POKER LIFESTYLE

Interview with World Poker Tour Presenter Alex Gray

By Robbie Strazynski
December 22, 2022

A few days ago, I was fortunate to meet with WPT Presenter Alex Gray at Wynn Las Vegas during the amazing World Poker Tour World Championship event. Alex has been an active member of the WPT’s Royal Flush Crew for just over four years and poker fans are surely familiar with her work. In videos taking place all over the world, Alex regularly introduces us to the locales that poker players can enjoy while on tour stops as well as many new faces fortunate enough to see the inside of the winner’s circle. Alex’s joy in presenting these videos to us is abundantly apparent.

That said, we don’t know nearly as much about Alex herself, as she’s usually on the interviewing side of the mic rather than being the interviewee. I was grateful to have had the opportunity to sit with Alex for about half an hour, where she was kind enough to devote some time away from her duties to allow Cardplayer Lifestyle fans to get to know her a little better.

I hope you enjoy our conversation, a transcript of which is included below.

Alex Gray and Robbie at the Wynn

Interview Transcript

Good morning. It is December 18th and we are sitting here in the Wynn, Las Vegas Casino Resort and Hotel with Alex Gray, presenter for the WPT. I believe that’s your official title. Presenter? Cast Member? Talent? What would you call yourself?

They call me talent, but I call myself presenter and host.

And I think you’re also an actress, too, right? You went to acting school?

I took acting courses, so technically I went to acting school. But not an official three-year-long course. But I did a lot of acting at school. I had a drama scholarship. And, when I left, I did some screen courses, I did some Meisner technique courses. That sort of thing.

Prior to going to school and studying, were you always performing in front of family and taking center stage?

You know I wasn’t really. I was always very quiet as a child. Being on stage gave me that access card to be myself and have the spotlight on me. But when I was younger, I was kind of bullied. So I was quite quiet and timid. Although I always spoke my opinion and didn’t follow the crowd. So when I was onstage performing it was like this is my zone. No one’s being mean to me. No one’s going to judge me – well they will – but not at that moment in time. So, it was a weird kind of an escape for me.

So you saw it on TV — saw actors performing — and you said “I want to do that”?

No. Not even. I just got into it at school and just loved it. Just loved being these weird characters and different people.

I was reading a bio of yours somewhere. It says “she grew up in Suffolk, horse riding and running around in the forest. Admitting she’s a bit of a tomboy, Alex really loves adventure and team sports, like rugby, and describes herself as a people person.” Tell us about that stuff.

Well, I did play rugby growing up. Only for a year or two. Because at my primary school, it was such a tiny school. So there was a period of time that there weren’t enough boys to fill out the whole team. This was contact rugby. So we were like 10 or 11 years old. So you know, it’s not big teenage boys. So yeah, I got recruited to be on the team. It was just me and my best friend like really tomboyish and just got stuck in. So Mr. Norris was the teacher who really took us under his wing. I have good memories of him teaching us to tackle and getting mud all over me. I thought it was great. I wouldn’t do it now, but…

You’re still into sports in general, like fitness and that sort of thing.

Yeah. Horse riding. That’s a massive one. I love running as well. I’m part of a run club. And yoga.

And tennis, right?

I can’t play tennis.

No?

I’m ok. I’m ok. I wouldn’t say it’s my strong sport.

Didn’t you play against Andy Ram?

Oh yeah, I did play against Andy Ram. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

That’s my countryman from Israel, so. It’s like I saw that video. He’s big into raising money for charity from poker and stuff, too. He’s a good dude.

Oh yeah, he’s so nice.

So how did you first come to work for WPT? You said it’s been four years.

By accident, I guess. I had just quit my office job and was applying for loads of presenting roles to try to break into that realm. And I just so happened to see a job offer, I think it was on LinkedIn or something like that, by the World Poker Tour. I applied and I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into. I was under the impression that it would be a very casual thing, like maybe one gig a year.

