It’s been a while since our last installment, but our Get to Know the Poker Media series nonetheless continues with this latest interview featuring Hayley Hochstetler.

Anyhow who has encountered Hayley at a RunGood Poker Series stop, elsewhere on the poker circuit, at the tables, or even just follows her on social media knows just how passionate she is about poker and how much she loves being a part of this industry.

Perhaps primarily known for her photography, there’s SO much more to Hayley’s work than her pictures and picture-taking encompasses. And there’s so much more to Hayley than just her work! All of that is exactly what we’re eager to learn more about.

I am so glad to be sharing this interview with you all, so that we can take a few minutes to properly recognize and appreciate not only Hayley’s work, but also to learn more about her, how her career in the poker industry got started, and what fuels her passion for poker.

Haley Hochstetler
Hayley Hochstetler

How did you first get into the poker industry and for how long have you been part of it? 

The way I got into the poker industry is just a bunch of being in the right place at the right time. I dropped out of college after one semester at Iowa State University in 2013, where I was studying journalism. I really wanted to be a sports photographer for an NFL or MLB team and while I was in college I worked for the newspaper staff covering Big 12 sporting events. I had some problems with my mental health and ended up moving back home to work as a cocktail waitress at Horseshoe Council Bluffs. I wasn’t too thrilled to be in this position, feeling like I took a huge downgrade from where I was previously in my career at the newspaper, but eventually started to enjoy the job a lot more and befriended some of the regulars, most of which played poker.

I started playing poker on the free WSOP app and then when I turned 21, finally started playing a little live cash. Right after I turned 21 is when I met the RunGood Poker Series crew, and I basically told Tana Karn (the President of RunGood) that I could take photography for the tour to the next level. He gave me a chance and I’ve been with the team ever since, though my job is pretty random and not just limited to photography now. So in short, I’ve been in the casino industry for almost eight years, and poker for almost five.

What poker outlets and companies have you been involved with and which has been your favorite (one-time or ongoing) gig over the years?

I’ve always been with RunGood, but I have done some freelance work for Heartland Poker Tour, WSOP circuit, and recently Above the Felt. I’m sure I missed a few there, but my favorite ongoing gig pre-pandemic was HPT stops because they went to different cities than RunGood did. I got to go to Chicago a lot, St. Louis, and Black Hawk, Colorado, and it was a nice change of scenery.

What is it that you love about poker that keeps you so interested in the game?

There are a lot of things that I love about poker but the biggest thing that I love stems from being a former competitive athlete. I was basically groomed to be a college softball player as a teenager but ultimately gave that up when I dropped out to move home, and poker has given me that competition and drive to get better that I craved so badly after losing softball. It’s also not something you can perfect, you always have to work to get better and I love that about the game.

What sort of job(s) – if any – did you have before getting into poker?

My very first job was at a movie theater. I cleaned theaters, sold tickets, popped popcorn. I worked at the Buckle, a clothing store, for a short time and hated it. In college I worked at Texas Roadhouse as a host as well as the Iowa State Daily newspaper as a photojournalist. After college I worked at Horseshoe Iowa for four-and-a-half years, which led me into my current job at RunGood.

Tell us a bit about your personal life; where you live, family, etc.

I grew up a military child. My dad was a Battalion Sergeant Major in the US Army and did 21 years of service. We moved around a lot which is maybe why I made better friends with sports than people.. My elementary school years we lived in Heidelberg, Germany, followed by Fayetteville, North Carolina through middle school years and ultimately ended up in Council Bluffs, Iowa from the time I was 12 until high school.

I would consider Council Bluffs to be my “real” hometown if you were to ask me where I was from, though. I have one younger brother, Tanner, who is 23. He is also in the industry as a poker dealer. I currently live in Tulsa, Oklahoma which is just a convenience thing pertaining to proximity to the RunGood stops and HQ.

How often do you play poker? Home games mostly or in poker rooms? Cash or tourneys?

Pre-pandemic I was playing live cash maybe two or three times a week, but if we were at a RunGood stop I might play five nights a week. During COVID lockdown I took up online poker and put in a couple thousand tournaments from March until July. I worked with a coach and had a decent amount of tournament success, but ultimately prefer to play live cash. My goal is to be able to play on a high stakes game on Poker After Dark!

What’s the biggest misconception people have about people who work in the poker industry, and poker photographers in particular?

