17 Poker People to Whom I Owe Tremendous Gratitude in 2017

By Robbie Strazynski
December 26, 2017

I’m Jewish, so I don’t observe Christmas, but there’s a lot to love about “watching others enjoy the holiday, from afar.” From mellifluous tunes to stunning light displays, there’s obviously much superficial beauty to be appreciated, but what warms my heart most is witnessing the seemingly endless public displays of gratitude. That got me thinking that today would be a good day to express some gratitude of my own.

Throughout 2017, a number of “poker people” have brightened my life, making this year special and memorable for me in so many wonderful ways. That last sentence describes lots of people, and I wish I had the time and wherewithal to thank each and every one of them individually. Even so, there are 17 people in particular, listed in alphabetical order below, who have made a very special and profound impact on my year.

From the bottom of my heart:


Bruce Briggs

To my dear Top Pair Home Game Poker Podcast co-host, we’ve spent another 25+ very enjoyable hours talking to each other this year and creating some great content. Our joint labor of love has helped to solidify a great friendship between us, and I truly hope that 2018 will be the year where we finally meet in person and get to play some poker together.

Doyle Brunson

We only spent a few minutes together, but that was enough for the encounter to have a big impact on me. That’s the effect that meeting the Godfather of Poker can have on you. I wrote about our short meeting in great detail, but I’d like you to know that the feeling of excitement hasn’t waned. If I ever have the good fortune of meeting with you again, Doyle, I’d love to have the opportunity to conduct a brief interview. Until then, thank you again, and a very special thank you as well for being such an ardent supporter of Israel, sir!

Norman Chad

When you watch and listen to someone on TV year after year, they kind of surreptitiously become part of your life. Legions of poker fans out there probably share my affection for you, Norman, but part of what made my 2017 so special was getting to establish a true relationship with you. It began with a lengthy in-depth interview. Then, you were kind enough to free up hours of time from your schedule to join us for low-stakes mixed game madness during the WSOP. We spoke a few other times during the summer, and I’ll forever remember all of your kind words of encouragement for the poker work that I do. Looking forward to next summer, already!

Robbie and Norman Chad

Bradley Chalupski

My buddy! We’ve been friends for a few years now, but you did something really special this year: you were the first person besides me to ever officially represent Cardplayer Lifestyle at a poker event. You know that this site is my baby and how tough it can be for me to “hand the reigns over” to anyone else, but you proved yourself more than capable of doing top-notch on-site media work. Thank you for being such a great representative of this brand and for producing some awesome stories and interviews at the PokerStars Championship in Barcelona.

Liv Boeree Brad Chalupski

Eli Elezra

I might just have to nickname you “the Genie,” Eli, because you keep making my dreams come true. Whether it was in South Florida, Las Vegas, in Jerusalem, or at my Dad’s office for a charity poker night in Ra’anana, you injected phenomenal amounts of joy into my life and gave me so many incredible memories to look back on with fondness. There’s so much more I could write here; perhaps another time.

Robbie and Eli Elezra

George Epstein

I count myself incredibly fortunate to have a 91-year-old “pen pal.” I call you Cardplayer Lifestyle’s senior contributor not because of your age, George, but rather because I feel that you have the most extensive and valuable life experience to impart. What began as an innocuous response of yours to my monthly newsletter has blossomed into a very warm friendship. I could never thank you enough for how much you’ve motivated me to try and live up to your words of praise, both public and private.

Jan Fisher

Judaism preaches that “welcoming guests is one of the key ways of emulating G-d.” It’s one thing to say “sure, come stay by me,” but it’s entirely something else to host someone for a couple weeks while you’re in the midst of moving house. From just superficially knowing one another prior to this summer, we became fast friends over this past WSOP. Moreover, you showed me endless additional little kindnesses, which I won’t mention publicly, but I remember and am grateful for each and every one of them. You not only were a sponsor of my 1,000km “Running Well” challenge, but you also helped keep me motivated to run during my five weeks in Las Vegas – a tough task when all I wanted to to was work and play. Finally, here’s another thing that Judaism says about expressing hospitality: “A person reaps its fruits in this world, and it lays the foundation for them in the next world.” Keep lighting the candles and spreading your magnificent glow.

