Always Be Counting

I know there has been some rumblings the past day or two about how to do live reporting.  There are different schools and different approaches, that is for sure.  And I am being sincere when I say that they all have merit.  There are multiple perfectly valid approaches to the task, which is not an enviable one. It is an expensive endeavor. Each event you not only need to pay the day rates of people familiar with poker and the players on the Circuit, you also have to get them to the tournament and put them in a bed while they are there.  Most sites don’t include food per diem for their writers and many reporters are asked to do more than just report. They are asked to take photos, find Tweets, send Tweets, conduct interviews on breaks, and write recaps.

I admit that, as someone who employs live reporters for our Circuit events, I ask a lot of them.  I would like to think they are reasonably compensated, but there are nonetheless long days that can take their toll on people.  I value the work they do more than I can ever put into words.

I thought I would put up a part of the content guide I passed along to our live reporting team just to add to the conversation and share my point of view about the way I like to go about live reporting. There is a lot more beyond this, but this is what I call “Jess’s Three Commandments of Live Reporting”: 

Trying to cover an entire poker tournament from start to finish is no easy task. Much like the game of poker, the game of tournament reporting is one of incomplete information. Unlike poker, our job is not to hazard guesses about the pieces of info we don’t have. Our job is to do the best to tell the story of the tournament using only the information we have. We don’t prognosticate, we don’t editorialize, and we never assume to know anything.

Before we get into the specific stylistic approach of WSOP Live Reporting, here are three key points about our larger approach to covering a poker tournament:

1. ABC: Always Be Counting Consider this my version of the Glengarry Glenross speech. When you are covering a poker tournament, you should always be counting chips.  The entire tournament is about acquiring and holding onto chips, so being aware of how many chips people have is top priority. Don’t go out to the tables searching for hands. Instead, go searching for chip counts. Pick up where you left off the last time on the floor and just keep counting until you inevitably come across a hand worth watching. There is no division of labor on this team. We all chip in (heh, no pun intended) to do updates and counts. No one is above counting chips. Not even Ty Stewart.

Oftentimes, you’ll find a story much more interesting than a hand by focusing on chip stacks. You’ll notice someone doubled up and can inquire where their chips came from, which is much more interesting than a 12 beeb pot that involves two players you recognize.

2.     No One, and I Mean No One, Cares How You Think a Hand Was Played

This may seem harsh. It is intended to be. It is true though. The players don’t care how we think they play, they just care we get the action right. The readers at home don’t care how you think a hand was played either. While there are plenty of updates sites that use an (oftentimes very entertaining) editorializing approach to recounting hands, this is not something we do. As the official live updates of the WSOP itself, it is of the utmost importance that we remain completely impartial in how we report on hands.  We do not comment on whether a play was good or bad. We do not comment on how we would play it. If a hand is terrible, those reading it can conclude it is terrible without us telling them as much.

That is not to say we don’t encourage color. If one player at the table berates another player at the table, type it on up. While we do not comment on people’s play, we can report when someone has an opinion about a hand.  The color of live updates is in these exchanges. Calling the flop anything else but the flop isn’t going to make the hand more interesting. Capturing the dialogue, a player’s nonverbal actions, and the action of the hand will though.

3.     Live Updating is Bigger Than One Hand at a Time

Live updating a poker tournament isn’t just about finding a hand and then another hand and then another hand. These micro pieces of content add up to a bigger picture, and each day of the tournament that picture is going to look a little different. On Day 1, the big picture is the story of who is there, how many players there are, the history of the event, and the fun stories of prop bets and table talk that we don’t often get on the later days.  On Day 2, the focus shifts to prize pool, the money bubble, and the quest to make the final table. By Day 3, it is all about the action, which is why we will do everything in our power to capture every play at the final table.

In order to convey those big pictures on their respective days, the small pieces of the puzzle need to change accordingly. On Day 1, tracking bustouts takes precedent over hand histories of small pots. We would rather see photos of friends sitting together than a blind vs. blind battle when they check it down. On Day 2, the hands become easy to find, but that doesn’t mean we should lose sight of things like POY or Casino Champion races.

