The 2022 WSOP From the Eye of a Reporter

During the World Series of Poker, poker enthusiasts from around the world turn their attention to Las Vegas as the biggest names in the poker world head off to compete for the most coveted prize in poker, a WSOP Gold Bracelet. Alongside these professionals are thousands of semi-professional players, amateurs, stars from other vocations, all vying for a championship, making an extraordinary melting pot of personalities.

While the tournaments are running, a select few people from various poker news outlets pace between the tables, trying to capture any interesting story that develops throughout an event. Some writers are focused solely on players from their own country or the game’s biggest stars, while others are tasked with producing comprehensive live coverage from the entire field from start to finish.

I belong to the second category. Ten years ago, when I first started in the industry, I was responsible for portraying the fate of a select few ambassadors for an online poker site. It has been an interesting journey with a front row seat to live poker’s biggest stage. Many people would consider this to be a dream job but they are not aware of the mandatory tasks that are part of the daily routine.

The 2022 WSOP had a different vibe than the previous year, which should come as no surprise for a variety of reasons. First of all, the pinnacle of all live poker series was moved to a new location. The tournaments took place in the event centers of the Bally’s and Paris Casinos on the Las Vegas Strip. Furthermore, the mask mandate, along with the previously required vaccine certificate, had been lifted and, after a short hiatus, familiar faces returned to the action.

So how exactly does someone become a live poker event reporter, also commonly referred to as “blogger”? To cut a long story short, you have to have a passion for the game and be willing to put in a lot of effort. There is no Harry Potter-style school of poker writing wizardry. Many of those who undertook this niche job in the past came across the profession in the same manner I did, randomly.

This past summer the PokerNews team in Las Vegas featured some two and a half dozen live reporters. Of the reporters, I was among the most senior on the squad and was mostly tasked with covering the various mixed games and Championship Events. As a result, I was able to regularly follow GGPoker ambassadors Daniel Negreanu and Felipe Ramos, while also keeping up with other big names such as Shaun Deeb, Phil Ivey, Phil Hellmuth, Erik Seidel and so many more.

If you are considering becoming a live reporter and are wondering what a typical day is like, and some of the things that we must do, the following will likely be of interest.

A live reporting shift can typically take between ten and fourteen hours. That includes the preparation of the day, a recap article summarizing the most vital details after the conclusion of the poker play and breaks. Short breaks don’t leave much time to rest and many Day 1 of the Championship Events did not have a dinner break which added another layer of pressure.

It is always useful to go to the casino prior to the start of any event to make sure you know exactly where the tournament is taking place and where you can set up that is nearby. The best way to provide coverage of as much of the action as possible is by witnessing it and you can reduce the time away from the tables if your base is close.

Once the action starts, it’s time to scout the field. The most common names in the world of poker are rather easily found. Many high stakes events took place in the Purple Section of the Paris Ballroom which was fortunately only a short walk from the dealer break room and an easy place to grab a fresh cup of coffee.

The tables were balanced very regularly and as such, you have to remember what the “less known” players look like. Nothing is worse than having to tap a participant on the shoulder, in a $10,000 or more buy-in just to ask for their name again. An excellent memory for names and faces is extremely handy for this job.

As you pace the aisles looking for interesting hands to write about, I am constantly scribbling information on my notepad such as chip counts and brief descriptions of unfamiliar entrants. Once I have collected two or three different things to write about, I head back to the computer and transform my short code of a hand history, along with potential table chat, into the website backend for it to magically appear on PokerNews and the WSOP.

This entire procedure repeats over and over again from start to finish, day in and day out, usually not less than five days every week. During that period, it’s necessary to constantly update the information, especially the chip counts. Counting the chips becomes an automated process after a while. By glancing at a stack for five seconds, I can usually give a pretty reliable estimate, even if that might appear to be magic.

For most of the World Series of Poker tournaments, the writing team consists of two or three reporters. Sometimes it also becomes necessary to run a solo shift or to quickly help out on short notice when an extra day is required to determine a winner. That was, for example, the case in the Dealer’s Choice Championship where heads-up play carried over for an extra hour the following day.

Another event that dragged on very late was the $50,000 buy-in Poker Players Championship. Six-max tables throughout the poker tournament attracted some of the biggest names in poker and it was the third biggest field in almost a decade. Phil Hellmuth showed up late on Day 2 and barely lasted an entire level. During the time he was playing he managed to have a heated discussion, including plenty of swear words, with Adam Friedman, who was sitting one table over.

Defending champion Dan Cates showed up wearing a Randy ‘Macho Man’ Savage wrestling outfit and carried on the eccentric appearance, including the distinctive voice, for the entire day. The next few days were without costume but he brought it back for the final table, which recommenced at 4pm local time on the Thunderdome main stage.

A tremendous battle ensued as Cates went back and forth with Brazilian mixed game specialist Yuri Dzivielevski. Ultimately, the “Jungleman” locked up the second consecutive victory at nearly 5 a.m. while we were fighting to keep our eyes from closing. And yet somehow, that wasn’t even the worst finishing time during the 2022 WSOP for me … yikes.

Suffice to say that most of the attention during the World Series of Poker is on the $10,000 Main Event, despite several other low buy-in events with seven-figure prize pools. For many poker enthusiasts it’s a bucket list item to play, the pinnacle of live poker, the apex of poker tournaments. It is THE event of the year and it’s certainly the biggest challenge we, as live reporters, have.

This year I didn’t work as many days as usual on it due to illness but I was there, right in the thick of it when the money bubble burst. Imagine having to squeeze through dozens of people in a corner section, making sure you don’t get hit by the TV camera crew on the way, to find a spot and record the action. The constant thrum, the rising din, the palpable tension make it very special indeed. It truly is as exciting as it sounds.

The Main Event deserves a long article of its own but that for another entry. Having covered Espen Jorstad for several years, I could feel that he was in the zone. He appeared hyper-focused and he was eventually there until the end. The Norwegian had qualified on GGPoker and turned that into the top prize worth $10 million, of which he confirmed that he owned around 56% of his own action due to multiple swaps with a variety of people.

After more than five months on the road covering live poker events, it is once again time to take a step back and explore countries I have not visited yet. While recovering I will take the time to reflect on my own poker adventures and share some of them here.)

About the Author: zedmaster84 is a freelance poker journalist, writer, translator and semi-professional photographer. He has been covering major live poker events all over the world since 2011 and specializes in mixed games with a certain affinity to PLO. He is also heavily addicted to travel, seeing the world and discovering new cultures.