the past few years, but there’s one thing in particular Nolan did this year that really sticks out in my memory. Etiquette precludes me from reprinting Nolan’s self-confessed “crude” words, but I’ll link to his Tweet and Facebook post.
I still remember waking up on the morning of July 27th and wondering what on earth had happened while I was asleep to have caused my phone to explode with notifications. You may not be heavily involved in the poker world anymore, Nolan, but it’s an honor and privilege to be following in your trailblazing footsteps as a member of the poker media corps.
When including Eli in last year’s list, I ended off by saying “There’s so much more I could write here; perhaps another time.” That time has come, and now the poker world knows that I had the great honor of translating your autobiography into English.
📚”Pulling the Trigger: The Autobiography of Eli Elezra” 📚
We are one month away from expected publication date, January 3, 2019!
Published by @twoplustwoforum, the book is now at the printer.
— Robbie Strazynski (@cardplayerlife) December 3, 2018
Even now, after getting to know you so well, the fanboy inside me still has to pinch himself each time we speak or meet. Thank you for being such a mensch, Eli, and for being a shining example of humility and never forgetting one’s roots no matter how high in life you rise.
Already on last year’s list, I mentioned how excited I was to have forged a new bond with nonagenarian George Epstein. George has continued to contribute to this site with his excellent monthly strategy column, and we’ve kept our very enjoyable email correspondence going on a regular basis, but something that really added extra joy to my 2018 was having the chance to meet George (and his daughter, Sue) in person in Los Angeles. If you haven’t yet done so, please read what I wrote about that encounter. Thank you so much, George.
Thanks to poker, I’ve made a very good friend over the last couple years. His name is George Epstein. He’s over 90 years old.
Last month, in Los Angeles, I got to meet him in person for the first time.
Here’s the story.https://t.co/7PzPWjdkAK
— Robbie Strazynski (@cardplayerlife) March 26, 2018
A lot goes on behind the scenes at Cardplayer Lifestyle that most people are unaware of. In a sense, then, Clare Fitzgerald is one of our “secret weapons,” as she’s our go-to transcriptionist for all the audio and video interviews I conduct over the course of the year. Hardworking, reliable, and consistently delivering incredibly quick turnaround, we’d be lost without you, Clare. Thank you so much for everything you do.
I totally loved the Transcript that came with the video, because I’m deaf the transcript made it all the more enjoyable. A big Thankyou to whoever wrote it 😁
— Karl Parrish (@Karl_Parrish) August 14, 2018
If I had a dollar for every email or text/Facebook message I’ve exchanged with Chad this year, it’s likely we’d each be able to buy in directly to the WSOP Main Event. Whether through articles you’ve contributed to this site, other poker-related projects we’ve worked on together, or just plain shooting the breeze across the felt at the Treasure Island poker room (RIP), it’s been awesome bonding with you over our shared love for this great game. Thanks, Chad.
If Jim’s name doesn’t ring a bell, I’m betting this Tweet – my most viral of the year – will:
This is Jim. He’s a veteran. He was just diagnosed with terminal cancer.
He’s here in the Amazon Room watching the action on Day 1B because he just loves the game of poker.
He sits down to play in the WSOP Main Event tomorrow, to knock it off his bucket list.
Run well, sir. pic.twitter.com/wMZUAM0il4
— Robbie Strazynski (@cardplayerlife) July 4, 2018
What a privilege it was to meet this great U.S. armed forced veteran on Independence Day, all set to cross a longtime item off his bucket list, to play in the WSOP Main Event. I followed his run and shared it with you all over the next three days (see subsequent Tweets), but we didn’t lose touch upon parting in Las Vegas. Out of respect for Jim’s privacy I won’t share details of our ongoing email correspondence, but I’ll just once again say that he’s a very special person. I salute you, sir!
An Irishman and a Jew walk into a bar… That’s not the start of a joke, but to an extent it was the start of what’s become a great relationship. I had been a fan of David’s long before we first briefly met in the lobby of the Gold Coast in Las Vegas this past summer. I couldn’t have imagined that we’d have so many more great opportunities to see one another and get to know each other better in Bucharest, Barcelona, and Malta during the second half of 2018. Thanks for being such a great pal, David. Sláinte! 🍻
I might be a few years older, but Donnie has worlds more experience working in poker media than I do. I’ve long been a fan of his work, and have learned so much from observing how he operates and conducts himself. Within his former role as WPT Marketing Manager, he and I corresponded at great length in 2018 and he provided much-needed and much-appreciated assistance me behind the scenes with the content I generated at the WPT Tournament of Champions. Donnie, I was genuinely touched by some of the things you said and wrote to me privately this year, and those are words I deeply cherish. Next time we meet, (kosher) pizza on me, my friend.
