After a few months on hiatus (it’s been summer and we had that little thing called the World Series of Poker) we’re back once again with a new installment of our ongoing Get to Know the Poker Media series. Our latest interviewee is Kim Yuhl.
Kim is someone whose work I’ve followed and enjoyed quite a bit over the last couple of years. Interestingly (to me), I noticed that she was “active in poker” during the summers, but far less so during the rest of the year. That intrigued me. Following her on social media, I discovered that she had a whole slew of interests outside of the game, which I found to be fascinating.
I had the good fortune of meeting Kim for the first time a few weeks back at the WSOP in Las Vegas. It was special to finally put a face to the name and transition what had had been a great virtual relationship into a wonderful real relationship. I’m so happy Kim agreed to be the latest interviewee in this series, and I hope you enjoy getting to know her better as much as I have.
I first became familiar with your poker work back in the summer of 2013, when you started live reporting/blogging for PokerNews. How did you get that opportunity?
My husband accepted a position teaching at Bangkok University, so my family relocated to Thailand in February of 2013, just as all the upcoming summer WSOP talk started getting underway on Twitter. I felt a longing to get to Vegas. I had been going to the WSOP and playing poker every summer for years and I couldn’t fathom having to miss it. I, like most recreational players, followed PokerNews, so I sent an application through their website, and the rest is history.
You took a two-summer hiatus and are now back working with PokerNews. What were you up to during the last two summers and what brought you back to work at the 2017 WSOP again?
When the WSOP brought live reporting in-house, I chose not to pursue a job for the summer. I have a relationship with PokerNews and just feel more comfortable working with them. Because this is a side gig for me, I don’t rely on the income and that gives me the luxury of only choosing the work I want to do. I did go to the WSOP during those two years, but I went to play cash games. 🙂
I spent the previous two summers popping in and out of Vegas. There is just too much action to stay away. Since, covering poker is not my day job and I was back stateside and just a few hours down the road, instead of working, I chose to play.
When the WSOP brought back PokerNews, I contacted them to express an interest in joining the team for the summer, just to keep my options open. I love being at the WSOP and I have a great relationship with PokerNews, so I thought I’d explore the possibility. With my youngest son starting college, the extra money will certainly come in handy.
You got your BA in Business Administration back in the 80s and then went back to school to earn your MBA a few years back. In the interim, you’ve also taken a number of continuing education courses along the way. That’s a lot of time to have spent in the classroom. What has been your motivation to constantly “hit the books”?
No motivation necessary, the bottom line is I love learning. If I could find a way to monetize being a professional student, I would. Honestly, that would be my dream job. And when I think about it that is what I love about my “day” job as a small business growth strategist. Strategies are always changing and it’s my job to keep learning what is working and help others apply it to their business.
You have an incredibly interesting, rich, and diverse job history, including stints as a flight attendant for PAN-AM, a sales coach, the owner of a bath shop. Please take us through each of those stops along your road and let us know what the work was like in each of those positions.
My first job out of college was as a flight attendant for Pan Am. I’m dating myself with that fact. I wanted to travel and see the world and I saw this as a way to do that. I always thought something was wrong with me, because I didn’t want what all my friends wanted – a family, a house, a stable job. They wanted to establish roots, I wanted adventure and change.
Flying for Pan Am opened my eyes to cultures and history. I was at the Berlin Wall the week it fell. I was in Moscow when Gorbachev was overthrown. I was truly living a dream witnessing world-changing events in person. I was extremely heartbroken when they went out of business. I went to work for United but it is hard to compare an 8-hour layover in Fargo with a 3-day layover in Nice. So, I left the airlines soon thereafter, but not until after I met my husband.
The director of Training for Pan Am recruited me to become the manager of training for a software development firm, and that began my career in corporate America. I worked in that capacity for six years and had two children during my time there, but after the birth of my second child I had a hard time going back to the grind that took me away from home. So, I left and became a consultant working around my family’s schedule. I’ve held various jobs in and out of the corporate sector as a sales coach, marketing manager, project development, and the director of marketing for a business incubator. But my heart lies in being an entrepreneur.
My husband and I started our first business in 2007, funded from my bankroll that I build up over the years. We sold that business 2.5 years later for a 400% profit, then started a second business – the bath and body boutique specializing in all-natural, where all the products were made on-site and to order. It was then that I entered a national business story competition hosted by Google, American Express and YouTube. And lo and behold I won. I was really prominent on Twitter and Facebook at the time in my niche and I think that all helped me build a brand and grow my business.
