What motivated you to create cardplayerlifestyle.com in the first instance?
It kind of happened by accident, actually. One afternoon back in the summer of 2009 a buddy of mine asked me if I’d like to start a poker blog together with him. I responded that I had no idea how to do that sort of thing. He said “don’t worry, I can take care of all that stuff, but you know poker and you know how to write; we can be partners – you do your thing and I’ll do mine.” We launched Cardplayerlifestyle.com a couple months later, in November, with each of us treating it as a hobby project to work on at nights and weekends.
Over the next couple of years, I slowly learned to appreciate the audience I was writing for and understanding who to target my articles to; how I could distinguish the site from PokerNews and all the other big poker sites out there. Simultaneously, I tried to learn everything I could about webmastering from my buddy. I bought him out in the summer of 2011 and have been running things solo ever since.
In March of this year I finally decided to “take the leap” and set out on my own doing poker media work full-time, with Cardplayerlifestyle.com being the main focus. Wish me luck!
You created the Poker Notes Live app in 2012, how challenging was it to create and put to market?
Well, let’s just say that it was difficult enough that I couldn’t do it on my own, haha!
While I had the idea to create a note-taking app for live poker play, I didn’t have the technical skills to actually develop it. I know poker and marketing; luckily enough, I was able to get in touch with someone who was able to develop that idea into a great app.
While the app has always very much been a side pursuit, the goal was to create something great, unique, and useful for live poker players. The only real “obstacle” we ever faced was having enough time to make all the improvements we wanted. Each time we updated the app, promoting it and getting the word out to our target audience was relatively straightforward – thanks social media! J
Over the last few years, we’ve continued making improvements to the Poker Notes Live app, which is now available in a dozen languages on iOS and Android. It’s free for anyone to download and try, with the Premium version (which allows you to save the notes you’ve taken) costing a very nominal $4.99.
Had you ever done podcast type media before starting the Top Pair Home Game Poker podcast, how successful did you feel it went and will you be doing any more?
Prior to joining Bruce Briggs as the co-host of Top Pair, my only experience in the podcast realm was as an interviewee. When Bruce offered me the chance to join him a little over three years ago, it was exciting and outside my comfort zone at the time, but in retrospect it ended up being quite a natural transition for me. I really enjoy doing the podcast, which we record on a biweekly basis.
From when I started co-hosting the show, we’ve increased our audience by about 25%, all without spending a dime on promotion or marketing. So, if that’s any indicator, I’d say we’re doing OK J.
Regarding “doing any more”, I always have my eyes and ears open to new opportunities in the poker media, whether it’s in the podcast realm or on-screen via the video medium. It’s fun to channel my enthusiasm for poker into being engaged with the fans and produce content they take a liking to, so you can be sure that when the right opportunities come knocking in the future, I’ll be grabbing them with both hands.
You were working for WSOP 2017 this year for “Poker PROductions”. Tell us about the work you did there, the people you met and how it all went.
While I attended the WSOP last year for the first time, I unfortunately didn’t get a chance to be at the Main Event. This year, Poker PROductions offered me the opportunity to be a part of their player bio team during their Main Event coverage. They are in charge of picking which tables will be featured during the televised and live streamed broadcasts.
The player bio team is responsible for gathering as much information as possible about each player at the featured tables. There are the obvious stars of the poker world, but all of the “random” heretofore-unheard-of players are a mystery to the viewing audience and commentators.
It’s actually harder than you might think to gather and deliver this information to the broadcast team, so much so that it took me almost 1,500 words to explain it, haha!
Over the course of the almost two-week-long Main Event, I feel like I must have met hundreds of the participants. Some meetings were brief, just getting players to fill out a questionnaire, while others were lengthier, digging deeper into players’ lives, careers, and histories to help try and paint the most interesting picture for the ESPN/PokerGO audience.
The experience was phenomenal, and I hope I get the chance to take another crack at it in the years to come.
Which famous poker players have you met in person and who were you most exited to meet?
As much work as I’ve done in poker media, I’m a fan at heart, so it’s a huge thrill to meet the famous players you’ve seen on TV for the first time. At this point I feel like I’ve met an overwhelmingly large percentage of “known” and famous poker players; it’s a pretty cool thing to be able to say.
I imagine that it would come as no surprise to other poker fans when I say that some of my biggest thrills came upon meeting Daniel Negreanu, Antonio Esfandiari, Chris Moneymaker, and Phil Hellmuth.
I’m grateful that each of the above-named players has been kind enough not only to offer a smile and handshake for a picture, but has taken an interest in the poker media work that I’ve done and been a kind supporter of it.
This past summer I had a very special opportunity, to meet Doyle Brunson (a.k.a., the Godfather of Poker) for the first time. That was REALLY special.
I suppose I could say that the one poker pro who has “eluded” me would be Phil Ivey, but he’s generally tough to catch and often in Macau. Perhaps at some point in the future I’ll have the pleasure.
What events have you entered both live and online and which sites do you like to play on? Did you ever realize a life-changing poker win?
I’m a recreational player, so I mainly play in home games with my buddies. I used to dabble a bit in playing online, without much success, but haven’t done that for a good many years.
Living in Israel, we don’t have any legal live poker rooms, so when I travel abroad I’m always sure to utilize the opportunity to enjoy whatever local rooms I can find. I enjoy both cash games and tournaments, and all sorts of poker variants, so it’s pretty easy for me to sit and start playing at any low-stakes table. A life-changing score has eluded me (thus far), but each time I sit and play I reap great life experiences, many of which I eventually end up sharing in one way or another via my blog, so I’m sure that counts for something. J
Perhaps, next time I’m at the WSOP, I’ll try entering a bracelet event for the first time. That would be a huge thrill!
