A niche of the poker industry that’s unfortunately gone a bit under-recognized is live reporting. This fact was acknowledged at the recently held Global Poker Awards in which a special Award of Merit was given by the Global Poker Index to “all live reporters.” Accepting on behalf of his many colleagues in that line of work was Tim Duckworth, a longtime industry veteran.
The entire purpose of our ongoing Get to Know the Poker Media series is to shine the spotlight on those who toil tirelessly to produce the many forms of media we consume as fans of the game. Beyond learning about Tim’s personal story and career, he also gives us a good deal of insight as to what the work of live reporting entails.
It’s with great appreciation to Tim for his time and for opening up to share his story that I invite you all to get to know him better.
How did you first get into the poker industry and for how long have you been involved?
Just after turning 21 and graduating from university, I won a seat into the 2007 WSOP Main Event. I was in Las Vegas for about three weeks and spent time with the Australian contingent of guys working for PokerNews. After being eliminated when I ran my queens into aces on the bubble, I decided to seek out Jonno Pittock who was leading the team at the time.
I knew him from his days working at the Crown Casino, and on returning to Melbourne, he gave me the opportunity to work the Victorian Poker Championships in late July followed by the PokerNews Cup in October. Once 2008 rolled round, I worked the Aussie Millions and another local event before having the opportunity to travel back to Las Vegas to work for PokerNews.
Although I took some time off when my son Caleb was born, I’ve been working full time in the poker industry since 2007.
What poker outlets have you been involved with and which has been your favorite (one-time or ongoing) gig over the years?
It would be easier listing the companies I haven’t worked for! Covering live tournaments, I’ve worked for PokerNetwork, PokerNews, Bet24/7, 888poker, Poker Asia Pacific, PokerStars, Poker Listings, WSOP, DSPT, Unibet, WPT, WPTDeepStacks, partypoker, and Poker Central. Most recently I’ve been writing for Card Player Magazine and a new site based in Australia called The Double Down.
My favorite event will always be the WSOP. I love the history of the event, the range of characters it attracts, and funnily enough, the chaos of so many intertwining events and players from around the world. One event that will always stand out to me is when I covered the Lebanese Poker Championship with Eric Ramsey for PokerNews. I was so worried about traveling to Lebanon as a naive 23-year-old, but it couldn’t have turned out any better. The hotel was fantastic, the people were incredibly nice, and we saw parts of the country that were so beautiful and unexpected.
What is it that you love about poker that keeps you so interested in the game?
I just think I’ve always had a fascination with strategy games and gambling since I was young – and that’s why I first fell in love with poker. From game variants and strategy – everything is continually evolving – and that always keeps it so interesting.
When my love of poker progressed into a job, I think the one thing that kept me around was the friendships that I began developing. Working alongside some of these guys for nearly 13 years now means that we’ll have these friendships for life. It makes it incredibly easy to get through a 12-hour work day when the guy you’re sitting next to is a close friend.
What sort of jobs – if any – did you have before getting into poker?
I went straight from high school to moving cities to attend university where I was pushed to focus on getting my degree – a bachelor of commerce with majors in accounting and human resource management – something that doesn’t quite align with what I do in the poker industry. During my time at university I did some sports coaching for nearby schools – basketball and cricket – but otherwise I would say that poker reporting was my first real job.
You’re originally Australian, but now you live in Las Vegas. How long ago did you make the move and what was the impetus?
During the end of the 2011 WSOP I made Day 2 of a tournament at the Venetian. I arrived super early because I was checking out of one hotel and then into another, so I spent some time browsing the Venetian shops. I wandered into a men’s store called Kenneth Cole, and walked out with a watch, a shirt, and a date with a girl named LeAnn.
We did the long-distance thing for a while, and in 2012 I moved to Las Vegas and we got married once the 2012 WSOP wrapped up. It all seemed pretty quick, but our hands were kind of forced by the American Green Card process and immigration laws as it made it difficult to just date from across the Pacific Ocean.
Tell us a bit about your personal life; where you live, family, etc.