Robbie Jan Fisher

James Guill

You were this year’s leading contributor with 17 articles penned for Cardplayer Lifestyle. You’ve got one of the more creative minds in poker writing and your assignment turnaround speed is unsurpassed. We’ve had many an enjoyable chat this year and you never fail to make me laugh. But what I owe you a specific debt of gratitude for – beyond the aforementioned – is driving. While I was road tripping on the East Coast, you made the effort to drive two hours (each way!) just to spend a short time sharing some ice cream together with me. It was an absolute pleasure to finally meet you in person, James; you’re a star, keep on shining.

Robbie James Guill

Phil Hellmuth

Meeting you is one thing. Having the opportunity to correspond with you for a week while you answer my dozens upon dozens of questions for an interview (in record time!) is quite another. Having you call the interview “terrific” and signing your book with the inscription “great style with your interviews” are gestures I will always treasure. Thank you, Phil, for your constant #positivity and sharing some of that #PHNiceLife with me. You might be the “Poker Brat,” but all I saw was a true class act.

Sarah Herring

With your multitude of responsibilities and the overflow of work to get done at the WSOP, you still found the time to sit with me and brainstorm about ways we could work together. I’m still kind of pinching myself that I now have the privilege of working together with PokerNews. Thank you for being our first interviewee once Top Pair migrated over to the PokerNews Podcast Network. Three cheers for being open-minded, and three more cheers to what will hopefully turn out to be a long-term successful venture.

Robbie Sarah Herring

Linda Johnson

There is perhaps no more apt nickname in the poker world than yours, Linda. This summer, as I entered your home – a veritable cathedral to poker and your legendary career in the industry – it sure felt like I was visiting royalty. Poker’s First Lady, indeed. It’s a true privilege to have sat with you, trying to soak up as much wisdom as I could from your inspiring tales. Trailblazers like you come along once in a generation, Linda, and it’s a privilege to try and follow in your footsteps, attempting to contribute what I can to this wonderful game. Throw in the added bonus of having gotten to play some fun low-stakes mixed games with a Poker Hall of Famer, and I would’ve happily paid double the price of admission (do you ever lose at poker? 🙂 ) for the one-of-a-kind memento!

Robbie Linda Johnson

Shannon Mack

My man! With half a dozen articles written for Cardplayer Lifestyle this year, you’ve really earned your spot as my go-to guy for poker book reviews, all of which have been a true pleasure to read. Your genuine enthusiasm for working with me and contributing to my site is only exceeded by your sheer zest for poker. It brings me so much joy when you tell me how much you’ve enjoyed reading and learning from each new book. You’re not only the kind of person who anyone would relish working with, but one who anyone would love to sit with for hours around a poker table! Let’s hope we’ll get the chance to do that in the coming year. L’chaim, brother!

Chad McVean

I think I might have to anoint you President of the Cardplayer Lifestyle Fan Club. When someone you don’t know “Likes,” comments on, or shares the articles you publish, you take notice. When they keep on doing it, week in and week out for years, you come to truly appreciate them. It was so cool to meet you in person this past summer and to be able to put a face and a voice to the name I’ve become so familiar with. Having fans as dedicated as you are, Chad, is a dream fostered by any content producer. Your active, ongoing support for the work that I do is something I will never take for granted.

Andrew Neeme

Without question, poker’s breakout star of 2017. The sensei of cinematography. The viceroy of vlogging. I could go on and on. You are the epitome of “what you see is what you get,” Andrew, and I had the privilege of seeing that #confirmed when you agreed to have lunch with me on what I consider to have been a very favorable afternoon. Your interview is the only article from 2017 to have cracked Cardplayer Lifestyle’s all-time top 10 (traffic-wise) and I wouldn’t be surprised to someday see it take over the #1 spot. You can’t bluff “awesome” and beyond being a huge fan of your work, I count myself very fortunate to have developed a great friendship with you. I’m counting down the days until I get to join you at MUGs!