And all the sudden I am literally back to back doing every European stop. And it was just like this crazy whirlwind about two years before COVID. I just blinked and I was like I just got 100 countries under my belt.

Crazy. What was the office job?

I was a project manager at a digital media agency. It was boring. I hated it. I was there seven months and then I wrote a little letter for my manager. He was like “you’re doing so well” and I said “But I can’t. This is not the life for me.”

The office life specifically. The 9 to 5. That sort of thing?

I was just so bored. I would catch myself looking out the window, looking at planes flying by, imagining a life I could be living. Because I just knew that being in that chair and staring at Excel sheets all day was not going to do it for me.

I’ve got something similar. It’s true. I did that office life for many years. And now I just sit at home. But it’s my own home.

But it’s in your own house. Doing what you love. I work seven days a week now. I mean, it’s non-stop. But I love it. So it’s different.

Someone with that skillset, presenting and in front of the camera, you could have done that in a number of industries. What is it about the poker industry that particularly attracted you?

At first it was the travel. Originally the job started off more “You’re going to go to San Remo in Italy and we want you to create three videos about what you can do in San Remo and why players should come there.” So that was my role. And I didn’t know anything about poker. I’ll be very transparent. But slowly I got deeper and deeper into the depths of the world of poker. Now I play. Now I find myself in three-hour long holes on YouTube watching poker videos.

Those Hustler Casino Live videos, for instance, have been great. They’ve done a great job with them. Lots of characters.

So, it kind of started off with this allure of travel and then it’s grown into this love of the game and love of the people. I love the fact that people are just doing what they want to do. I love poker players because they’re mavericks, and I love mavericks because they just don’t do what the cliché is or the status quo. They’ve chosen this kind of rogue lifestyle and they do everything on their own time which I really admire.

You said you didn’t know anything about poker, so that was obviously something important to learn about. How did you go about it?

I mostly learned about it really during COVID, was when I started playing online. And I kind of studied a bit of GTO. If I was going to do it, I was going to do it properly. So I was studying charts and watching videos online.

I actually started playing more on ClubWPT. That was the safe space for me to learn. Because it wasn’t real money. So that was the safe space for me to learn and to put all those things I had been studying into practice. And then it kind of went up and I did partypoker, playing quite low stakes. And then COVID ended and I could play live properly. I could play live before, but I didn’t really know what I was doing. And I actually think I played better before when I didn’t know what I was doing.

Genuinely! Cause I was just like “heck. I’m all in.” And people would go “Whaa??” and fold. Whereas now I’m thinking in my head little probabilities, like “well if they have that and I have this….” You know? I overthink it now. Yeah, I have a long way to go in my poker skills.

Cash games? Tournaments?

I prefer tournaments. Cash games stress me out. There’s always so many rogue players in cash games that do the craziest things. I’m not confident enough yet to beat them. I think that’s the problem. I think online I play better. Online I feel safer.

Can you explain that?

When I’m at a table, I feel the pressure more in real life. When I’m in my own home I feel way more confident placing higher bets, or going all in, or calling when my hand is not the strongest. I think being a girl, a young girl, men will always try and bluff me a lot at a live table. And that’s annoying. I’m still learning to call their bluff.

If you know that that’s going to happen, then you know exactly what the counterattack should be.

Yeah, but I still haven’t got the experience to know when someone’s bluffing and when someone’s got a really strong hand.

So what are your near- and longer-term poker goals?

I’d really like to get in a low-stakes tournament. That would be an achievable goal for me. But it’s finding the time to practice and do it. I just don’t really have the time. I kind of like just playing for fun. Getting more confident would be my short-term goal and then my long-term goal would be getting placed in a low-stakes tournament.

So not necessarily your name on the Mike Sexton Cup or anything?

I’m going to be really honest and say I don’t think that’s an achievable goal. There are a lot more people that are a lot more qualified for that than me.

Got it. So obviously being on video and presenting and having to learn about poker and know the product that you’re presenting about. Those two things go hand in hand. But clearly you must find some sort of joy in playing.

Yeah.