This is a tough question. I think something that people don’t realize with poker photographers is that this is our job and we don’t work for free. The number of times I’ve seen people screenshot my work from PokerNews with the watermark cut halfway off, without a credit anywhere or paying for the image is kind of frustrating.

The industry as a whole though, I think is vastly unappreciated. Some people believe that live reporting is easy, but keeping up with action on multiple tables, typing up hand histories in a timely manner all while making it flow in an enjoyable way for the reader is a lot harder than people think. So, shoutout to my industry friends.

You are officially the Vice President of Media at RunGoodGear.com. Within that role it seems like you do LOTS of different types of work, jobs, and tasks well beyond just photography. Can you share a list of your responsibilities and what your day-to-day job is like?

Haha, well my job is pretty random these days. During tour season I will lay out marketing maps for all three social media channels with imagery and text. I will gather our ambassadors and figure out who can go to what stop and gather hotel booking info. I do clothing and promo orders for each of our stops. I make the schedule of tournaments and events for each stop. I fold, shelf, and organize incoming orders that are not related to the tour. I make sure invoices come in and go out. I’m basically the organization half of Tana’s brain and try to do whatever I can to make his life easier.

What are your workdays like in the run up to and during live events?

The week before our events, I’ll do a marketing post each day. During actual stop weeks, I take photos of each event, make a stockpile of photos to be used for future marketing purposes. I live tweet our bigger events, and am in charge of all of the social media channels, which during the event itself can be a lot to handle. I generally have to set an alarm on my phone for every hour on the hour to remind myself to send out tweets and Facebook posts. Lastly, I upload Main Event photos to PokerNews. Usually, tour weeks are whirlwinds.

If your social media timelines are anything to go by, you devote a good amount of time to playing poker both live and online, but you also have SUCH a busy and involved job and workload! How exactly do you balance your work time and free time?

Ever since I entered the casino and gaming industry I’ve had the mentality of: the environment around me is meant to be people having fun. Casinos are supposed to be fun, which is why it’s the “entertainment” industry, so I never feel like I’m working when I’m surrounded by an industry that is built around entertainment. I don’t ever feel busy or overwhelmed, life is only as overwhelming as you allow it to be. I’ve built my work around something I love!

My “me” time usually comes between the hours of 11pm and 4am, and you’ll usually find me organizing something at my house because I can’t sit still for more than 10 minutes.

What other hobbies do you have? Tell us about them.

I’m really into cars. I’m 25 and have owned 8 cars in my lifetime. I love to longboard and rollerblade. I’m also into sports cards, which is something that developed over the past 6 months. I could probably name almost every single NFL and NBA rookie in the 2020 draft class along with the team they were drafted to. I also love to collect art. My house is a collection of candles and paintings.

How did you get the nickname “Ocho”?

So my softball number growing up was 8. My dad always called me “eight” or “number eight” to the point where if he called me by my actual name, I was probably in trouble. When I created my Instagram account in high school, for some reason I chose the name “hayleyocho,” and somewhere in between softball and poker I became “Ocho” and it just stuck. I’m more likely to respond to Ocho before my actual name these days.

What’s something you still haven’t yet done/accomplished in poker that’s on your bucket list?

Have a six figure score. Play on Poker After Dark. Buy my mom a BMW.

I want to be able to change the lives of those who shaped or changed mine growing up. I feel like there’s a few people that I owe the world to.

A large percentage of the folks involved in the poker community around the world, players, media members, and industry personalities alike, are products of the “Moneymaker boom”, male, and between the ages of 35-45. You, a woman in her 20s, certainly “break that mold”. What would you like to say to other women in your age bracket that they’re missing out on by not being involved in the poker world that you so enjoy being a part of?

It’s not as scary or as intimidating as it might seem on the surface. You do have to have somewhat of a thick skin but women have always been viewed as kind of inferior or an underdog regardless of what aspect. Whether it be sports, work, politics, strength, etc. Might as well embrace and use it to your advantage. My goal outside of just working in the poker industry is to be a positive influence and role model for women in the game. If I can make at least one woman feel more comfortable at the table, then I’ve done my job.

Alright, the stage is yours – go ahead and let loose about something you just HAVE to get off your chest.

Pineapple goes on pizza, peanut butter goes on hamburgers, ranch is only meant to be a salad dressing, and avocados are gross!

Haha, kidding. There’s been something that I haven’t been able to announce for over a year now because of COVID, but this year for the WSOP I’m actually stepping into the role as the head of the photography team for WSOP and PokerNews. I can’t wait for the live WSOP to be back and doing what I love so much once again. 🙂