As a rule, poker writers work very hard to inform and entertain the game’s fans and, in general, contribute so much to the game we all love. All that effort ought not to go unrecognized. It’s with all of that in mind that I decided to start a new, ongoing series of poker interviews entitled “Get to Know the Poker Media.”
The first interviewee in the series is Giovanni Angioni, probably best known as the European Editor of PokerNews. I know I learned a lot about Giovanni from his answers and I hope you all enjoy his story. Without further ado…
How did you first get into the business of poker writing and for how long have you been doing it?
It happened almost a decade ago. I used to freelance for different European papers and someone just called me on the phone to offer me a job in the poker industry.
I had just written a long feature about gambling for a French magazine and I found the offer pretty interesting – so I went for the job interview.
There, I found a charming Swedish blonde lady and an Italian guy who was familiar with some of the outlets I was writing for. He told me: “I don’t think you’ll last here for very long. You’ll get bored.”
“Give me a full-time job and we’ll see about that,” I answered.
Funnily enough, I stayed at that company for about six years. He left much earlier than that…
What poker outlets have you written for and which has been your favorite gig over the years?
During the six years I spent at PokerListings, I met some truly amazing people. From Dirk Oetzmann to Fred Guillemot – just to name some of their writers – I am happy to say that that job gave me the opportunity to meet a great colleagues and friends.
Yet, PokerNews is a whole different world and I couldn’t be happier with the choice I made a couple years ago.
I may sound biased when I say this, but I love being here. Donnie Peters, Brett Collson, Martin Harris, and Chad Holloway – when he was still working with us – gave me all the support and freedom I needed from day one, and that’s something I truly appreciate. Plus, I get the chance to share the stage with some great professionals like the ones I just named, Remko Rinkema, Jason Glatzer, Matthew Parvis, Sarah Herring – and I could go on for a while.
I always have the feeling that people know way too little about what makes PokerNews possible every single day. I wish people could spend even just one day or two at iBus Media’s HQ in Vilnius to realize how many amazing people work behind the scenes. They may not win awards or get articles like this one, but they are truly great people who’s dedication amazes me all the time.
That’s why I try to go to the office every time I can – their positivity is addictive!
What is it that you love about poker that keeps you so interested in the game?
After so many years, I would lie if I told you it was the game itself.
I love poker but I have realized that I won’t probably ever be as successful as I wanted to be – so my relationship with the game has changed over the years.
The truth is, I love the people that I meet because of it. I love their passion and their stories, and I love how poker has given me the opportunity to meet some truly remarkable individuals.
From Victoria Coren-Mitchell to Matt Salsberg, from Jeff Sarwer to Maria Ho, passing by the regulars who spend every weekend at the King’s Casino in Rozvadov, poker has the ability to bring together amazing people with amazing stories. I am truly thankful for each and every second I get to spend with them.
— Giovanni Angioni (@giovanniangioni) November 22, 2015
What sort of job(s) did you have before getting into poker writing?
My professional life has always evolved around writing – which, to some (my wife included), sounds like I never had a real job.
I tried all sorts of stuff: from small local newspapers to big international media outlets. Almost 10 years ago I even launched Estonian Free Press, a decently popular (back in the day) magazine about the Baltics, in English. I guess news writing is just in my DNA.
When I was a little bit crazier and I had fewer responsibilities (read: a family and a mortgage), I used to do things like to go to Belarus for an unauthorized solo-reportage about (against?) Lukashenko’s regime or to get shot at with rubber bullets during the riots in Tallinn because I’d get a little too close to the action.
Once, I even got into some trouble with some gentleman from the U.S. (Secret Service, I believe) because I got a little too close to Hillary Clinton during a NATO summit and I really, REALLY didn’t want to leave. But, I guess those days are gone now and I am happy that writing has given me the privilege to live some pretty amazing experiences.
Tell us a bit about your personal life; where you live, family, etc.
I was born in Cagliari, Sardinia. It’s a very nice place but it is also a very small one – and, to say it bluntly, it just didn’t fit the ambitions I had when I was a kid. That’s why I moved away from there as soon as I got the opportunity to do so.
I grew up in a family that has been into politics for generations and I thought politics was in my future too, so I tried to move to much bigger and more politically active cities.
I lived in Lisbon, Paris, Brussels, and Malta before I decided to settle in Tallinn, where I now share my life with my wife and our dog. I like it here, even if I a not sure this is the place where we will spend the next 10 years of our life.
How often do you play poker? Home games mostly or in poker rooms? Cash or tourneys?