Can you describe that?

The joy in playing? I guess it’s like. I don’t know, there’s something that online games miss. Table camaraderie that you can have with people. The banter and the chat and I really enjoy that. And sometimes if I bust I’m more sad about missing out on the table fun, rather than the money. It’s also kind of the thrill. It’s why everyone loves playing these kind of games. It’s the thrill and the risk. High risk, high reward. But it could go wrong. But when you get it and you win, it feels amazing.

And also I think that every time you play, you get better. Like with anything you do. Practice. And seeing your improvement is quite satisfying.

That dovetails very nicely into my next question. When you first started in your position, were you trained at all? Or was it completely learning the skills and what to do in your role completely on your own? And obviously over the years you’ve gotten better, to where you are now. But how did it all begin when you started with the company?

Oh. Fake it ‘til you make it.

Really! Ok; go on…

No, I had Hermance Blum as my direct manager. And she was amazing. She definitely helped me a lot. The great thing about Hermance is she’s very to the point. She’s very honest. There’s no beating about the bush. If she doesn’t like it, she’ll tell you. I love that because how am I’m going to know I’m doing something wrong if no one tells me? So she’ll give me direct feedback like “you’re doing amazing” or “you’re holding the microphone in the wrong hand. Hold it in this hand.”

Yeah. She really helped me a lot.  I have to place a lot of my beginnings to her. Because without Hermance, I wouldn’t be where I am now. I have a lot of love for Hermance. I think she’s amazing.

That’s great!

But definitely, at the very very start – Fake it ‘til you make it. I had no idea what I was doing. I just knew I loved doing it. And I just kind of made it up as I went along.

If you look back at those videos is it really…

I cringe. I cringe. It’s so cringy.

Well now you’re obviously a veteran. You’ve been doing it for four years, you know what you’re doing. What sort of preparation, now that you know what you’re doing, goes into making those videos. Like during the pandemic, you recorded a lot of them at home on a green screen. Obviously sometimes you’re on site, so tell us about that process from inception or idea until we see the final product.

A lot of it just comes to me. I mean, I like working under pressure, so I like leaving things to the last minute.

Ok, that works for some people.

That always sparks a really great idea. A lot of the stuff that we do, like when we were doing Europe a lot, I would work really closely with my videographer Alessio and we would bounce ideas off each other. He’s amazing. His brain just functions differently, but in the most beautiful way.

But to be fair to me, it wasn’t always last minute. I would research where we were going. Like, when we went to Brussels. There’s more to Belgium than just Brussels. Bruges is only an hour train journey away. There’s the film In Bruges. Let’s do something there. That’s kind of fun. Like if a player busts, like Brussels can be quite miserable in the cold. Like why don’t they take a train journey to Bruges?

Interesting. You often have a free hand to decide what you want to do?

Yeah. It would have to be approved obviously, but I filmed the crazy Halloween music video when I was Montreal. I don’t know what we were thinking. We filmed it in about two days. I came up with this strange Halloween rap myself. In about half an hour. It’s the bad beat story. And we just filmed this music video in the streets. In like some back alley in Montreal. It’s just so random. It was a very spontaneous video. It is one of my all-time favorites.

That is actually my next question. I remember you had a lot of cool videos with Adam in Sochi. Like that ice plunge in the hot water and the Halloween video. Are those your favorite ones? And what makes them your favorites?

Because they’re different. And they’re so strange that it gets people wanting to watch it because it’s not just another “boring” poker room video where you’re in the room giving an update or interviewing a player that just wants to go to sleep or doesn’t care about talking to you.

It’s getting attention on poker and making it fun and attracting a new audience who didn’t really know about poker. It’s a soft medium for people to enter in. And I don’t really think there was anything like that in the poker world before. And that’s why I think that coming from a non-poker background was good, because I could bring in this very non-poker style.

How deeply are you involved in the editing and the post-production until we see that final video?