What sort of interests do you have outside of poker?
I’ve been married for 15 years and I have three little kids (ages 9, 7, and 5) so I naturally take a great interest in their lives and do my utmost to take a meaningful role in them.
I also do a lot of running, and have set a goal of completing 1,000km for the year, using that as a fundraising tool for Kids Kicking Cancer. Exercise-wise, I also enjoy a good game of tennis once in a while.
For the last five years, I’ve been a board member at my local synagogue and I often serve as the cantor during our sabbath and High Holiday prayers.
When I really want to take the foot off the gas pedal, I’ll usually chill and enjoy some popular shows and movies on Netflix.
It’s interesting that you were born and raised in Los Angeles and now live in Israel. How did you come to make the move and how is life there different to living in the USA?
I moved to Israel in September 1998, a couple months after having finished high school. I come from a modern orthodox Jewish family and we believe that Israel is our ancestral Homeland. My parents were always quite Zionistic and came to the decision that it was simply time for our family to “come home”. I was lucky that I made the move at a great age/time in my life and was fortunate enough to meet the woman who’d eventually become my wife a mere three weeks after arriving in Israel. That really helped anchor me.
As much as I love and appreciate America, and miss many people and things there, only under a very specific set of circumstances could I possibly envision myself moving back to the States. I’ve made my choice and want to keep raising my children in the Jewish Homeland. There’s just something beautiful about living “amongst your own people”, especially with our national history of yearning for our own State for so long and finally getting it in 1948. We’re a young country and I feel like I’m bearing witness to some critical junctures in our history. It’s incredibly exciting to be a part of it!
I feel like everyone who moves countries has their own story. Even amongst people with a similar background to mine who move from the U.S. to Israel, we experience things differently; so I can only describe my own experiences.
Life in Israel is completely different for me than it was back in LA. For one, I’m 35 now and I made the big move right around the current halfway point of my life. It’s obvious for the first half (as a kid) to be quite different from the second half (as an adult). Just as an example, now I’m married with three kids. It was tough adjusting to a new language and culture, and that’s something I don’t feel I’ll ever be fully able to do, as I’ve created a “bubble” of sorts for myself. I live in a community populated by many American immigrants to Israel who share a similar background and worldview to mine.
I’ll always be culturally American and prefer to speak, work, and think in English. Luckily, my chosen career path and today’s interconnected world has allowed me to pursue my passion for poker and maintain my cultural identity.
You have been working as a writer most of your life, when you started out with blogging on your own site did you find the IT and marketing aspect challenging? How tough was it to get your content visible in the first instance?
Yes. The IT aspects were completely new to me. My buddy with whom I started the site, Avi, taught me a ton. I’ve also done a lot of reading online over the years to try and hone my WordPress and webmastering skills as best as possible. Also, luckily, I have a lot of friends who have helped me out over the years when I’ve run into problems.
Marketing-wise, it has certainly been an uphill battle. I liken it to a snowball. Packing it really tight and starting to get it rolling is the biggest challenge. It quite literally took years for me to feel like I had accomplished that, namely because the only thing I invested was time and effort, rather than money, in promoting the site and its content. Thankfully, it all eventually paid off. I was able to build upon each success and now it’s far easier to get the word out about each new piece of content I put out there for fans’ consumption. Building an audience takes time.
You can take “shortcuts” and pay for exposure, but I believe that amassing a critical mass of your best fans – your tribe – can only happen organically. Once you’re able to have a solid core fan base you can rely on to help you spread the word, you’ll start feeling the ripple effects and reaping the rewards of the hard work and effort.
You must have travelled a lot throughout your career, which notable places did you enjoy visiting and why?
I only really started doing travelling for poker over the last couple of years. I’m grateful to have now been to the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas twice. I’ve also been fortunate enough to attend the World Poker Tour Tournament of Champions in South Florida as well as the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure in the Bahamas. While on all of those poker trips I kept pinching myself, not believing that I was getting those incredible opportunities. While there’s of course a lot of work involved during those trips, you also get the chance to have some down time and really enjoy yourself in some awesome locations.
I’ve also taken some shorter excursions to play in poker rooms in places like Prague, Los Angeles, Budapest, the Baltimore/DC area, and Atlantic City. In each place, I made sure to take notes on my experiences so that I could share them with my audience. It’s a big world out there and I look forward to hopefully hitting up some more awesome destinations while on poker trips in the future.
You have enjoyed a great career through the game of poker; are there any goals you are yet to realise or jobs you are looking toward for the future?
I feel like I’m just getting started!
For years all I wanted was to be a part of the poker world full-time, and only a few months ago (when I quit my job) could I say that that finally happened. While I look back with tremendous pride at everything I’ve been fortunate enough to do and accomplish in the poker world over the past few years, I feel like it’s just the tip of the iceberg with regard to what I can contribute to the game.
Specifically, while I will always love and feel tremendous fulfillment in doing poker writing, I hope to expand my involvement in audio and video media. I feel like I’ve got a strong voice and presence that resonates with many poker fans out there and that my enthusiasm for the game can unlock a lot of potential to be a positive force in promoting poker. Our game is very much on the upswing; I can’t wait to see it continue growing over the next few years. Hopefully I’ll be able to ride that wave to some success of my own.