It was just announced that Fizz Bath Shop is one of 36 national winners in the My Business Story Contest. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
— Kim Yuhl (@KimYuhl) November 23, 2011
Then the opportunity in Thailand came knocking and it was one we couldn’t resist. I didn’t sell the business because I wasn’t sure I was done with it yet, but I did sell my intellectual property.
Nowadays, when you’re not working in the poker world, you’re busy running your own small business, Better Brand Stories, which emphasizes your skills as a digital marketing strategist to help businesses better craft the stories of their brands. How did you decide to get into that line of work?
After we closed the shop and moved to Thailand, small businesses came to me and asked how to use social media to grow their business. So I started working with small businesses and have been doing that one way or another for about four years now. It truly is an area where I feel I have a gift. I understand what it’s like to work on your business every single day. I also know how easy it is to focus on putting out the fires instead of focus on growth. I not only help small business owners market themselves better, I help them do it in a way that is not overwhelming and is manageable.
All of that education in Business Administration and experience running your own business isn’t exactly what I would call the typical background of someone in the poker world. What drew you to doing writing and live reporting in the poker industry?
Writing is a necessity of growing a business. I also started a personal blog many, many years ago and found I really enjoyed writing when I was able to get Sister Mary out of my head. Sister Mary was my 6th grade English teacher and she made me feel as if I wasn’t a very good writer. I never quite followed all the rules – no surprise there.
I may not be the most grammatically correct writer, but I write with an authentic voice and try to bring people into my world be talking to them through the words I choose. When I focused on connecting, instead of perfection, I started to grow a following.
My blogging has helped me through some very challenging times including the tragic murder of my brother, the move half-way around the world leaving family and friends behind, and the other challenges that being a wife and mother bring.
My goal is to breathe new life into my personal blog this fall. I think I will need the therapeutic benefits as I send my baby off into the real world.
What is it that you love about poker that keeps you so interested in the game?
I grew up playing poker. I played my first game of poker when I was 8 years old with my grandfather. He hung out in his shed because my grandmother would not allow him to smoke or drink inside the house. He had his jug of Gallo wine and I brought my pennies. We mostly played 5-card stud and he would scoop all my pennies, leaving me to go do chores for my grandmother to get more. He never let me win. 🙂
Although eventually, it took longer for me to lose my money to him. The day I turned 21, I ventured into a card room, that was a fancy tent, and sat down and play 7-card stud with five elderly (or what seemed elderly at the time) men. I left a winner and felt at home. It was true love ever since.
Tell us a bit about your personal life; where you live, family, etc.
I’ve been married to my best friend for 23 years and have two boys, 20 and 18. My oldest is an adventurer like me and is working his way around the world. My youngest starts university in the fall to study astronomy. I’m going to be an empty-nester and I’m not quite so sure I’m ready for it. I guess that means more adventures for me and my husband. My boys are my everything and what a joy it’s been to watch them grow into curious, adventurous and compassionate beings.
Currently, we live in Flagstaff Arizona. It’s not the Arizona desert most people think of. We are smack dab in the middle of a ponderosa pine forest at an elevation of 7,000 ft. Flagstaff is the fifth-snowiest city in the U.S. I’m not sure how this summer-loving, beach-dwelling gal ended up here, but it’s been my family’s home off and on 14 years.
Now that the boys are off on their own journeys, I see another relocation in my future – one preferably with a beach.
How have you balanced being a mother to them with progressing so far and having such a fulfilling career over the years?
Basically, they are my priority. That doesn’t mean I have to be holding their hand every step of the way, but the decisions I make for my career are made as a family. I’ve always included my children in the decision-making process, I want them to know their voice matters and is powerful. I think it’s important that I set an example for my boys that you can balance a family and the pursuit of dreams. I want them to be fearless in the quest of what makes them happy and realize the right relationships in their lives will allow that to happen.
Back when you lived in Thailand for a couple of years, what was the adjustment and day-to-day life like for you and your family?
With Facebook, FaceTime, and technology, leaving family and friends was easier. And honestly, when we moved back here to the States, we easily slipped into our routine like barely any time passed.