We’ll have a vision of what the video will be like, but I always leave that to the videographer. The videographer will more often than not will also edit it. I really leave all of that to them. Because that’s their remit. That’s their skillset and talent and what they’re good at. I’m good at coming up with ideas and doing the visuals and making whatever’s on camera look good, and like the scripts. I mean I’ll be like “mmm, maybe not that bit.” I mean I’ll have a little creative suggestion, but more often than not I don’t have much to say about it.

I always ask this about players because it’s a relatively unconventional line of work to get into, but everything in this industry is a little unconventional – what does your family think of your work?

You know what? I think they were disappointed in me when I had an office job. Because no one in my family has a normal job. So my dad grew up selling records and then had his own music business.

My mom used to work in the music industry as well. And then she gave up her career to look after us – her kids. My sister is a dancer and owns a dance talent agency. My brother was a musician and now does day trading. My half brother is a really famous photographer. So no one in my family really did normal things. So when I went into this really boring job, everyone was like “We’re proud of you! Are you sure you want to be doing that?!” You know?

So they’re happy as long as I’m happy. Very lucky to have a supportive family.

Cool! Okay, so you arrived here yesterday to the Wynn Las Vegas. I believe this is your first trip here in the wintertime. Tell us about your first impressions of Las Vegas in the winter. And you’ve been here like 24 hours, maybe less. Tell us what you think about the WPT has put on here at the Wynn.

Oh it’s jaw-dropping.

Day before yesterday I arrived and slept three or four hours. Normally I’d be a zombie. But I was like on fairy dust. There’s just so excitement and magic here. I don’t know if that’s just Vegas in general. But I’ve never felt it before. I think it’s like –  Wow! This is incredible. I’m a part of this. How, pardon my French, how ****ing incredible. This is the most astonishing poker event I’ve ever seen. One of the most astonishing events I’ve ever seen full stop. And to have it hosted in a place like the Wynn. It’s beautiful everywhere you look. It’s just a classy place. There are no words to describe how awesome it is. It’s just epic.

Alex Gray

I didn’t plan on this question, but you literally just said said “Pardon my French” and that reminded me, you speak French.

Oui, je parle un petit peu de Fraincais.

How did you end up speaking French and so fluently and unaccented?

Well, I’m not so fluent now because I haven’t been practicing that much and it’s really bad. But I studied it at school and I had the most incredible French teachers at school; they were just so passionate about French. It was their love. They just loved France and loved the language that it kind of inspired me to want to love it as well.

I had a lot of friends that were French. I used to work in the nightlife industry and everyone there was French. So I ended up just speaking it loads. And ended up getting an A-star at A level French so.

Nice! Tres bon!

And ended up studying French at University in one of my modules as well.

Good stuff. So, a lot of folks only speak that one language, and you have the benefit of speaking two. In what ways have you found that to be advantageous? Both professionally and personally.

Professionally definitely, it’s helped. Like in Europe in a lot of the countries we would visit for the World Poker Tour they all speak French. So, we would go to Brussels, they speak French. We have an event in Deauville, they speak French. We go to Paris, obviously, they speak French. Morocco, Marrakech, they speak French.

With Hermance do you speak French?

With Hermance and Maxime Rouison. They speak French as well. And I’d interview a lot of the French players in French. So, it is really handy. And just on a personal level, it’s really cool. It unlocks another world. You can go to France and get around. And you don’t feel isolated.

Nice. Well, I’m not a 100% sure there’s a cause and effect here, but I think one of the reasons you arrived here later than the rest of the crew is that you were competing on this reality show in the UK. You had to promote it to be there. Tell us about this show, what is it called? What were you doing? And what’s all that stuff about?

Well, I always said I would never do reality TV, but here I am. It was called The Traitors, and it’s essentially a murder mystery. And a really messed up one. There are no clues! You’re locked up in this castle for three weeks.

With how many people?

It starts with 22, but it gets whittled down.

Right.

And there are two ways you can get eliminated. Either you get murdered by the Traitors at night while you sleep. Or you get banished at the round table by everyone who are trying to figure out who the murderers are.