We’ve been based in Las Vegas since I moved here. We live out in Summerlin where we have the mountains at our backs, and are surrounded by green parks. There are enough great food options in the area, so we don’t rely on the Strip, but when we need to be there it’s only 15 minutes away.
There are four of us in a house that is way too big. LeAnn and I, my 11-year step-daughter Jadyn, and our soon-to-be 4-year-old son Caleb. He’s a handful and has too much energy for us to control sometimes. He’s tall and lean – the opposite of me – and is obsessed with dinosaurs. He can correctly name dinosaurs that none of us can even pronounce, and is just a bundle of joy.
Outside of work I play in a soccer league, and currently I am training with the Las Vegas Gamblers which is an Australian Rules Football club that plays in regional and national competitions. I played all throughout school, and after signing on for two weight loss/workout prop bets, I decided to get back into it.
You’re really on the road a ton, traveling seemingly nonstop to do live reporting all over the world. As a family man with kids, I imagine that’s not easy. How do you find the balance?
It’s incredibly tough. I was on the road for over 200 days in 2019, so there’s definitely some sacrificing of family time. However, it’s just one of the costs that is associated with doing this job, and thankfully my wife understands that. Being on the road working means we have money coming in to pay the bills and store away for a rainy day because unfortunately in our industry, you never know when that rainy day is coming.
Just look at our industry right now with the COVID-19 outbreak. Events are being cancelled or postponed, poker rooms are being temporarily closed, and everyone in the industry is panicking. Everything will hopefully return to normal by the time the WSOP is here, but who really knows?
Also, the one downside to our industry is there are always people willing to do the same work for less. At any time, a company might make a budget decision over an expertise decision, and there goes another job. So, our family has the motto that I’ll take as many jobs as possible and work as hard as I can because you never know what is around the corner.
What’s your favorite stop on the circuit to work at and why?
I don’t really have a favorite stop. There are events I’ll prefer to work over others, but it’s for more unique reasons. The Gardens Casino has some of the best and cheapest poker room food – including an awesome dumpling cart – and the same goes with the food options at Maryland Live! and The Bicycle Casino. If a tournament schedule has good hours like most of the WPT events, then working an event at Choctaw Durant or Seminole Hard Rock Hollywood are great because the property is awesome.
For pure work reasons, I love working from inside the PokerGO Studio. Since I’m normally covering high roller tournaments there, it normally means that we’re not cramped for space. It’s nice and quiet, and most importantly it’s smoke free – an underestimated importance.
How often do you play poker? Home games mostly or in poker rooms? Cash or tourneys?
Over the last few years my workload has picked up immensely, so finding time to play is a lot harder than it used to be. When I’m home, I won’t go out of my way to play, but just when I get the craving to shuffle some chips and peel some cards.
While I’m on the road, I’ll always look to find a one-day tournament I can play at the venue on the day I fly in – always need to try and climb the Poker Media Power Rankings! I tend to never play cash games once the tournament starts as there is nothing worse than working a day only to lose your day rate at 2 a.m. to some local grinder.
I know you’re a big fan of playing mixed games. What draws you to those specifically rather than the standard NL Hold’em and PLO?
I’m currently concentrating on No-Limit Hold’em tournaments and doing studying related to that, but yeah, I fell in love hard with mixed games maybe five years ago. At the time I was just bored with No-Limit Hold’em and wasn’t enjoying it. I only knew the very basics of the more common games but jumped head first into a $4/8 mixed game at the Suncoast.
From there I just kept playing more and more mixed games and spent so much time discussing hands and trying to absorb as much knowledge as possible on all the game variants while playing as high as $30/60. I predominately enjoy the lower limits of $4/8 because they tend to be more relaxed and fun – and it’s also the best way to get friends together to try and beat them out of non life-changing amounts of money.
Unfortunately, the mix of games in the rotation have tended to get a little out of control. Have you heard of Drawmaha? There are now seven variations of that game which is a little absurd. So, when I feel like playing mix games, I’m looking for a fun low stakes game so I can scratch my itch.