Honestly, the adjustment wasn’t too difficult. Life in Thailand was much more simple. We spent our time absorbing the culture and living locally. There were plenty of comforts from home to be had, when we needed it such as movies, a brick-oven pizzeria and even Western fast-food – even though I’ve never been a fan.
We worked with the boys school back home to create a curriculum that allowed us to explore the region, its history and its people, so when we went back, they would be eligible to graduate. It was an amazing experience. We came back to the States so my boys could graduate high school with the kids they grew up with. I wasn’t quite done with Thailand, but it was important to me and the boys that this milestone be celebrated with family and friends.
How often do you play poker? Home games mostly or in poker rooms? Cash or tourneys?
I tend to play poker in spurts. I play in a few home games but when I’m home my duties as a mom, wife, and business person often take precedence. I like to schedule trips to Vegas to play and I often schedule those trips when the games tend to be the best, March Madness, WSOP, etc. Living only three hours down the road allows me the luxury of coming over for a few days at a time.
What’s the biggest misconception people have about poker writers/writing?
I think the biggest misconception is that we are wannabe poker players. I think it may be true for some, but not for all. I’ve been lucky to play poker when I want to play and take breaks when I want. I’m not sure I would enjoy the game as much if it was my profession and I had to pay my bills from the winnings of session. I make my living writing, whether about business, poker or random other subjects, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
What other hobbies do you have? Tell us about them.
I love to cook, kayak (or basically any water sport), and play games (no surprise there). I would love to more art, but I’m sort of clueless. It is fun and relaxing – especially if martinis are involved.
I’ve recently started doing yoga and my body is very thankful. I try to balance work with family and activity – any kind of activity. Most of my work is sedentary and it’s a challenge for me to sit still for very long.
I would love to train for a walk or a bike ride through the countryside somewhere. That’s to come.
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 prefer lifestyle/feature pieces. One of my favorite things to write from the summer, which I’m fortunate enough to now be continuing, was The Muck. It’s fun and quirky. I love the creativity that I can bring to that. While I don’t get the opportunity very often, I would love to do more op-ed pieces. I have an opinion on everything and as someone who doesn’t live the day-to-day life of a poker journalist or play, my opinions often take on different view than most.
What’s something you still haven’t yet done/accomplished 1) in poker and 2) in life that’s on your bucket list?
I would love to follow the sun for a year, renting a place in a different country every month for a year. While I have been fortunate to travel extensively around the world, I can’t seem to get enough of it.
Regarding poker, I would love to get better at playing more games. I grew up playing stud and draw games, so I’m comfortable with quite a few of the games, but I would like to get better. I love the different strategies and the variety. Maybe in my year following the sun, I’ll work on a different game each month.
What sort of future do you see for yourself in life and in poker over the next few years?
First of all, I will be adjusting to an empty nest. And to be honest, I am SO not ready for that. What that means for me and my husband going forward is not something I know the answer to. I do know that I will continue to help small business owners grow their businesses. And if given the opportunity, I will continue to pop into the poker world and write about the game I love. I like change, and my philosophy on life is to make the best decisions with the information you have the time. I would like to think that is something poker taught me. Of course, applying it to life is a little more challenging, but releasing the need to always be in control has been the greatest gift I’ve given myself.
Before we let you go, I noticed you wrote this about yourself on Facebook: “I’m living proof it’s never too late to change. Live, love, laugh & look up. It’s a beautiful world.” Please elaborate on this message for our readers.
About five years ago, I went on a journey to find “happiness for no reason.” I felt stuck living a life others expected me to live. I was doing all the “right” things, but something didn’t feel right. I was a people pleaser and when I learned to let go of that, I was able to release much of the worry and anxiety that kept me from being truly happy.
The most important part of that message for me is the “look up” part.
When living in Thailand, we would often take wrong turns to see where we would end up. In my opinion, it’s the best way to explore a new city, but it’s easy to miss a lot of interesting things by looking down at where you’re going. The world opens up when you look up and trust yourself to take the next step. The big problem in Thailand is that their sidewalks aren’t necessarily pedestrian friendly. I often would find myself tripping over a missing brick or an abrupt end to the path while looking up and my boys would laugh at me. That laughter lights up my world and it was during one of my falls, while they were laughing at me that I realized the good stuff happens when you’re looking up.