I’ve known Joey Ingram for over six years now. With each passing year his content output, influence, and popularity keep growing, and it’s great to watch him succeed. We’ve played PLO together, have had plenty of great conversations, and have even done an interview in the past, but I’ve never done a written Q&A feature with him. As a matter of fact, to the best of my knowledge Joey has exclusively opened up via the video and audio media in the past, but never in written form.
Affectionately known as “Papi” in the poker community, Joey recently celebrated his 35th birthday. As he’s always someone who prefers to shine the spotlight on others, I felt that Joey’s milestone perhaps offered the opportunity for him to reflect on his years of work and open up a bit about what might lie ahead for the self-styled media man.
You Tweeted something very reflective at about 1:30am after your birthday ended. This “older version of you” seems like he’s going to be an interesting guy. What do you mean by “gotta stay focused”? On what? What makes you feel that you hadn’t “been focused” until now?
I feel like I have to stay focused on the life goals I’ve set for myself instead of letting myself get distracted with all the temptation the world has to offer. The entire world is out to grab your attention and they are very good at doing it if you aren’t focused on something that overwhelms your thought process.
I’ve been focused on seeing what life has to offer outside obsessing over work 24/7 during these past two years. I’ve always been hyper-obsessed with whatever my main goals were in life.
Great birthday – very peaceful.
Younger version of me needed to be out doing something rambunctious w/ a big group of people.
Older version of me is happy to spend time with the person I enjoy being around the most.
Gotta stay focused
— Joey Ingram #passion (@Joeingram1) June 25, 2020
In what way do you want 35-year-old Joey to be different from the “younger version of you”?
Ideally, the older version of me will be more mindful of building relationships and spending more time with those people. Living with integrity to myself and to others – taking care of my mind, my body and my finances. I want to be more selfless and less selfish.
When I was in my 20s I thought that the only way I could succeed in my life and in poker was to be very selfish with my focus in that my entire life was built around poker. Poker was all I thought about doing because I felt it was what would make me successful. In retrospect, I think I could have been smarter with my approach and achieved better results. I need to improve my organization and planning.
When we spoke privately I asked if this piece could be a written interview rather than recorded and transcribed conversation. You said “sure, we could do that; I’m trying to get better at writing.” Why? What makes you want to be a better writer?
I’ve always enjoyed writing my thoughts out because It feels like I’m having a conversation with myself and I’m able to unlock subconscious thoughts once I hit flow that I’m only able to hit with few very people during spoken conversations.
I discovered this when I wrote my book and would spend 4-5 consecutive hours writing. My head would hurt after I was finished because of all the mental energy I was using unlocking these thoughts I’m rarely able to explore. My attention goes all over the place 24/7.
Your contributions to the poker industry have been very impactful over the past few years. That’s given you quite a bit of clout and influence, on social media in particular. What sort of responsibility do you feel it carries to be a big influencer in our industry?
I’m trying to figure out what type of responsibility that carries now. I think you have the power to decide how much you want to care and what you want to care about in your world.
For instance, I had an image of what I thought a great poker ambassador was; namely someone who looked out for professional players who had no voice. I feel that a poker ambassador is by definition someone who cares about improving the world that they are a part of.
As you start to spread out focus and are able to generate income away from the tables I can understand why someone would stop caring as much about that professional player community they once considered themselves to be part of.
Your investigative work on the Mike Postle scandal garnered an incredible amount of attention, even beyond the confines of the poker world. So many people in the poker world want to return to the days when our game got lots of mainstream attention. Your work achieved that, but for better or worse the attention was to a scandalous incident rather than something highlighting the beauty and more positive moments our game produces. What are your thoughts on that?
My thoughts are that this type of thought process is why many of the big issues related to security don’t get addressed. Everyone wants to focus on the positive side of the game and ignore the negatives until they become so noticeable that they can’t be ignored any longer.
I’m trying to better understand a smart way to go upon handling this. I can go on and on about the negatives taking place or the positives taking place or a mixture of both.
You were recognized with two Global Poker Awards –Journalist of the Year and Media Content of the Year: Video – for the aforementioned investigative work. By conventional standards of journalism, I think it could be said that your technique for carrying out that investigation was somewhat unorthodox. In the same vein, your long-running Poker Life Podcast was (to the best of my knowledge) the first in our industry to incorporate a video element to it in the first place. Why do you think the video medium carries so much power compared to just the spoken or written word?
I think the video medium carries power because it gives you both audio and a visual instantly; that’s just what many people have come to prefer. I think podcasts and audio series are changing this habit for consumers all around the world. It’s a very interesting platform to have thought experiments about what type of formats you could create.
The investigation was very unorthodox – I had no context of what a “normal” investigation should entail. I thought i was losing my mind seeing what I was seeing on the video and wanted to have others watch it with me. I never expected that to turn into what it was, but the poker play itself was very entertaining to watch and I was determined to get to the bottom of whatever the hell was going on with it. I do think audio-only has infinite potential.
