Sparks will tell you he has the perfect job -
and he isn't kidding. The author of the excellent
"Diary of a Mad Poker Player" found
a way to include poker-playing in his writing
career. Last year, he chronicled his online journey
to the WSOP. This year, he'll be back again, and
is finishing a new book on what makes the world
of poker tick. Getting paid to play and write
about high-stakes poker and travel? BRILLIANT!!
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PL: You chronicled your massive online journey
to the WSOP last year in the book, Diary
of a Mad Poker Player – have you been
playing as much on the Internet lately?
Richard: Last year, it was a real roller-coaster
and I had a true goal in mind, which made it much
easier to stay focused. I really haven't had played
as much lately...taking some time off now. As
you know, my wife was a big part of that first
book, and she's been doing very well recently.
In fact, she won the press event on the PartyPoker
Million Cruise, beating out over 60 players including
4 pros, so I'm very proud of her. And she won
$3000, which is nice.
PL: How do we line up that gig?
Richard: [Laughs] Well, PartyPoker has been very
involved in the marketing of the book, which is
good press for them. I played mostly on their
site, and wrote about it in the book, so they
read it, loved it, and then invited us along on
the cruise. It worked out well for Party because
Jenny, my wife, is a professional photographer,
and Party didn't really have one, so she was able
to chronicle the whole event. You can see the
photos on my site:
So we have a good relationship with Party –
they're good people.
PL: So was it the first book that got you in
so well with the poker community?
Richard: I've been meeting people in the poker
world from time to time – everyone is very
accessible. They're not as closed off as movie
stars. I wrote the book entirely off my own back,
and when I started contacting the reps for the
various sites, they couldn't have been any more
helpful. They were like, “come down to Vegas,
let's meet, we'll talk, etc.” So meeting
people in poker and making contacts is very easy.
The only person I didn't get a response from was
Ben Affleck [laughs]. He gave it to his agent,
and then you don't hear a thing.
Most poker players are very approachable, good
PL: Have you and your wife gotten any needling
online now that everyone knows your player IDs?
Richard: [Laughs] Brilliant! Yes, I believe it
was 3 nights ago, there was a huge roar of laughter
from her upstairs office. She said someone asked
her, “xxx, is that really you?? I read your
husband's book and I loved it!” It's pretty
funny, and I'm lucky to have a wife who understands
and gets poker – she keeps me in line when
I'm playing too much as well. She knows when enough
is enough, or when it's time to goto Vegas.
For example, at a charity event here in June,
at one of the big movie studios - $1K charity
buy-in. Jenny's going to play in that since I
can't make it. So she's very into the poker world
and understands these events.
PL: So do you already have your WSOP Main Event
seats locked up for this year?
Richard: I do, yes – since the book is
doing well, the publisher wants me to be in the
second one. But I'm wondering if it's better to
play a few of the smaller events instead of the
one big one. They're capping it at 6,600 players,
which makes for very long odds. You have to bet
the field in a tourney like this. So I haven't
decided which way to go.
I think this has to be the last year they go
with the $10K buy-in because the numbers (of players)
are so big. But you never know.
PL: What did you learn about yourself and your
poker-playing ability when writing the first book
(Diary of a Mad Poker Player)?
Richard: Well, that is a very interesting question.
The main thing that came out for me is how poker
reflects life, how it teaches you lessons that
follow you into the real world and the financial
world. You learn things like how to handle failure,
victory, and how to be wise in defeat –
things we should already know. Poker is like a
professional critic that will give you an honest
reminder of what you're up against in real life.
I learned that I'm quite impatient in many situations,
and overly aggressive in others. It's interesting
to see how different my wife looks at things.
When we're both playing, she'll make moves and
read situations in an entirely new way than I
would. It just goes to show you how multi-dimensional
the game of poker really is. Like in life, there
is rarely one right way to do something.
PL: The classic answer – “It all
Richard: Exactly. When something's perfect, it's
over, right? And this is all part of the theme
for the next book I'm working on…
PL: What are you thoughts about the recent buzz
around the need to create a true Poker Players'
Richard: Well, there are actually two of those
right now that are trying to gain steam –
one is the PPT, the other is the PPA. It's very
difficult. I'm just not sure that the rules of
the rest of the world can really apply to poker.
I do think it helps to have planned schedules
months in advance, so some kind of organization
is in everyone's best interest. But poker is a
strange world – people disappear and re-appear,
so it can't be a closed environment. There would
have to be room for players to come in and out
of the organization.
