One of poker’s most beloved personalities is Kara Scott. The poker media veteran has been a presence in the industry for upwards of a decade and a half now, and her love and appreciation for the game continues unabated. The 888poker ambassador continues to actively promote the game via her role as a TV presenter during the World Series of Poker, as well as while playing in tournaments in Europe.

Recently, Kara made waves when she announced that she’d be working in collaboration with 888poker to begin producing a brand new podcast called The Heart of Poker. While in Madrid for the 2020 888poker LIVE festival, I had the opportunity to chat with Kara about her new initiative, learn her motives for wanting to host a show of this nature, and hear what the most challenging and rewarding aspects of conducting these unique new interviews have been thus far.

Kara Scott
Kara Scott

I listened to the first episode of your podcast, in which you interviewed Chris Moorman. My immediate reaction was “Ah! This is nice, this is new. It’s a new angle, I like it!”

There are a lot of poker podcasts out there these days, so it’s important that each one has distinguishing factors. Yours is different in that you utilize a modified list of 36 questions from psychologist Arthur Aron. What is it that attracted you to him, to this ideas questions, and made you want to start a podcast in the first place?

Well, it was a group of psychologists, actually, that did this about 25 years ago. And it came up again, I think maybe two or three years ago? There was a big New York Times article written about it, and someone had tried to do this, to see if it would work. Then, a few people who I follow on Twitter, one of these women – a really interesting woman – she actually met her now-husband, kind of doing this. Because she was like “I’d be so interested in doing this, just to see what it was like,” and a complete stranger on Twitter was like “Well, I would really love the chance to sit down with you and do that,” and now they’re married. I think that’s really cool, and I was fascinated by it at the time.

When we were coming to the end of 2019 and I was talking with 888poker, and we were like well, what can we do for 2020 that would be fresh, and they said “we would like you to do a podcast.” We only had a couple of weeks before the London event and they wanted the first guest to be Moorman. I’ll be picking a lot of my guests, but they’ll obviously as well be picking some of them, too, and that was who the first one was going to be.

So they were like, “Come up with a concept.” So very quickly, I just kind of thought about it, like “what do I like to do? I don’t want to do a strategy podcast, I think there’s a million podcasts already out there that are doing what they do super well. I don’t want to be competing with established podcasts that are already filling the need in that part of the community, like, why do that?”

What I like is stories. I’m interested in people’s stories. When I work on the World Series of Poker and I’m doing the final tablists, the day before we have the final table, we have a “Media Day.” I sit down with each of the remaining players, and I just audio record each of them, so that I can transcribe for later. I ask them a ton of questions, just trying to get interesting tidbits that I can talk about on camera.

That’s my favorite part of my job. That one day, where I get to know people. I always found that I feel super warm towards a lot of them, because I’ve gotten to know them in a different way and get that kind of personal peek behind the mask. Then when it comes to having them bust out, it is actually a little painful. I mean, you want the day to end because these are long days, but it’s like “oh, they told me the story about this, and they must be thinking that.”

I wanted to see if I could translate that sentiment and those feelings to the listeners, like have people who are listening fall in love with these players in the way that I’ve been able to over the last 15 years by interviewing them in a very personal setting.

You said that you pick some guests, and 888poker picks some guests. What sort of qualities are you looking for in a potential guest that would make you think, “I want to interview that person”?

Well, it’s important to me that I don’t just have the same guests that are on every podcast. So, there will obviously be some of the same names that you’re going to have heard, like Chris Moorman’s a big name; he’s one of the best players in the world, obviously. But I’m trying to also get a far more diverse group. That’s kind of what I want. That’s my aim, and if I don’t manage it, I’m honestly going to be really disappointed in myself.

I want it to not just look one-note in terms of who my guests are. So I’d like to get people from all different kind of walks of life, different genders, different ethnicities, different types of poker players, you know, even maybe some media people; not just poker players and poker celebrities. So, we’ll see. It depends on how far we go through this year, if I can maybe start even getting some big time genuine celebrities. Who knows?

I was actually just going to ask you that – does it always have to be a professional player, or could it in principle be a recreational player whose story you want to get out there, for instance someone like John Hesp?

He’s actually on the original list. I wrote a list of about 30 names and I kind of went through the top names on the GPI list as well.

I just interviewed Maria Ho, which was fantastic. I work with Maria during the World Series of Poker, and I loved it this past summer, because we got to do the desk together, just the two of us. That’s not something that we’ve been able to really do before at that kind of level. I know she’s an interesting person, and I wanted to be able to ask her questions that showed a different side of her, a more personal side, to the viewers.