— Global Poker Index (@gpi) March 7, 2020
People who want to get better at poker spend a lot of time studying in the lab, often on poker training sites. By contrast, these days you seem to be spending a lot of time these days in the lab studying content and marketing strategies. What other industries are you looking at for content production ideas and inspiration, and why are you looking at those industries in particular?
I’ve been spending a lot of time in all types of research labs over the past two years. Content and marketing is one of those focuses but probably not very high on my list. I’ve been on a mission to find the “truths” about how the world operates as a system overall. I’m not sure why I find that so intriguing.
Understanding marketing is important to understanding how our world’s system operates. Finance, world history, American history, geopolitics, mass media, world governments – I spend a lot of time going deep down those rabbit holes. The system of content then becomes very easy to understand and you’re able to see the world through that content lens. One main objective of this is the ability to re-frame the world in various perspectives. I try to understand the world from different perspectives when I’m brainstorming an idea or thought.
Let’s take a poker site for example. How does the owner view their site? How do the different members of the team view the poker site? How do the professionals, the amateurs, the whales, the media, and so on view the site? Understanding the answers to these questions takes a lot of research and the ability to connect dots from that research.
More poker content is being produced these days than ever before, but this is true in pretty much every area of our lives. Content producers in poker aren’t just competing against one another for attention, but also against Netflix, YouTube, Twitch, social media, etc. In your opinion, what should poker content producers be doing to stand out and gain the upper hand in this battle for attention? Are there any specific techniques you would recommend?
I’ve never actively tried to get better at content prior to this year. I’ve always just done my podcast, made some random videos that I was interested in making, and didn’t worry about much else outside of that.
I’ve “improved” in the way I am able to express my emotions on camera. I’m a pretty high energy crazy guy so I have to tone that down pretty hard in real life. Doing videos allows my high energy to come out, and people seem to really enjoy that.
On numerous occasions you’ve publicly taken issue with the marketing efforts (or perceived lack thereof) of some of the biggest live and online poker operators. Many players complain about this, and any individual is of course entitled to his/her opinions. Often, however, some of the most important changes in organizational policy come from within rather than from public feedback. Would you be in favor of poker players making more of an effort to become employed by live and online poker operators and trying to change things from “inside the system”?
Yes – I am exploring this idea right now. I think I might be one of the best people in the industry right now at understanding digital content over various platforms and marketing in general on these platforms. I could have a stronger theoretical understanding of marketing as a system in place but I am gaining that very rapidly right now.
I believe that poker can be one of the biggest games on the internet as a whole. If I have to work together with the operators for this process, I am willing to do it because they could use some assistance. The operators will determine the success of our industry overall.
Is working within the industry “behind the scenes” something you yourself would ever consider if given the right opportunity, or do you always see yourself being independent in a similar role to what you’re doing now?
Yes I can 100% see myself working more behind the scenes in some capacity, and I’m trying to figure out what my approach will be for that moving forward. To execute the vision that i have for my content, for poker events, for creating magical moments that poker players can enjoy – I think I will have to partner with other brands at some level. There are many possibilities for who or what those could be. I am currently experimenting with that.
Enough financial compensation aside, what would it take for you to agree to be a brand ambassador for an online poker operator?
I don’t know if I would ever be a brand ambassador for one solo online poker operator because I like to report on what is happening in the industry overall. I want to support the companies and brands that I think are doing great for the poker world. There are a lot of very exciting things happening at every level of the poker business world. I’m exploring all those options, and truthfully this is the first time I’ve ever thought deeply about how to best approach this.
High profile women in the poker community always get asked the “women in poker” question: how do we bring more women into the game and make the game more appealing for women in the first place? Do you think that men have the right to express opinions on this issue, or should we exclusively be listening to and implementing women’s suggestions?
It would seem to me that the best way to get more women in poker is to promote and establish more female poker player ambassadors in general. I think someone like Kristen Bicknell is doing that right now and other women are beginning to establish themselves through the content world. I don’t see why anyone wouldn’t be able to express their opinions on the issue – I think people with the right knowledge and perspective can offer great ideas for anything.
In what ways would you like to see the poker industry grow over the next five years, and how – if at all – do you see yourself contributing to that growth?
I would like to see the poker industry grow so that it offers opportunities for people to become professionals at various levels of the game. Specifically, I want recreational players to be able to enjoy themselves and also be able to win. There needs to be a situation in which players who aspire to be professionals can still have the chance to do so.
I also want there to be a healthy high stakes ecosystem that offers some type of way for fans to see matches, and for poker content to be booming across all platforms. It would be great to have more mainstream attention on the game in America. I see myself contributing greatly to this growth for the positive.
Finally, if you had a magic wand and could instantly change one thing about the poker world right now, what would it be and why is that your top choice?
Great question! I would either want to improve security-related issues across all poker operators or have a better, more transparent structure on identifying and understanding who the best poker players are.