I am a terrible cash game player, so I stay away from that. Unfortunately, I don’t play tournaments as much as I used to as most of the people I used to play with have left Estonia for one reason or another.
Also, I guess I no longer have the time I used to have for playing poker. Between work and some other side-projects, it would be unfair to spend my free time at the poker table and not with my family.
Size doesn’t matter. pic.twitter.com/FCpwCtiGVr
— Giovanni Angioni (@giovanniangioni) July 4, 2015
What’s the biggest misconception people have about poker writers/writing?
That anyone can do it. Somehow, many people still believe poker journalists are just random guys who happen to be writing about the game because they are in the right circle of friends. That’s so wrong.
While it’s true that we can still become a lot better at what we do, look at what Remko puts together every week for his podcasts, look at the features that PokerNews tries to publish as often as possible, look at the immense work guys like Chris Grove do.
Also, I would like people to believe that we are not all “sellouts”.
While it’s true that the industry runs on affiliate marketing for the most part, I can tell you that I never skipped a story because it could damage the image of a partner.
I remember that one time when a lawyer called me because a – let’s say ‘big’ poker site – didn’t like something I wrote. It happened and I am sure it will happen again because many of us are journalists, not PR people. It’s time for more people to understand that.
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 think my position here is a little different, since my work at the iBus Media Group does not only include writing for PokerNews.
Right now, for example, I am focusing at becoming better at planning and managing different aspects of the work as well as at making our sister site, CasinoSmash.com, the most complete and modern online gambling guide out there.
You should keep an eye on that site because I promise that from July on, it will be just amazing. We are working on a new design and on features that no other site can offer.
Also, some years ago I launched my own media company in Tallinn. I have some great guys there and my plan is to expand it even more in the coming years. We manage sites that cover a lot of different topics – from trading to banking, from pets to technology, and I really want this to grow too. Worse case scenario, this is my plan B.
What other hobbies do you have? Tell us about them.
I love my work so much that is very hard for me not to consider it my hobby too.
You know, I am not one of those who leave the office and spend their time off doing something totally different or chilling somewhere quiet – that isn’t me.
I like to get dirty with SEO and affiliate marketing and there is SO MUCH I still don’t know that I try to use every minute to learn something new.
This said, I love to spend time in hotels. That’s my guilty pleasure. I believe I have traveled enough to feel quite at home in a hotel lobby. I love to head to, say, a hotel bar to talk to people I don’t know and to hear their stories. There’s something amazing in the way people open to strangers when they travel and, apparently, I like to be that stranger.
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)
While I love to read op-eds and live reporting posts, I prefer to think of myself more like a feature writer and an interviewer.
I love the hard prep work that hides behind each and every story and I do take a terrific pleasure when I stumble upon something that people might not have seen yet.
I won’t name names, but I loved the day I went to the offices of a big gambling corporation to interview their CEO and I ended up sharing a meeting room with my guy, three lawyers, two finance guys, and one who I never understood who he was. That showed me that I really was onto something interesting.
Interview-wise, I guess my passion has to do with the fact that I am fascinated by getting to know people. This job gives me the huge privilege to sit down with a lot of different individuals, to look at them in their eyes, and to ask them a lot about themselves. Boy, do I love that!
What’s something you still haven’t yet done/accomplished in poker that’s on your bucket list?
I could tell you that I would love for the former Maltese Prime Minister to sit down with me to talk about money laundering or that I would love write a book to tell the incredible stories of people like Antanas Guoga (Tony G.), Leon Tsoukernik, Vicky Coren (yes, again), or David Baazov – but these would only be some small pieces of a much bigger puzzle.
What I really want, is for the poker media industry to grow and to get the recognition it deserves.
I believe it’s up to us to go out there and show how complex and fascinating poker is, as it’s on us to work as hard as we can to make it happen.
I just now interviewed a Swedish professor about an article he recently published on the Harvard Business Review. When I told him that the interview was going to appear on CasinoSmash and PokerNews, he didn’t seem to be really happy.
Then, one question after the other, he opened up and shared some brilliant insights about his studies that I will be honored to publish on the sites I work for. Most of all, I think we should stop considering poker and card games as pastimes and be as serious as we can about what we do.
I understand that poker is of course still a hobby and a passion for many of us, but is that a reason to lower our standards (media-wise) and treat poker differently than, say, politics or economics? I do not think so.
So, you see, my bucket list will be empty the day a poker journalist will be considered as legitimate as any other journalist.
Alright, the stage is yours – go ahead and let loose about something you just HAVE to get off your chest.
I am pretty sure I have said enough already! 😉