So like votes, sort of?

Yeah, it’s like group voting. And you’re placed into this group state of paranoia and anxiety. And you can’t sleep because you’re so anxious and paranoid. It was just mental. It’s a lot of strategy. And it was fun. Until it wasn’t. I got too emotionally invested in it and I was like “ok I need to protect my well-being.”

Ok. Is it a winner take all kind of thing?

If you’re a traitor, yeah. If you’re one of the three traitors out of the 22 people who make it to the end, then you take all the money. If you’re one of the others and there are no traitors left because you managed to banish them, you managed to vote them out because you sussed out who they are, then you share the rest with the faithfuls who are left over.

And the show’s over, so you were which one?  

I was a faithful. I then got recruited to become a traitor over halfway through, but I turned it down. Because I didn’t have it in me to lie and deceive and throw people under the bus.

Ok.

I mean I know it’s just a game, but when you’ve been living it – I mean it’s your life for three weeks. It doesn’t feel like a game anymore. It’s real people, real emotion, real feelings.

And before we recorded this you said that you filmed this in May and we’re now in December. How difficult is it to sit on this for so many months?

It’s so difficult. Because they didn’t tell us when it was going to be out. We only found out about 10 days before the transmission date when it was going to be. So it was really hard. We’ve just filmed this massive thing with the biggest channel in England. So you’re waiting for this to come out. You’re trying to get on with your life, but at the same time you’ve got this going on in the back of your mind. Is it going to flop? Is it going to be a success? Is this going to change my life? Am I going to still live the same life? You don’t know.

It’s kind of tough watching it back, to be honest. It brings back all these old emotions from when we were filming it.

How do you do that and fit that sort of thing into the middle of a busy WPT schedule?

Well I had to sacrifice WPT Hanoi.

Oh, shame.

Yeah. So I missed going to Vietnam for it. And even when I turned down Vietnam, I wasn’t sure if I was on the show or not. They were like, “we can’t confirm that you’re on the show now, but maybe you shouldn’t agree to the WPT event because there’s a good chance you will be on it. But we can’t confirm it.” So, brilliant! Like I have to put my whole life on hold for May just in case I might be on it.

Just a few more questions until we wrap it up. You’re 27 years old; I’m pretty sure that you’re one of, if not THE youngest member of the WPT family. What does being part of the WPT family mean to you?

It’s a privilege. It’s great. I get looked after so well. It’s like a family. I get along with everyone I work with. It’s great. The events are really fun. I get to travel the world and talk to a camera for a living. I feel so lucky that they took a chance on me all those years ago. Like I said, I was just faking it until I was making it. I didn’t know what I was doing.

It’s just a privilege. Being invited to be here and stay at the Wynn and being taken care of so well. It’s great.

Well they definitely take care of everybody. They take care of media, they take care of players, they take care of champions. That’s incredible hosting by WPT. I’m glad to hear that’s true of in-house as well. That’s great.

What do you enjoy most about your work?

Seeing the results, I guess. I love producing videos. I can’t explain why I love talking to a camera and being on video. A lot of people hate that. They cringe at the idea of being on video. But there’s something really fun about interviewing people and making fun content.

I just love the world of production, I think it’s really fascinating. You never see all the hard work that goes into a video. I can watch a video now and appreciate everything someone’s put into that video. You’ve really gone in on your scriptwriting there, or look at those transitions, or look at the background. Or, wow, it must have been really cold to film, but you’re making it look fun.

There’s so much just to make one little 30 second clip. And I think it’s beautiful, the magic of that.

What do you find most challenging about your work?

Sometimes the long hours. And “always being happy.” If you’re at an event for two weeks. Barcelona, say, was a two-week event. And I’m socializing every day, you’re on camera every day. And over two weeks, you’re not going to feel great every single hour of the day. You’re going to have moments where you’ve had bad news, or you’re not feeling well that day, or you’re just tired and groggy. You can’t express how you feel. You have to put on a face. But that’s not all the time. That’s just the rare occasion, that might be the case. On those days, I find it tough. Because I like to stay true to myself at all times. But in those moments you have to realize that you can’t express something that’s bothering you or bringing you down. For the sake of the job, you have to put a face on and crack on.

