If you’re a fan of great poker writing, you’ve probably seen the name “Frank Op de Woerd” appear in a byline at some point. What you might not be aware of is that Frank’s native language is Dutch, not English. While I’m familiar with his occasional English-language poker articles, he’s far more well known for the work he’s done in Dutch, for PokerNews.nl.
Over the last couple of years, Frank and I have become “virtual comrades”, as it were, thanks to Twitter, where we’ve developed a rapport and a mutual appreciation of each other’s work. Beyond that, however, we’re both fans of the game as well, consuming and sharing other poker content we feel is excellent and that deserves a larger audience.
I’m happy Frank agreed to be interviewed for our “Get to Know the Poker Media” series, as I’ve long been curious to learn more about him, his work, and what brought him into the industry. His responses to my questions were quite enjoyable to read, and I hope you’ll feel the same.
How did you first get into the business of poker writing and for how long have you been doing it?
Around 2005, the poker hype started in Holland with Noah Boeken and Marcel Lüske appearing in many poker shows and the EPT being broadcasted on Eurosport. I was on board right away, and played a whole lot of poker while still being in university. I played both online and live in the casino, home games, and with my friends at the kitchen table.
The following year, the biggest poker tournament in Holland, the Master Classics of Poker in Amsterdam, was broadcast on a one-day delay on our biggest national network, and I absorbed every single minute of it. I loved poker, I was obsessed with it. Every minute, I was thinking about the game.
In that MCOP 2006 broadcast I saw poker player Menno Vlek get a bad beat by Rolf Slotboom to get knocked out. It was ace-ten pre flop all in against the 4 and 5 of spades from Rolf Slotboom, with the latter making a flush. Back then, I thought it was the worst bad beat in the history of the game. In fact, we still talk about that hand till today. The drama; it was gigantic!
I was already posting on the PokerNews.nl forum, and that very Menno Vlek created a thread looking for dealers for a company (PokerLes) he had that organized poker workshops for company retreats and such. I wasn’t so much interesting in dealing, but really wanted to meet Vlek, as he was one of my heroes; a true celebrity to me as a poker fan at the time.
He hired me and soon afterwards he made a deal with the owners of PokerNews.nl. One part of the deals was for some sort of advertorial to appear on the PokerNews.nl site with anecdotes from stuff PokerLes was doing. I volunteered to write these, and so my first writing work about poker appeared on PokerNews.nl. I was extremely proud to see my name on one of the articles on my favorite website, despite the fact that most people on our forum were probably not too interested in these advertorials.
From there on, I gradually became more and more involved and started to write more articles. I offered to do book reviews because I was already reading all the poker books I could find anyway. I reviewed poker movies, created a poker comic, and got involved with PokerNews Magazine.
I was still in university part time and had a real good full time job, but my mind was set on poker. I just couldn’t let it go, and was thinking about the game even more. The WSOP 2007 came closer and closer, and PokerNews.nl needed a guy travelling with their regular staff so everyone could have a day off every now and then during the 7-week stint in Vegas. They had a blogger, host and cameraman already, but were looking for someone that could do all of that and wanted to go to Vegas for 7 weeks. I kind of bluffed myself into the gig and had the best time of my life.
Back home from an incredible time, PokerNews.nl owner Jordy Veenboer offered me a job at the company full time. I didn’t jump in immediately because I would be making way less than the job I had at the time, but after 2 weeks I made up my mind that this wasn’t something I could pass on. I quit my job, and went to work for PokerNews.nl.
So, I have been working in poker since 2006, and I’m with PokerNews.nl since 2007.
What poker outlets have you written for and which has been your favorite (one-time or ongoing) gig over the years?
I haven’t done much outside of PokerNews.nl. That said, I’ve done some consulting work on poker shows in Holland, I’ve been covering the Unibet Open tournaments for Unibet Poker, and I’ve written some articles for poker magazines. Over the last couple years, I’ve also done some work for PokerNews.com.
What is it that you love about poker that keeps you so interested in the game?
I’m incredibly interested in the game itself because of all the complexity. I realized quite early on that I’m not good enough myself as a player, but I know the game well enough to ask the right questions to people who are really good.
Besides the complexity of the game itself, it’s the poker world itself that keeps me interested. There’s just constant new things happening; new games being invented, new players popping up as “the best”, new top talents, new people who go broke, new scandals… it’s never boring.
What sort of job(s) did you have before getting into poker writing?
When I was 15 I started cleaning, which I did for quite a few years. I was hired by a big cleaning company, and they placed me at my very own high school. That was a bit awkward at first, but I didn’t really care. It paid well, and it was easy but rewarding work.
After cleaning for two different companies, I started working at IKEA. I really loved that job; IKEA was such a great company to work for.
My first serious job was working for SURFnet, the company that maintains the incredibly fast internet connection for universities and research centers in Holland. On top of that, they had services to showcase the speed of the network. It really was incredible, I was downloading a couple of gigs of data per second, and I’m not exaggerating. We were already streaming 4k, and I’m talking about nine years ago. There weren’t even 4k TVs out yet!
I was responsible for a part of SURFgroepen, a collaboration platform, and was in charge of a video game and video contest for students. I quit that job to start working for PokerNews.nl.
Tell us a bit about your personal life; where you live, family, etc.
I live with my fiancée in Amsterdam, Holland. I love it here, it’s the perfect place for me, especially in the summer. I’m away from home quite a lot to cover live tournaments, something that my fiancée sometimes finds hard. On the other hand, we live in such a small place so it’s good I’m not home all the time so we both still have some space every now and then.
