As evidenced by the dozen-plus writers we’ve interviewed thus far in our Get to Know the Poker Media series, no two are alike. I’ve come to know many of the people I’ve interviewed thus far for the series personally, while others I have yet to meet in person. Still others, I know only through their reputation and having read their work over the years. One such writer is Haley Hintze.
As Haley has been known to keep a relatively low profile compared to others in the poker industry, I’d just like to say publicly how grateful I am to her for agreeing to be interviewed and open up a bit about herself and her career. It has always been the mission of this series to shine a bit of a spotlight upon poker writers who are usually busy doing so for others.
Here’s hoping you enjoy learning about Haley and her life as much as I have.
How did you first get into the business of poker writing and for how long have you been doing it?
I’ve been at it for about a decade and a half. I’d been a paid writer in another recreational industry that suffered a giant market collapse in the late ’90s and early ’00s, and I needed another outlet for that creative energy. I started actively looking for a gig after writing a few poker things on my own, then getting some encouragement from the late Lou Krieger. My first paid gig came after answering an ad for the old Kick Ass Poker blog, and I wrote for them off and on for several years.
Then, in 2006, I won a seat on the short-lived Mansion Poker Dome show for a penny. Yes, a single penny. And in Vegas, while filming that episode (Ed. note: episode #10, see clip below) , I made some contacts that increased my work in the industry.
What poker outlets have you written for and which has been your favorite (one-time or ongoing) gig over the years?
Oh, lots of them. That’s sort of the nature of the industry. A few years ago I was best known as the assistant editor and then editor-of-chief of PokerNews.com, but these days I hang around at Flushdraw.net and a few other related sites. I’m the contributing editor at Flushdraw, which gives me free reign on story content. My bosses there have been great.
I’ve also been able to give a few pieces to other site owners and editors, which often works well. With my own extensive editing background, I was available to assist the good folks at the WSOP last summer, behind the scenes, helping smooth out the live reporting. Readers don’t understand how rushed live reporters are in trying to get the information out fast, and there are always things to fix. I made a few blunders, but it’s always an honor to be able to help a venerable entity such as that.
I’ve had good gigs and bad gigs both. Some work well but are designed to be short-term, such as when the aforementioned Lou Krieger contacted me during a down time of mine and asked me to copy edit the raw text for his and Sheree Bykofsky‘s The Rules of Poker. And other gigs don’t go well at all, as with a very short-lived book review thing I tried for a small European affiliate a few years back.
What is it that you love about poker that keeps you so interested in the game?
Tough question. I’ve played poker since I was very young, in your typical rec-room and kitchen-table games, but I didn’t get into “organized” poker until the first online sites appeared around 2000. I love the competition inherent in poker. I’ve also always been an entertainment-based writer, doing “work” in areas that most people participate in for fun, whether money is involved or not.
What sort of jobs did you have before getting into poker writing?
I worked for a couple of years as a proofreader/copy editor/occasional content writer for a division of Tribune Media, but it wasn’t a very satisfying job on a lot of different counts. Before that, I spent several years as a jack of all trades for a consulting firm that assisted sports- and entertainment-collectibles companies in designing and marketing their products.
There are trading-card collectors out there who might be vastly surprised to learn that I wrote the backs to some of the cards in their collections. Most of those sets were what were called “non-sports” (entertainment), but there were a few sports products in there as well. For me, that gig included writing, marketing, market research, product development, and much more.
I did freelance writing all through that period as well; it’s something I’ve done most of my adult life. Before that, I worked for several years as a system administrator in an IBM mainframe shop.
How often do you play poker? Home games mostly or in poker rooms? Cash or tourneys?
I never get a chance to play as much live poker as I’d like. There’s a home game near me, in the suburban Chicago area, for which I have a standing invite, but I am rarely home to attend it. There’s a reason for it… humblebrag pending.
I used to love grinding away online at low and middle stakes, as much for the enjoyment as anything else. I always preferred online to live, for several reasons. First, I truly love a lot of the less-popular poker variants, and casinos near me generally don’t offer anything except NLHE and the occasional Omaha table.
Second, I’m not rich, likely won’t ever be rich, and dedicating a significant amount of capital to a dedicated live poker bankroll wasn’t always doable for me, especially when I first got into the game. I prefer tourneys to cash games, even if tourneys necessarily include higher variance. So, I’d play the occasional live tourney or home game or, if I was really itching for live action, grab a seat at a cash game table when I was in a casino that had one, but I honed my game online.