There was a long time before COVID hit that I was struggling with my health. And I put a brave face on every single day, but inside I felt awful. Now I feel good. I’m on top of it. I know what’s going on. But that was really hard for me. So when COVID came, I thought “Ahhhh, now I can breathe. Now I can relax. Now I can fix what’s going on in my body, because I know there’s something wrong.” It turns out that I had an autoimmune problem, but at the time I didn’t know. And I had all these allergies that I didn’t know about. That was really tough.

To follow up on that, after every intense period of work, like now, obviously the holiday season is coming up and there’s going to be a little bit of a break. When you do find that time for yourself, how do you decompress, get that out of your system, relax and recharge to become that A-plus person again.

Don’t talk to anyone. Don’t wear makeup. Go to the gym. Don’t talk to anyone. Sleep. Do yoga. I actually like to do administrative work.

Who on Earth likes to do administrative work?!

Yeah. I know. It’s weird. I know But I have quite an autistic side of my brain. I become obsessive about things and I can completely tune in. That’s how I managed to get through University. Full-blown autistic brain. I just go.

I switch from extrovert brain and my introverted side becomes who I am. You know when you have a battery pack on your phone. And you put that battery pack on charge. It’s like that. I put the extroverted battery pack on charge. I just don’t do anything extroverted while it’s charging.

Last question. Looking to the future. Many of us have been playing poker for a number of years. So lots of us have been into the game for a while. We got into it 20 years ago, when the WPT began, or when Chris Moneymaker won the WSOP Main Event in 2003. And a lot of us, my media colleagues and I have been wondering: how do we bring the next generation of players to the game? And even just fans to become interested? So you’re in your 20s, Alex. What do you think about poker appeals most to your generation that you’d like to see more of, both from the WPT as well as from the wider poker industry?

I think detaching it from the world of casinos and gambling. There’s a lot of controversy because of that. People my age, when they think of poker, they think of slot machines and roulette. They don’t realize that it’s a skill-based game. A lot of games in the casino, there’s no skill involved. You know, you just put $100 on red and hope that you’ve got it.

I think making it clear that there’s a lot of work these poker players put into the game. This isn’t just, “I’m sitting down and hoping for the best by going all in with 2-3 offsuit.” It’s studying from some of the best poker training sites, it’s reading charts, it’s playing. Then it’s studying your play. And by watching other people play and learning from them. And I think that if you’re not in the poker world, you don’t get it. I think that poker players deserve a lot more respect, and it just saddens me that it’s washed with “oh that’s just a game of luck.” Obviously, there is luck involved. It’s poker. But it’s mitigated luck. You are in control of the cards to a certain degree.

I think that. And I think making it more consumable via platforms that younger people use now, like TikTok. I’m not big on TikTok, but a lot of the agents now are like: “How many followers do you have on TikTok?”. That’s the platform that everyone is on. So making consumable content on TikTok for that younger generation to consume. But also understand that this is a game that you need to treat with respect. And it’s a game you need to study. It’s a game of skill.

That’s an awesome answer. And this has been a really awesome conversation. I’ve been a fan of your work for four years now, and it’s good to get to know the Alex behind the camera. So thanks for talking to Cardplayer Lifestyle today.

Thanks for wanting to talk to me!

Absolutely.

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Written By.

Robbie Strazynski

Robbie founded Cardplayerlifestyle.com in 2009. A veteran poker writer and presenter, Robbie hosts the CardsChat Podcast as well as The Orbit, a first-of-its-kind roundtable discussion live broadcast on Twitch.tv/poker featuring poker’s biggest names and personalities. In 2019, Robbie translated the autobiography of poker legend Eli Elezra (Pulling the Trigger) from Hebrew into English. Robbie’s “Running […]

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