Moral of the story: Every time you write a post, be it a hand update, a bustout, or an embedded Tweet, ask yourself how it is helping to tell the larger story of the tournament. Don’t ever feel like you need to post something just to post something.  Your micro post should help tell the macro story.



A lot has been written about the splintering of music.  While social media and technological advancements have arguably made movie-going and television a more social experience, the opposite seems to be happening with music.  Streaming services like Spotify and the instant gratification of looking up videos on YouTube means people can find exactly what they want when they want it.  They don’t have to settle for Top 40 if they don’t want to anymore.  As a result, very few of my friends and I are listening to the same stuff at any given time.

I have been a Spotify addict for a couple of years now. Let’s set aside the arguments about whether or not artists are fairly compensated on such a service and focus on the bright side: in exchange for $8 a month, I have access to a massive library of music and, with a refined search functionality and some interesting recommendations, I have steadily increased my musical repertoire.

Most of the time, I find one song from an artist on a soundtrack or an old mixed CD from a friend. Upon repeat listenings, I realize I might like more from the musical act.  Sometimes, like with Relient K, I discover the one song is the only one I enjoy.  Other times though, I unearth a heap of great music, like I have with The Avett Brothers, The Civil Wars, The Weepies, and yet another band that starts with “The”, The Format.

I first learned of The Format a few years ago when I searched for several notable songs from one of my favorite TV shows, Veronica Mars. Their tune “On Your Porch” plays a big role in the Duncan/Veronica relationship and, as I am a fan of emo sounding acoustic tunes, I was hooked:

Since then, while I wouldn’t skip past this song on Spotify when it came up, I hadn’t thought much about it.  For whatever reason though, it came on in the car a few weeks ago and I made a mental note to look for more from this band.

As I looked up The Format, I discovered that this is one of their only slower songs.  The rest were rather catchy pop rock tunes, several of which I added to my “Let’s Give It a Shot” playlist.  The more I listened to these peppy beats, the more I liked them.  Their lyrics tend towards the whimsical, making their songs perfect belt-in-the-car fare.  And if there is anything I enjoy more musically than the emo and acoustic, it is songs of the belt-in-your-car ilk, as I am a musical theater nerd through and through.

I eagerly added song after song to my Spotify playlists. As I dove deep down into The Format catalog, I started to notice something surprising–the lead singer’s voice sounded incredibly familiar.  At first I wrote it off, assuming my familiarity with On Your Porch explained the situation.  Then, I heard a Fun. song shortly after listening to The Format and put two and two together.  The lead vocal on all these The Format tracks was Fun. frontman Nate Ruess.

A little Googling later, I discovered Mr. Ruess had a band before Fun. and that band was The Format.  They released two albums, gained some traction, but nothing on the scale of the global popularity of Fun., then disbanded in 2008.  I had fallen in love with a band that had fallen out of love with each other five years ago.

There will be no more Format tunes to add. I’ve exhausted the catalog a mere month after stumbling upon it.  That is the problem with this new hunt and gather approach to my music collection.  I will stumble upon gems, get excited to hear new music from these artists, then discover nothing else is in the pipeline.

Disheartening as it may be though, I think about my high school days and realize option B would be the old days of never being able to stumble into The Format to begin with.  I’d have to settle for Fun., whose music I do enjoy, don’t get me wrong, but is still my second-favorite Nate Ruess-fronted band.  As I type this, I realize these are some #firstworldproblems for sure. I’m not crying myself to sleep at night at the lack of new The Format music, just still adjusting to the new world order of how we find new music to listen to in 2013.

So these days, music hunting feels more like antiquing to me.  Sifting through the piles and piles of old catalogs looking for the rare find, relishing the discovery, knowing that is where the adventure ends.  Sometimes I may find a band like The Avett Brothers that continues to produce new songs, but more instances like The Format are certainly on the horizon too.  There is always hope though. I mean, The Civil Wars got back together? Could Something Corporate be next?

I can hold out hope, but until then, I will take a page from The Format’s lyrics in what might be my favorite song of theirs, “Janet”–It’s time to forget the past and just learn to love what I have.  Because I have fallen in love with The Format, balloons or no balloons.