What’s the biggest misconception people have about people who work in poker media?
I think the biggest misconception – and one that has been mentioned in this series before – is that every person in poker media is a failed poker player. It’s just simply not true. There’s a wide range of poker ability among poker media, and also a wide range of volume played. Some of us care about amassing results and winning money, while others don’t care at all.
Another misconception is related to our job and how challenging live reporting is. There’s more to it than just watching a hand, writing it down on a notepad, and then typing it up for everyone to read. There’s just so many more layers to it. You have to worry about correctly collecting the information, writing the hand in a readable manner, while also following the correct style guide.
Days can be long depending on the event, and after players are long gone, we have to write a recap, upload all the chip counts, publish a seat draw, and hope to get some sleep before another day behind the laptop. It’s all part of the job, but hopefully people understand that we’re the first one in, last one out, and have plenty of work to do outside of the standard tournament hours.
What other hobbies do you have? Tell us about them.
The one consistent in my life has always been sports. I play in a soccer league with some other poker people such as Donnie Peters and Garry Gates, and during the summer our team has a steady rotation of poker players such as Byron Kaverman, Matthew Waxman, and Tristan Wade.
A weekly soccer game and a poker reporter diet didn’t help my pants size too much, so at the start of the year I entered into a workout prop bet with eight others including Remko Rinkema, Jeff Platt, Ben Ludlow, Tana Karn, and Jorryt van Hoof. It’s not incredibly tough as all we have to do is work out a minimum of three times a week but need to average five a week to hit the quota of 110 workouts total. It’s more about the motivation to get back into a rhythm of working out. We’ve all been pushing each other which is the exact reason we set it up, and no one has missed their workout quota and been forced to pay a punishment fine. Three of us decided to up the stakes this past week and add a weight loss variable to the prop bet. We have to lose 20% of our body weight, and for every pound we miss it by, we owe $500.
With extra incentive to work out and lose some weight, I also decided to start training with the Las Vegas Gamblers. They’re an Australian Rules Football club that plays in regional and national competitions under the USAFL. I played all throughout school, but haven’t played competitively since I was 18. It’s been incredibly fun so far winding the clock back to my youth, and I’m looking forward to representing the Gamblers … if I make the cut.
A bit of a niche question here, but those who pay attention on Twitter know that you founded poker-media.com, which tracks the tournament results of members of the poker media corps. There’s quite a bit of friendly competition among those listed to climb the rankings. What was the catalyst behind your creating a site like that and how much time does it take to keep up-to-date?
I originally bought the domain as it had good SEO value, but the development of the site as it is today – Poker Media Power Rankings – stemmed from conversations between Jeff Platt and I at the 2019 U.S. Poker Open. We were ranking poker media members on their tournament success as Jeff firmly believed he was number one. Mo Nuwwarah was fresh off three decent results for just under $70k in winnings and I was arguing that he was the current number one as Jeff was now down to number two.
We ranked like 15 people, then it became 20, then 30, then has developed into what you see today – 67 current members and 28 alumni. We know we’re missing plenty of others, but it’s hard to track some of the international people I don’t have a personal relationship with.
As for the work behind it, it’s honestly very minimal. A few days into the month I’ll open a tab on Google Chrome that opens all the Hendon Mob bookmarked profiles and then I do a quick check of the results to see who I have to update. I create the monthly table, compose some social media posts, and then I’m done. It might take 60 minutes of work or less. The only tough part is deciding who’s moving up and down in the rankings as it’s a power rankings formula, not a pure money won system. So, decisions are made with a “what have you done lately?” approach.
Poker Media Power Rankings have resulted in a heavy increase in competition between everyone, while also making people play more. It’s definitely motivation for some of us to try and amass more results. I think it also helps establish poker reporters with more credibility – although I’m not sure that’s even necessary because great sports writers are not necessarily ex-NBA players, etc.
What do you enjoy most about live reporting poker events and what do you find to be the most challenging?
