To Bert, With Love

My first World series of Poker in 2008, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I knew I’d be working with a group of five people for PocketFives Live with Court Harrington managing the crew. I knew we would be covering poker tournaments, but I wasn’t really clear what that entailed. I knew I would meet a lot of people, but I had those first day of school jitters too. “Will people like me?” “Who will I hang out with?”

Little did I know, my first night in town, all those questions would be answered. I was the first of the crew to arrive and returned to the airport later that night to retrieve two people who ended up being my best friends that summer–Jill Harrison and Brett Collson.

Poor Jill nearly lost her mind that summer, working her day job, then taking mostly night shifts with P5s. Meanwhile, Brett and I tended to get paired up on most of our shifts, which tended to be during the day. We were a good team. Brett, being a frequenter of the P5s forums, knew who a lot of the players were, while I was able to wrangle our WordPress-powered back end.

I also took the photos. Those who know Brett know he is rather tall. When he took photos of players, he wouldn’t crouch down at all, resulting in photos that looked to me as if they had been shot from space. “This is what Phil Collins would look like in Vegas if photographed from Mars,” I would joke.

During our down time (oh, to have down time during the WSOP), we went on what I would “casino adventures”. We’d pick a Vegas casino we hadn’t been to, then wander around it, play some video poker, and grab a bite to eat. It was easily the best WSOP I ever had.

In the years since then, I haven’t gotten to spend quite as much time with Brett, or, as I call him, Bert, in honor of his P5s screenname, bertminatti. One summer, he didn’t make the trip. Now, we are both busy with our respective jobs and are lucky to get two or three meals in over the course of eight weeks.

Even so though, I consider him one of my best friends in poker. When you spend your day in front of the computer, you develop those friends you chat with online every day. Brett is one of those friends; the kind who puts up with my rants, offers me advice, and keeps up with the inside jokes, like the recurring adventures of little guy (OK <— that’s little guy. One day someone pointed out the abbreviation for “okay” looked like a tiny person, it stuck). If you work an office job, you know how important these people become to you. They are the ones you go to when you need a break, the ones who check in on you all the time. He may live in Buffalo, but I probably talk to Brett more than anyone in Vegas I don’t work with in the office every day.

And today, I get to watch him get married to a delightful gal named Amy. If I had to sum her up in two words, it woud be “infectiously fun”. She never takes herself too seriously, she always has a smile on her face, and I am so happy she and Brett are making a life together.

Why should you care that Brett Collson is getting married today? I guess you don’t have to, but if you are in poker, you should be happy that this guy is happy. He is, without question, one of the best people poker media has.

If I could hire a team, the first person I would pick for any job that isn’t taking pictures would be Brett. He knows all the players, he tracks online and live, he can live report, he can write news stories, and he can do interviews.  Just because you haven’t heard of him doesn’t mean he isn’t one of the most talented writers working today.  Don’t let the low profile fool you, Brett knows how to write, he knows how to edit, and he is the type of person you can put in charge of something and know he will be just fine because he has the kind of judgment you can trust.

With a strong background in sports writing, he is an incredible editor too. You’d be surprised how many people in poker have a hard time putting together an error-free sentence, but Brett is one of the cleanest writers I know (and I would know this because I would read his drafts when we worked together). He is able to identify the most important aspects of the story and communicate them clearly. Since he was first a poker fan, he knows what readers want to see. This, coupled with his lack of ego, makes him incredibly good at his job.

In this day and age, it seems par for the course that media creators have to commodify themselves in order to get noticed. You have to be able to prove you can leverage a network of people to read your work in order to get gigs. Don’t blame the individuals, blame the game I suppose. Nonetheless, I myself find I am always grateful for the folks who refuse to play along. The result of this pressure to get clicks on your stuff is a glut of talking head social media accounts constantly trying to prove they are the smartest person in the room. While some of this jibber jabber is entertaining, most of it is noise which detracts from the story itself. With everyone spending so much time inserting themselves into the story, the stories keep getting lost without people like Bert taking the time to provide the news in a straightforward and informative way.

If you have read PokerNews at all over the past three years, you owe Brett a debt of gratitude for writing the straight news, looking things over, creating new content, and always thinking about what you want to read. I only wish I could clone him so he wouldn’t just be my first hire, he could be all my hires. I could have an army of Berts helping me cover the poker landscape, creating grammatically correct, accurate news whilst cracking jokes every step of the way.  Perhaps wearing these hats too.

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