At just 24 years old, Will Shillibier is already a well-known commodity in the poker community. Over the last few years, his has become a recognizable face on the international poker circuit, as he’s done live reporting from dozens of destinations all over the world. But there’s a lot more to this young man than meets the eye, as anyone who has met him in person or follows him on Twitter can easily see.
Possessing a true love for poker, Will wears his passion for the game on his sleeve. Over time, he’s crafted for himself a unique voice that’s both appreciated and enjoyed by readers of his writing. He’s long been a fan of our Get to Know the Poker Media series, so it’s that much more of a pleasure to get to know Will in this latest installment.
How did you first get into the poker industry and for how long have you been working in poker media?
When I enrolled in the University of Kent, in the first two weeks I almost simultaneously joined the poker society and started presenting on the student radio station CSRfm. They would have journalists and other people from the media industry come in to give talks, and I remember one such talk where the person said that it’s not just about wanting to write, it’s about what you have written. They said that having a portfolio of work was a really important stepping stone to securing a place within the industry.
I was super into poker just from playing at the society and watching every YouTube poker clip, so when it came to deciding what to write about, it was poker. I remember emailing people like former PokerStars Team Pro Andre Coimbra and Jaime Staples back when he was emerging as a prominent Twitch streamer.
I was a massive follower of the EPT, and eventually travelled to EPT Barcelona in 2014 and the first EPT Malta in 2015. From there I was approached by former PokerNews Editor-in-Chief Donnie Peters, and everything’s gone from there!
Since then I’ve worked at three WSOPs (five if you include the WSOPE in 2017 & 18), the Aussie Millions, numerous EPTs, partypoker Millions events… I’ve lost count!
What poker outlets have you written for and which has been your favorite (one-time or ongoing) gig over the years?
I’ve mostly written for PokerNews, but there have been other gigs. My first summer in Las Vegas was in 2016 working directly for the WSOP under Rob Kirschen, who gave me my first opportunity to experience the poker summer camp that is the World Series. I also worked for the World Poker Tour for just over a year, under Hermance Blum and Max Rouisson.
My first ever Aussie Millions earlier this year was very special. I always knew that if I was ever asked to work there I’d be doing something right. I’m grateful to Yori Epskamp at PokerNews for a lot of things, but that’s probably up there.
What is it that you love about poker that keeps you so interested in the game?
It’s the players. The game stays the same but the players are the ones who keep it interesting, at least from a journalistic point of view. You can watch the most intense heads-up pot, only for the two players to crack a smile at the end. Or you have players laughing and joking, only for them to enter a pot and it’s suddenly all serious. Doing live reporting you get to see a lot of poker, but you get to see even more players, and without them I don’t think I’d enjoy my job half as much.
Is it a bird? 🐦
Is it a plane? ✈️
No, it’s Captain Vodka! 🍸
And he’s in the #WPODublin Main Event field! 🇮🇪
— William Shillibier (@Shillibier) September 19, 2018
You Tweet a lot about student life in the UK, even though you’ve now graduated from university, so it seems those years were quite enjoyable for you. Tell us about that time in your life.
I’m only 24, so student life doesn’t seem that long ago! I studied German with the intention to become an interpreter and translator, but student journalism sunk its claws in me. I still finished my degree, mainly because I really enjoy languages and it felt important to me to finish it.
I studied abroad in Germany for a year, which was an incredible experience, and then returned to Canterbury, graduating in June 2016. Poker and my student years are so entwined, from playing at the ‘£2 Table’ in my first year, which was a nine-man sit and go with £10 up top, £6 for second place and £2 for third, to eventually graduating to the ‘£10 Table’ in my final year.
When I moved to Manchester to study for my Diploma in Journalism, I wasn’t technically at a university; I studied at a press agency, but I still hunted out the local university poker society because I know how much fun it is playing with students.
The UK Student Poker Championships are the only week in my life where I morph into a “proper” poker player. I could go on for hours about how good the UKSPC is.
Just over three months before the UK Student Poker Championships. 2018 is going to be huge for student poker: UKSPC, partypoker UK Student Tour as well as the Newcastle inter-uni tournament. Exciting time to be a poker-playing student!
— William Shillibier (@Shillibier) December 18, 2017
Tell us a bit about your personal life; where you live, family, etc.
I was born in Reading which is just west of London. After moving to Canterbury, Frankfurt and then Manchester while I studied, I now am back living with my parents in a small town just outside of Reading, and have one younger sister. The funny thing is that my family and grandparents used to play card games a lot, but never poker. New Market, Last Card and Rummy spring to mind, but poker was never on the table.
From knowing you for a while, I know you’re into pole fitness, golf, and running. How did you get into each of these activities?
I knew pole fitness would come up. Just like poker, people tend to pick up unusual hobbies, things they’ve never even considered before, at university and pole fitness was that. There were no heels and the year I joined there were six or seven guys in the class. To us we treated it like vertical gymnastics because it’s so incredible demanding physically.