Tadas Peckaitis

And I thought I had a strong work ethic! Nobody wants it as badly as you do, Tadas, and I mean that as a huge compliment. Thank you not only for contributing a dozen great articles to Cardplayer Lifestyle this year, but for giving me the opportunity to work with you on so many of your various projects. The story of how you became a poker coach and seeing what you’ve been able to accomplish and achieve since then, especially with English not being your native language, constantly motivates me to try harder, put in more hours, and sustain the effort. Grab that brass ring, my friend!

Remko Rinkema

The king of poker podcasting. The sultan of senior editors. It’s not just the name “Remko” that makes it so easy for everyone in poker to know who you are, but your tremendous integrity and a body of work always of superior quality. So why are you on this list, though 🙂 ? One needs to be qualified to get a job, but the key to having opportunities in the first place often lies in someone helping you get your foot in the door. Your unsolicited recommendation to the Poker PROductions crew helped me land an unforgettable gig with a front-row seat at my first ever WSOP Main Event. I remain so grateful for the multitude of fantastic experiences I was able to have, all of which can directly be traced back to your serendipitous phone call. I still owe you lunch!

Miriam Shatsky

My sweetheart. You’re probably the furthest thing imaginable from a “person in poker,” but it’s impossible to leave you off this list. I can’t begin to imagine how much of a challenge it must be to be the de facto daily sounding board for incessant poker talk when you quite honestly don’t care all that much for the game. My leap of faith into doing poker media work full-time, my ups and downs, my successes and failures; you held my hand through it all as the biggest co-stakeholder. How wonderful it is that with three months yet to go, the crazy experiment of year #1 can be deemed a success and that we’re, thank G-d, making plans for year #2. My gratitude to you is eternal and everlasting. I love you, honey.

Cardplayer Lifestyle cake

It took me all day long (it’s now 2am!) to find the right words to thank you all. To everyone who has remained interested enough to have slogged through these 2,200+ words (thank you!), let me just use this opportunity to encourage you to have an attitude of gratitude always, throughout the year; not just on special days like today.

Wishing everyone out there in the poker world a blessed, healthy, and happy holiday season!



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Written By.

Robbie Strazynski

Robbie founded in 2009. A veteran member of the poker media corps, in addition to writing and video presenting, Robbie has hosted multiple poker podcasts over the years, including Top Pair, the Red Chip Poker Podcast, The Orbit, and the CardsChat Podcast. In 2019, Robbie translated the autobiography of Poker Hall of Famer Eli […]



As usual, Robbie, I am so impressed with you and your “work.” And I am so honored to be included among your big 17 poker personalities. It is my privilege to write poker columns to share with you and your readers. Poker is such a fascinating game.
You may be interested (more so when you get much older): Talking today to another elderly gentleman (only 83) at the local senior center. He has learned to play hold’em and wants to play more often but cannot afford to play in casinos. He has played at another senior center where I started the first seniors poker group 12 years ago, but is looking for a place closer to home so he doesn’t have to travel as much. I promised him that he would be welcome at our poker group at the Jewish Family Service{Freda Mohr Senior Center when we start up again. We play for prizes donated by the Hustler Casino and many individuals. I strongly recommend and encourage recreational poker for the elderly to prevent Alzheimer’s disease. I have observed that those who play poker do not develop that terrible disease. In this regard, the mental challenge and social interaction are so valuable.
Robbie, can you tell me more about you as a person? Family, wife and kids, how you got into poker, education, career goals.
And thank you for being my friend. You are a WINNER in every sense of the word. I wish you and your family a very happy, healthy new year — and many more.
P.S. You might want to interview Dr. Alan Schoonmaker. In my opinion, he is the world’s greatest poker psychologist. He has written many poker books, including Stay Young; Play Poker. He has children living in Israel, and often visits there.
P.P.S. I did not vote for Trump but am so impressed with his actual recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. (Puts Obama to shame.) I am hoping this will lead to more countries doing the same, and — eventually — peace in the area (if only the Arabs/Muslims really want peace).

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