You don’t have to prepare the questions, so to speak, because they’re there, but when conducting an interview, has there been anything that’s been a little challenging or something you didn’t expect to happen that happened?

At this point we’ve recorded four shows (only one has been released thus far). My biggest area of struggle is that I’ve realized that I don’t have the killer instinct that can be required sometimes to go after the really sore points.

Like, when one of my guests this week here in Madrid really welled up towards the end of answering one of the questions. If I was more ruthless, I would dig at that because it’s interesting for the listeners. But then the other part of me is like, “I’m not going to do that to someone. I don’t even know this person, but I’m not going to do that to them.”

At the end of it, afterwards, once we finished recording, I just didn’t want to push, and for the sake of the podcast I know I should, but for personal reasons I can’t. So I’m trying to find that balance.

Some of the questions are really personal. Like, the 36 questions go from pretty standard general questions to very personal, intimate questions, and I think some of them are not appropriate for what we’re trying to do. Like, I don’t want to, at this point, ask someone, “Out of all the members of your family, who would you be most sad if they died?”

One that I have asked – and I feel weird asking it is “What’s something about your upbringing that you wish you could have changed?” That’s a tough thing to ask someone to talk about publicly when their parents may end up listening to the show.

Well, while you’re conducting the interview it’s not really public. Like you and I are sitting here right now, no one else is listening, so it kind of makes it easier and you forget that there’s going to be thousands of people listening later on.

I don’t forget. On behalf of my guests, I haven’t forgotten. So I’m trying to figure out how to keep it fresh and interesting and ask the questions that I really do want to. I want those really personal moments, just for myself. That is something that I really like, and I want to engage with people on a very personal level. But I also don’t want to expose them in a way that makes them super uncomfortable. So far, everyone who’s done it has said that they really enjoyed it, and that they’ve said things that they really weren’t expecting to.

There’s obviously a lot of hype and buzz in the industry surrounding The Heart of Poker. You’ve done thousands of interviews over the years, but this is the first time you’ve hosted a podcast. Obviously I imagine you want to see some big listenership numbers, but beyond that are there any particular goals that you have for yourself for this podcast? What would you love to see in a year’s time?

I would like to do just one where I’m not like “Why did I say that?” Even one.

I’m really hyper-critical of everything I do, so I try really hard not to put too much pressure on myself because I think I overdo that.

I’m lucky—I don’t have to do the tech side of things, and that is huge. That is a massive—because I am just not equipped for that. Matt Showell’s company is doing that. They’re fantastic. I like him, I’ve known him for 15 years, we’ve worked together as friends, we’re both Canadian, and we have a lot in common.

I knew we had a couple weeks to come up with the idea for the podcast. Matt and I were talking on WhatsApp and we fleshed some things out. Having him to bounce ideas off of is great, and having him and Alex Konyves to do the tech stuff has been amazing. They know podcasts a lot better than I do. So, if they’re happy with our numbers, then I’m happy. That’s kind of my goal.

I’m trying not to look at it too hard because I’m trying not to freak myself out or feel disappointed, and I don’t want to focus on the number of people who are listening because I kind of want to focus on the interviews. I don’t want to be like, “well, if only this number of people had listened, then it’s not worth doing.” It’s the opposite. I want to just do the interviews, and if people like them, that’s awesome. Plus, the interviews aren’t really time-sensitive; so hopefully people will discover them and listen to them for a long time to come.

So, I know that when I prepare interviews I put a lot of time into crafting the questions. Yours is a unique type of format where you’re basically choosing which of the existing 36 questions to go with, so I’m wondering if you still do any sort of prep based on with whom you’re going to be speaking, and how you navigate while in the midst of the conversation with them.

Yeah, I definitely do. I need to make sure that I know what people are doing currently; I don’t want to be asking stupid questions. I certainly don’t want to be asking someone a deeply personal question about their mom if their mom is ill. I’m going to do some research and I’m going to try to figure that out.

Some of the people that I’m going to interview, I’m not going to know that well on a personal level. I’m going to do my best to read through their stuff, watch their videos, etc. But part of the reason I chose this format was I know that, being a new mom, my time is limited. This was a way for me to get to know people but to not have to do like 10 hours of research and prep for every hour of podcasting.

I would love to do that, but I literally can’t. I’m a full-time mom when I’m at home. So I’m going to be recording these during Ella’s naps, or late at night, considering the time difference with the States. So I had to find something that I was realistically going to be able to do.

The official goal is to release one show per month, but I don’t think that’s often enough for a podcast. I think every two weeks is going to be better, otherwise people are going to just lose focus and not be interested, you know? So I’d like to be able to do something where I know, time-wise, I will actually be able to do the best job I can.

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