— William Shillibier (@Shillibier) April 17, 2016
Growing up my dad used to play golf a lot. I always had an interested but knew I had to be able to play at a certain level to enjoy it, rather than trudge around the course all afternoon. I joined the golf society in my final year of uni and now I play as well as my dad, which means we can go out and play at a similar level and enjoy the competition. Usually before/after a poker trip I’m out on the golf course enjoying the fresh air and freedom that a casino doesn’t really give you!
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Any other hobbies or tidbits about yourself that you’d like to share a bit about?
I’m very fortunate in that in my work I’m able to be open about my sexuality. I came out on New Year’s Eve 2014/15 so that was just before I was even in the industry. Since then if it ever came up when introducing myself, or when I had a same-sex partner, it was never really an issue. It was just taken as part of who I am. I guess I’m very grateful for that. I’m very passionate about LGBT issues. This summer I competed at the 2018 Gay Games in Paris which was an incredible experience. It’s like the Gay Olympics, and it was simply unforgettable.
— William Shillibier (@Shillibier) September 23, 2018
How often do you play poker? Home games mostly or in poker rooms? Cash or tourneys?
I used to consider myself a tournament purist, but I’ve found cash much more enjoyable of late. It’s usually £0.05/0.10 with a few mates and prop bets galore. I remember messaging the group in Manchester as I was planning on going up there for the weekend, and asking whether there was a game on. Suddenly there was a list of around a dozen people who were interested. I was like: “Am I the whale who comes into town and gets this game going?” But there’s a lot to be said for playing regularly with the same group of people of your own age without the pressure of going to a proper casino.
What’s your favorite poker variant and why?
2-7 Triple Draw. Am I good at it? Probably not. Does that mean I don’t enjoy it? Definitely not.
Mixed Game players…ASSEMBLE! pic.twitter.com/eSr8peUjL5
— William Shillibier (@Shillibier) June 20, 2017
In just a few short years working in poker media, you seem to have really racked up a lot of mileage, working at destinations all over the world. When first breaking into the industry, was it a goal of yours to use the live reporting role as a means to see the world?
I wouldn’t say that it was my goal, but it’s always nice to cross off some countries on my scratch-off map of the world. My parents were never the kind of people to go to the same holiday destination time and time again, and from trips to China in secondary school and Germany while at university, I guess it’s always been in my blood.
What have been your favorite destinations and why?
My gut says Vegas, but I know that every other live reporter will hit me. Trips to Sochi and Marrakech always stand out. And I can’t wait tot go back to Melbourne.
Trying to work around three timezones is EXHAUSTING…
Vegas – 19:15
London – 3:15 (tomorrow)
Melbourne – 12:15 (tomorrow)
— William Shillibier (@Shillibier) June 10, 2018
What’s the biggest misconception people have about people working in poker media?
That it’s easy. Some people – players or staff – seem to take it as given that reporters are these super-human robots (*cough* Christian) who will do whatever it takes for however long it takes until the tournament is over. It’s not the case. We work stupidly long hours to ensure that the coverage of the tournament is the best it can be. It’s tough sometimes, and a lot of people don’t realise that.
Occasionally you do freelance writing (such as your great work here as a contributor), but you mostly focus on live reporting. Why is that, and what do you enjoy so much about doing it?
It harks back to the portfolio that I mentioned right at the beginning. It’s important to show what you can do. So whether that’s doing match reports for the BBC, website content for the Times or website articles, it constantly hones my abilities.
— William Shillibier (@Shillibier) October 6, 2018
You’ve also dabbled a bit in poker presenting. How did those opportunities come about, and are you hoping to do more on-camera work in poker in the future?
I was a man in a suit with an unquenchable desire to help out. We were in Valkenberg for the WPTDeepStacks and I was very grateful to get the opportunity at that stop and more. Alessio Libralon is an incredible cameraman for the WPTDeepStacks, and I don’t think he gets enough credit because some of the videos he’s put together are just stunning.
As for the future, I’d definitely like to do more. I like to think that I have a good journalistic brain and an eye for a good line of questioning when you’re interviewing or presenting, so I’ll be keeping my eyes open for the opportunity.
While you’ve already got a decent amount of experience working in poker media, you’re still very young – in your early 20s. What are a few things that you’d like to accomplish in poker and perhaps an item or two that’s on your bucket list?
I’ve always had this concept in my mind – the holy trinity of poker – being the gambling capitals Monte Carlo, Las Vegas and Macau. As of yet, I’ve never done a trip to Macau or even in Asia.
When I was at university, and before a career in poker media had even crossed my mind, a friend and I both eyed up the 2020 WSOP as the fiftieth anniversary year. Next year technically is the 50th annual WSOP, but 2020 will no doubt be extra special.
Alright, here’s your chance to speak to the poker world. Go ahead and let loose about something you just HAVE to get off your chest.
I know a few people who will have put money on me saying this at this point in the article, but please players STACK YOUR CHIPS IN 20s
I was playing in a poker tournament very recently at my local casino and I could tell from the other end of the table that a player was stacking his chips in 18s to make it look like he had more chips than he actually had. Besides that, chip counting is so much easier when they’re in 20s.
Also a big fan of this one: pic.twitter.com/KMKAGGcjrc
— William Shillibier (@Shillibier) July 13, 2018