How can I express sufficient gratitude to someone I’ve never met? What a treat it was to have experienced a Unibet Open for the first time back in August, in Bucharest. It was also truly eye-opening to have had the new experience of attending and covering a major European poker event. The stellar, hardworking Unibet Open team were such great hosts and so pleasant to have spent my work hours with. Topping it all off, even months later, on a weekly basis I still have people coming up to me or emailing me to say they watched my interview with Molly Bloom. None of those fantastic experiences would’ve been possible without your involvement, David. I truly hope we get to meet in person someday soon.
Another member of the poker media corps with whom I’ve had a many-years-long relationship, my bond with Bernard has strengthened greatly this year. Reflecting upon my many hours of conversations with you in 2018, Bernard, I keep finding myself smiling. It’s just such a pleasure to listen to and learn from one of the great industry veterans I look up to. Thank you for continuing to inspire me.
There’s nobody on this list whom I’ve known longer than Yishai. Admittedly, I wouldn’t (yet?) classify him as a “person in poker,” but at the same time his excitement for the game is unmistakable. Yishai is one of Cardplayer Lifestyle’s biggest fans, always engaging with our content on social media, and he’s helped me immeasurably, having edited many videos I’ve produced of this year’s poker travels. Back when I was a high school freshman in Los Angeles, I never would’ve guessed that the Student Council President would one day be a close friend, living a 15-minute walk away from me in Israel, who I’d get to personally introduce to the poker world.
Just a couple weeks ago, Yishai finally took part in his first real-money poker home game. By the looks of things, he’s got some more great poker adventures on the horizon in 2019…
This is amazing!
Next chance: Tallinn Jan 24th-27th 2019 (after that Prague in May)
— RedbetPokerManager (@Redbet_Kat) November 28, 2018
On the one hand, I feel like “I said it all” in the Tweet below, in our interview together, and in our private communications. On the other hand, no, I haven’t thanked you enough, Ivonne. I’m still astonished thinking back that getting tagged by a mutual acquaintance in a Facebook comment ended up leading to one of the most enjoyable poker trips I’ve ever taken. Thank you for introducing me to Malta. That it worked out to have covered your Malta Poker Festival while bringing my wife along to celebrate my birthday weekend was quite simply icing on the cake.
Rarely do I encounter anyone in the poker world w/ energy & enthusiasm that matches my own, but I feel @the_malta founder Ivonne Montealegre certainly fits that bill.
— Robbie Strazynski (@cardplayerlife) November 8, 2018
Someone who prefers to shy away from the limelight, I told a small part of James Taylor’s story last year, here, but suffice it to say that he’s done loads of videography and video production work in the poker sphere for years. To paraphrase the common question, “so what has he done lately?” I’ll tell you. Earlier this year, James was kind enough not only to reach out to me and then produce ridiculously high-quality intro and outro clips that I’ve used for all of my video content, but also to compile a custom-made highlight reel for my YouTube channel. Plus, he took the time to provide me with a lengthy, comprehensive consultation about video content, specifically how to produce and optimize it for the best chances of success.
Oh, and he did all of that out of the goodness of his heart because he’s just such a damn nice guy. James, bless you.
If you’re a poker player, unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, by now you’ve heard, come across, or played with Faded Spade Playing Cards. That brand and product’s success are overwhelmingly due to the herculean efforts of company founder Tom Wheaton. But it’s not Tom’s business prowess that draws him to me; it’s his emotional investment in poker. How he’s so quickly carved for himself a niche in the poker community and gotten its embrace is as much in testament to his enthusiasm and shining personality as to the quality of his playing cards. On the multiple occasions we’ve spent time together this year, we’ve truly forged a great, genuine bond. Tom, thank you for being you.
— Robbie Strazynski (@cardplayerlife) August 1, 2018
I’m so happy to have such great memories of my first time in Barcelona, where I traveled to cover a European Poker Tour series, also for the first time. At each poker festival one travels to for work, there’s also some downtime, and that’s when you’ve got an opportunity to meet and network with people. Among the many people I had the pleasure of meeting for the first time while there was Samantha Woods, who works for PokerStars. Whatever a person’s role and/or job description might be, you can’t bluff inherent character traits like kindness, caring, and passion. When I see traits like that in someone, it makes me want to get to know them better. Samantha, you’re a singularly exceptional individual; thank you for your your friendship.
OK, so one name on this list appears out of alphabetical order, but I’m calling an audible. Everything in my life begins and ends with my wife, Miriam. You’ll never be a “person in poker” but this year for the very first (and second) time, you accompanied me on my poker travels. You saw firsthand that there’s a real poker world out there that I love and am a part of, and that I’m not just some wacko sitting on some hilltop in Israel pecking away at my laptop each day engaged in some virtual world, even at 4am as I finally finish up writing this post that I’ve been working on all day. (OK, maybe I am kind of a wacko…)
You know that I dream of taking you with me as new opportunities hopefully keep coming along to see the great wide world out there, even if it’s “just” destinations with casinos and poker rooms. What can I say; you married a dreamer… How lucky am I to have your support and encouragement for what I’ve chosen to do with my time, “going all-in” on poker. I’ll forever be grateful to you, honey; always the first, last, and only one on my most important list of all.