And then, in 2011, that largely went away in the US. The couple of sites that I could still play on weren’t the same, though I’ve still got money on one or two. But, as I said, I still had the card-playing itch, even if risking hundreds of dollars each weekend wasn’t doable.
So I found an alternate card game, cribbage (a very complex two-person card game), which I’d also played since I was very young. There are a few sanctioned cribbage tourneys across the US each weekend, via the ACC [American Cribbage Congress]. Entry fees tend to be under $100, which was more my speed.
As I did with poker in the early ’00s, I dedicated myself to making myself as good a cribbage player as possible, and I did that beginning in ’09 or ’10 when the US online poker storm clouds were building. Maybe I just needed an outlet other than poker; I can’t say for sure. But last season (2015-16) I made the ACC’s “All American” team, finishing eighth in the country. It seems poker isn’t the only card game where work and card sense pays off.
So endeth the humblebrag, but it might be instructive to the poker industry in this sense: The amount of disposable income usually determines the recreational outlet, not the other way around.
Funny thing, though: This whole reminiscence reminds me of when, a year or two back, a garbage affiliate-news site and its owner trashed me in retaliation for a piece I’d done about affiliates that failed their fiduciary duty to customers in regards to fraudulent sites such as Lock Poker or Absolute Poker. Apparently the hack who was hired to trash me looked up my brief Hendon Mob entry, and deduced from that that I was a “failed wannabe poker pro” or something to that effect. This was, of course, news to me. That’s another thing about poker: Sometimes it supplies some great, high comedy.
Funniest thing I’ve seen today, while doing a lookup on Rational Entertainment: pic.twitter.com/aifvZMfOVu
— Haley Hintze (@Haley_Hintze) December 21, 2015
What’s the biggest misconception people have about poker writers/writing?
Perhaps that we don’t think about what we write, or that we don’t care about who or what it might impact. There are times when I find the writing about serious poker things to be painful and very exhausting. I’ve written on several such topics in my years in poker and I’ve often done it because some things just needed to be written. And as a result of taking up that challenge, I’ve been threatened with lawsuits a few times, though never actually sued. Then again, if you haven’t ever really pissed someone off with something that you’ve written, then you’re not writing about new, interesting, and important things.
I promised a lengthy rant soonish. Here ’tis: https://t.co/niKoEf67re
— Haley Hintze (@Haley_Hintze) May 17, 2016
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’m always keeping my eye open for interesting opportunities. Note that I love the Flushdraw gang and they have been very, very good to me, despite their getting me addicted to genuine Irish tea. I’m also something of a junk collector, so maybe someday I’ll be a junk seller.
What other hobbies do you have? Tell us about them.
I collect a few things. I visit Lake Superior once or twice a year and hunt for agates to polish. “Lakers” are a billion years old, and I’m not, which puts all our puny, brief existences into a certain perspective. Besides, a cold, windy (but not too windy) beach with no one else around is a perfect peaceful getaway. And if I drive by an interesting-looking garage sale or antique store, I often can’t resist seeing what catches my eye. There’s a treasure-hunting theme to all this, I just realized.
READ: 5 Poker Skills That Help You Succeed in the Antiquing World
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?
I can handle just about any form of writing that poker throws at me. Right now people see me as this serious news and editorial writer, but I’ve done both live and online reporting, including tons of tourney recaps. I don’t necessarily enjoy writing the promotional stuff, because I don’t want my personal byline appearing on a piece I may not agree with. Still, I can spew that promo stuff out in a generic sense with ease and I’ve written hundreds of press releases myself.
For the record, back in the day, I came up with the “PokerNews Staff” byline as my own generic “Kilgore Trout” variant when the G (Ed. note: Tony G) or his toadies wanted something published that was particularly noxious, like that AP-backed “Sports Legends Challenge” in 2009.
What’s something you still haven’t yet done/accomplished in poker that’s on your bucket list?
I’d like to cash in a regular WSOP event, though I think I’ve only played in four to date. I’d also like to play in the WSOP Main Event, though unless I win a satellite seat or come into a wealthier existence, the $10,000 buy-in is a barrier to entry.
Alright, the stage is yours – go ahead and let loose about something you just HAVE to get off your chest.
Hell, like I haven’t done that in the stuff I’ve written over the years?
While there are plenty of interesting industry stories that I haven’t publicly told, I’ve seldom been accused of restraining myself too severely on what or how I write. My path isn’t exactly for everyone, but I write with feeling and honesty. I’d make a lousy insurance salesperson – and I tried that once, and I sucked at it. I don’t like lying to people, and I most want to write the truth about interesting things. There’s lots of that to be done in poker.