What I’ll always love most about working tournaments is the team I’m working alongside. On the WPT I predominately work with Joe Giron, Sean Chaffin, and Mickey Doft. For Poker Central, it is Drew Amato, Will O’Connor, and Remko Rinkema. This group of guys make the day go by so quickly and smoothly. We work together so effortlessly and even while working we find time to joke and laugh, and they always find time to insult something Australian about me.
Over the last few years I’ve worked the majority of my events – WPT, PokerNews, and even Poker Central – with Mickey. We’ve been doing this since 2008 and just know how each other work and perfectly balance each other. Like a poker yin and yang.
There are two challenges to live reporting for me – memory and accuracy. Memory in the way of not just recalling players’ names, but also throughout the tournament so they’re not constantly called “opponents.” Secondly, accuracy in the form of field reporting and catching all the action, but also while writing the hand. Getting the information correct is one thing, but being able to correctly write it while following all the little nuances of the correct style guide is just as important in my mind.
You recently accepted the Award of Merit from the GPI on behalf of all live reporters and gave a beautiful acceptance speech. How did it feel to get the call from Eric Danis and be asked to accept the award, and how do you feel about live reporting being acknowledged in that special way?
I originally wasn’t going to attend the Global Poker Awards, and everything kind of developed just two days before it while I was working the WPT L.A. Poker Classic. Once I was informed of all the details, I knew the honor of accepting the award would be accompanied by making a speech that best represented the entire industry of live reporters – and that was the most nerve-wracking part of it all.
Afterwards, I had a lot of people tell me that the speech was excellent. Not just friends and colleagues, but people you wouldn’t expect like tournament staff and even back-of-house PokerGO production staff. So that made me feel pretty awesome that I was able to craft the right words for the occasion.
It was great that we were acknowledged in some way, and hopefully going into next year’s awards we have our own category. The Poker Journalist of the Year award has been a contentious issue for several years, and although many live reporters are on the initial list, there are so many more qualified writers in our industry that deserve the votes and nominations. There’s no reason why a live reporter couldn’t qualify for both, but that would be very rare outside of people such as Mo Nuwwarah and hopefully myself heading into the rest of 2020.
What’s something you still haven’t yet done/accomplished in poker that’s on your bucket list?
The easy answer would be winning my own Global Poker Award. However, my goals are based on establishing myself in the industry. I have so many ideas that I have yet to execute, and every now and then, I chip away at each one. I began writing a mixed game book and have the majority of the basic content stuff written – just have the more intense strategical and mathematical aspects next – but will need to find someone way smarter than me for that. I also have a book idea based on the WSOP, but waiting to see where they land location wise over the next few years.
Currently I’m working with Sean Chaffin to relaunch the True Gambling Stories podcast. We are trying to build a complete platform around this concept and offer something different.
I also have a podcast idea that I’m sitting on the fence with – just not sure if anyone will want to listen to my voice discussing poker from a different perspective. I think it could be fun if I can nail the approach and outline of the show. Stay tuned right?
From the perspective of covering tournaments, there isn’t really anything I haven’t done yet. Maybe covering a tournament on every continent – South Africa and Antarctica pending. Or working in 20 countries (currently at 10), but that’s hard when I’m not based in Europe.
Alright, the stage is yours – go ahead and let loose about something you just HAVE to get off your chest.
My message is to everyone in poker media. We all need to strive to be more professional both on the floor and off. Everything from the way we conduct ourselves, the way we act, our dress code, and the way we brand ourselves on social media.
Don’t expect things to be handed to you. If you’re striving to be great, then you need to put in the time. You need to ask how can I become better? How and who can I learn from? What can I add to my skill set to be a stronger writer? The key is to continually be striving to be the best at whatever you’re doing – live reporting, doing interviews, or writing feature stories.
Finally, I don’t want to call out any individuals, but the thing that really grinds my gears is the people that continually complain on social media about the events at which he or she is working. Not only does it reflect badly on you in the eyes of the event organizer, but I’m sure there are plenty of other people who would love to have that job. We all know we’re going to have some long days or grueling play down days, but just remember that you accepted the gig in the first place.