PL: So we're obviously excited about covering
the WSOP this year – tell us about the Media/Celebrity
Richard: Oh it's great fun. Of course, this time
last year, I was totally burned out on poker,
and wasn't real excited about this event, but
it is real fun. On your left, you have some guy
from Cardplayer, and your right, an Italian entertainer
who has no idea what to do with his cards, and
then Penn and Teller there trying to keep it all
funny. And once you make it to the Final Table,
you're playing with some strong competition.
I think Michael Caplan won it last year –
he's a writer (Aces and Kings) who really wanted
to win it.
PL: Tell us about working the World Series as
a member of the press.
Richard: Well, you end up spending a lot of time
in the press room. There are tons of people wearing
.com logos, trying desperately to get exposure
for their sites and signup new players. Then you'll
find the old pro members of the press, and those
are the ones really worth talking to. The main
thing is to approach people out of the ordinary,
and don't ask them the regular questions.
For instance, I was interviewing Michael Gracz
at the recent PartyPoker Millions cruise –
a great guy and great player, and the segment
will be in my next book. But the first thing I
said was, “I really like that one move you
made back there.” He was kind of stunned…and
I explained that he checked on the flop, then
check-raised the turn many times, which I thought
was a great move to get people out of the hand.
He said, “Well, the turn is where you have
to put people to the decision, as they are typically
waiting for cards after the flop. So it's the
turn that is most critical.” And I thought
that was a brilliant analysis. So my point is
that it's better to ask the out of the ordinary
question – less “how to” play
certain hands, since those players answer those
all the time.
PL: So other than yours, what is your favorite
Richard: Hmmm…well, I have a big soft spot
for Alvarez's “Biggest Game in Town”,
as he's a great writer and personal friend from
London. I'm also very impressed with the new one,
Harrington on Holdem – that is an excellent
guy, and it's a jaw-dropping analysis of holdem.
If you play NL Holdem, it's absolutely essential.
PL: So are the L.A. card rooms as loose and crazy
as we've heard?
Richard: Actually no – those crazy games
are at the lower limit ones, which are jackpot
games. That's not really poker, in my opinion,
with people chasing anything. Like I wrote in
my first book, when I started playing online,
I thought I was really bad, but it turned out
I was just trying too hard. Then I went to the
live rooms in LA, and was amazed at how bad THOSE
people were. Then on the PartyPoker Cruise, there
were all these people there saying they always
win online…so am I the only loser in the
online games?? But I had a very successful run
against those players, and discovered I'm much
better live than online and in cash games than
PL: Which isn't a bad thing really…
Richard: Yes, but I want to win the tournaments.
There is so much prestige in those events and
the competition is fierce, that it would be great
to finally win one. The cash games are nice, but
the pros only look to make one big bet an hour
– not very exciting. Would you want to be
a professional poker player?
PL: Not really…
Richard: Exactly. After awhile, it takes the
fun out of the game. To go sit down with Barry
Greenstein, Tom McEvoy, is a thrill for most people,
but for them, it's just a job. Which is exactly
why I write these books! Most everyone is writing
a strategy book nowadays, but not many are writing
about the philosophy of poker, the history, the
It's funny – if you really think about
it, all poker players are there with their hands
in each other's pockets, trying to win the money.
But many are very nice in real life, honorable
people…all of which is part of my next book.
PL: How about non-poker projects you're working
Richard: At the moment, I have three commissions
from the LA Opera, including modernizing Hansel
Here's the thing. If you're lucky enough to have
a job you love…I've known since I was 6
that I was going to be a writer. Never knew if
I could make a living at it, but I love it, even
though it can kick you're a$% sometimes. Just
like poker – I love it, but have had much
heartbreak in poker as well. So can you imagine,
having a job you love, and writing about a subject
you love. I couldn't be happier! It doesn't sound
like work, but it's very tough – you try
to communicate the great side of poker while also
dealing with the dark side.
PL: How cool is it to have your name in movie
credits with Martin Landau and others?
Richard: It is nice, but as a writer, you should
be in the background. The fact that I wrote a
script is irrelevant. It's a backroom job…you
get your satisfaction from watching people enjoy
your plays, but not from having your name out
there in the spotlight.
PL: Well it sounds like you're in the perfect
career position – good luck with everything
and we'll definitely see you at the World Series
Click Here: To Read our review of Diary
of a Mad Poker Player
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