Recently, I was contacted by a friend for advice on an issue with which I’m pretty familiar: poker interviews. What he asked me dives a little bit deeper than the title of this piece suggests, however. Typically, the most common and straightforward way of getting any interview is to just plain ask for it. I suppose that’s pretty obvious. But my friend’s question is an important one worth considering and examining. Here’s what he asked me:

I was curious as to what you offered [poker player’s name redacted] for the interview you did with him, if anything?

I am working on lining one up with him as well, but am unsure what to offer as far as compensation. I appreciate any insight you may have for me.

I’m not a journalist, nor have I ever taken any journalism classes, but I imagine this issue is covered in some way, shape, or form within such a curriculum. That said, all I have to rely on is my years of experience doing media work in the poker industry. It’s on that experience that my answer to my friend’s question was based, and I felt it was an interesting-enough issue to warrant expounding upon here at Cardplayer Lifestyle.

Just to clarify, I’m not referring to “bustout interviews,” which a dedicated cadre of live reporters are on scene to do at poker events around the world. Rather, I’m referring to on-camera, audio/podcast, or written interviews the likes of which usually demand advance preparation as well as coordination between the poker player and media person.

poker media
Poker media horde interviewing Daniel Negreanu upon his 2015 WSOP Main Event bustout

What’s a Poker Interview All About?

The next few paragraphs include most of what I wrote back to my friend. I think they effectively illustrate the factors that “go into” a poker interview and what it’s all about.

Re: interviewing [poker player’s name redacted] (or anyone else for that matter) I’ve never offered anyone compensation for being interviewed. I understand where you’re coming from, as the interviewee is obviously kindly granting of their time and “providing you” with great content. With that said, interviews pretty much by definition always help the interviewee with publicity, wider name recognition, etc. So what you’re giving the interviewee de facto is the platform, mentions, exposure, and every other way you intend to promote said interview via your social media channels (and hopefully getting your audience to share as well).

I’ve done scores of interviews before and I’ve been turned down maybe a handful of times. Nobody “owes you” anything, so while usually the answer will be yes, don’t be crestfallen if they decline (maybe the timing just isn’t good, etc).

All I’d recommend is being forthright and passionate (as you obviously are) and preparing in advance to do the best job you can; the type of work/interview you’d be proud to publish. Typically, when that’s the case, the interviewee will take notice and “respond in kind,” thus giving you great content to work with. Generally speaking, when you’ve got that type of positive can-do attitude, it will take you very far and the content itself will be well received.

The only “hitch” is that … it might take [player’s name redacted] time to get back to you as he’s obviously busy grinding the pokers. By all means, please feel free to mention my name when approaching [player’s name redacted] if you feel it will help; I’d be happy to give you a warm recommendation if he needs one of wants to speak with me about it first.

Rejection Sucks, but It’s Part of the Game

For starters, I ought to make it clear that my friend is only starting to get his new poker site off the ground; the industry is new to him and (like me) he has no formal journalism training. That ought to explain the first portion of my answer to him, which is pretty basic and straightforward. In fact, in his response to me, my friend did concur that there was “intrinsic value to the interviewee, if the interview is done right and professionally.”

Now, a word about being rejected. It shouldn’t be taken as a given that every poker player will grant you his/her time for an interview. As a rule, sponsored poker players and brand ambassadors almost always say yes (sometimes the interviews get arranged via a company intermediary), but for “independent” poker pros, you never really know how they’ll answer.

It’s known that professional poker players often think of many life situations in a “+EV or -EV” manner. As such, some players come to the conclusion that agreeing to be interviewed isn’t +EV for them, and that their time is better spent doing something else. Interviewers ought not to begrudge players for saying “no, thanks.” On one occasion, I recall being told “maybe, let me see the questions first and then I’ll decide.” I try hard to produce high-quality content, so I spent a good few hours researching and compiling the interview questions. After passing those questions along to the player, I was met with a “No, thanks. I’m going to pass.” It was a tough-to-stomach feeling, especially having retrospectively wasted a day with nothing to show for it, but at the same time no promises were made. I realized that I had taken a gamble; unfortunately it didn’t pay off. Even if players might grant interviews to other outlets, there’s still no guarantee they’ll say yes to you; and that’s OK. Again, they don’t owe you anything.

Some Poker Interviews Are Real Gets; Treat Them Like Treasures

In closing, the poker world obviously has a contingent of professional players that can be said to be more prominent than others. If and when you ever get the opportunity to interview them, it’s a pretty big deal. However these opportunities might arise for you, I would humbly advise you not only to be grateful for them, but also to invest accordingly in preparation for them. As the Roman philosopher Seneca is oft quoted as saying, “luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” Usually, when your interviewees see that you’ve worked hard to prepare for the occasion, it will lead to some fantastic results.

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