How often do you play poker? Home games mostly or in poker rooms? Cash or tourneys?
I’ve read all of the “Get to Know the Poker Media” interviews in this series thus far, and most of the interviewees don’t seem to play poker all that much. I must admit the same goes for me, which is weird in a sense. I really don’t have the time to play a lot because I’m working full-time from home. When you work from home, you’re never really done now, are you? When I’m finally done with my work, I’m done with poker for the day most of the time.
I do enjoy playing poker a great deal though. I love playing live, which I really should do more. During EPTs we have a €20 media tournament, which is often the highlight of my trip. Also, there’s free booze, but it’s the poker that really matters. I love the banter with colleagues.
I’ve played one tournament annually at the Master Classics of Poker for the last three years, and I’ve enjoyed that a lot as well. So, I really should play more. When I’m in Vegas, I play sometimes, but it’s tough. The lowest-stakes cash games you can play live are $1/$2, and even losing a single buy in would already ruin my week. I enjoy tournaments, but those take too long, so I mostly skip them.
What’s the biggest misconception people have about poker writers/writing?
Poker players are sitting at the table and they see all the action at eye level. I can’t express enough how different an experience it is for me as a blogger watching from a meter away. You can’t always hear the dealer announcing things, you don’t have a close up view of the bets, and sometimes you can’t even follow the action from the first under the gun raise.
When you’re at the table, especially when you’re in the hand yourself, it sometimes boggles your mind how a blogger covering the event could miss seeing or hearing something, and would thus butcher reporting a hand because of it. The fact is, however, that it’s just a different experience when you’re not actually sitting and playing at the table.
I really think I do a good job reporting hands, but sometimes mistakes happen. I always try to prevent guessing in my posts; I assume nothing and make a note of when I’m unsure of something, but still some posts might be off. So, I would say that the biggest misconception is that blogging is easy. It’s not rocket science, true, but it’s harder than one might think.
Every $1/$2 grinder will think he can do a better job than the stuff he or she is reading online, but it’s tougher than you think, especially after more than a week straight of 12+ hour days; it’s tough staying alert.
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?
I’ve been lucky enough to be involved with some TV shows that wanted to do something with poker. I was on board as an adviser for the first season of a Dutch poker show called Bluff, I’ve helped with an episode of Lauren! that followed Michiel Brummelhuis when he made the November Nine, and I was involved with connecting the producers of a new poker documentary show to players like Liv Boeree, Daniel Negreanu, Faraz Jaka, and many others.
Besides that, it really is just PokerNews.nl. I wouldn’t say it doesn’t pay much though. If you work hard and put in the hours, you can certainly make a decent living. I’ve been doing this for nine years now, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I absolutely love my job!
What other hobbies do you have? Tell us about them.
I watch a lot of TV and movies and play video games from time to time. I enjoy going out with friends a lot, I party a lot when I’m at poker tournaments and go to some food and beer festivals every now and then.
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)
I’ve done investigative pieces, interviewed hundreds of players, and hosted radio and TV shows, but I enjoy live reporting high roller and super high roller tournaments above anything else. In a way it’s kind of sadomasochistic because it’s insanely long hours. You’re just standing there, writing hands, running back to your computer to write them up, and get back to the floor.
The single day super high rollers they have at the EPT these days are the most extreme, with days of 15+ hours not being uncommon. Still, I love covering them and wouldn’t trade ’em for the world.
One of my colleagues/friends, Marty Derbyshire, has been in the poker world for 10+ years, and he told me that he enjoys the smaller tours, like the MSPT, because he gets so much positive feedback from the players and they made sure he knows they greatly appreciate him being there.
That’s not the case with most of the high rollers, but I still love it. I love the role of silent observer, trying to write down the hands without missing any action or bet sizing. If you make a mistake, you’ll probably hear about it because the high rollers and people at home keep a close eye on all of the updates. Yet, I see that as a positive thing; it keeps you humble and alert.
I think of myself as a good blogger, but there’s always room for improvement. Working on the biggest stage available in Europe and doing a good job makes me proud. Covering the biggest tournaments in the world, without English being my first language, makes me feel like I’ve reached the highest level possible in the small little niche of a market I’m working in.
What’s something you still haven’t yet done/accomplished in poker that’s on your bucket list?
I’ve covered tournaments in Europe, Asia, Australia and North-America, so covering tournaments in South America and Africa are still on my bucket list.
Besides that, there isn’t really anything on my list in poker. The upcoming WSOP Main Event will be my 10th straight doing coverage, and I would love to add another decade covering that tournament to my resume.
Alright, the stage is yours – go ahead and let loose about something you just HAVE to get off your chest.
I’m incredibly proud of Remko Rinkema, and how he found his way in the world of poker. He came from a small little town in a kind of remote part of our country, and now he lives in Canada with a beautiful wife, and has become one of the most recognized faces in the industry (partly because of the beard).
I always pat myself on the back for giving him a chance and still somewhat consider him my protégé, but the reality is that he accomplished everything all by himself and “the student” surpassed “the master” a long time ago.
I also want to bring some attention to the Master Classics of Poker in Amsterdam. It’s the oldest poker tournament in Europe, and they have a special 25-year anniversary this year. It takes place right in the heart of Amsterdam, and it’s always huge. It’s my favorite tournament of the year, and usually a lot of international players show up, to give it a bit more prestige. The staff is so friendly, everything so relaxed.