PokerStars Big 20 – 2005: Reporting on poker will never catch on…

November 19, 2021inPoker

PokerStars is celebrating its 20th Anniversary: 20 years as the best known and most trusted online poker site.

To join the celebrations here at PokerStars Blog, we are looking back year-by-year on those two decades, noting the landmarks and remembering all the remarkable moments, fitting them into the wider landscape of poker’s sensational development.

Today we go back to 2005 when PokerStars moved into poker content and live reporting, something which at that point was still very new. Although it almost never happened, as Brad Willis, founder of the PokerStars Blog, explains.

Keeping up with Mark Scheinberg was not unlike keeping up with a first world country’s head of state. There was a lot of walking and talking, hallway debriefings, and unscheduled 30-second happenstance meetings that could change the direction of not just one’s feet, but also the company’s strategy for the next several months.

This one happened in a corridor in Deauville, France.

“We want a newsletter,” he said as we wove our way toward a ballroom where the 2005 iteration of the EPT was underway,

I didn’t stumble in any way he could see, but I felt a certain vertiginous sway in my equilibrium that had nothing to do with how fast we were walking and how little sleep I’d had in the past 48 hours.

Understand, I’d quit my job—nay, my career—as a television journalist just weeks before to take the job of Web Content Manager for PokerStars.com. I’d left a profession that I’d been working for a decade to join a traveling circus to write about poker. The move happened after PokerStars let me experiment with a live poker blog at the 2005 PCA. They looked me over and decided I could harness poker, words, and the web on the same leash. So, I signed on, envisioning a life of traveling the world of high stakes poker around the globe and writing about it until my hands ached.

And now…Mark Scheinberg wanted a newsletter.

No, he didn’t want it in any traditional form like the one I’d envisioned when the words first came out of his mouth (the kind where a kid in a pageboy hat climbs up your front stoop, rolls a piece of mimeographed parchment into a cylinder, and slides it into the door handle). Instead, Mark wanted an email newsletter, which sounded to me at the time a lot like a dial-up modem sounded. Or, to put it in terms most of our readers might understand, it would be a lot like me going to Twitch sensation Lex Veldhuis and saying, “I think you need a blog.”

Keep in mind, as we dodged poker players and wound our way through the hallways like an Aaron Sorkin-era West Wing one-shot, I was fully aware of the fact everyone considered Scheinberg a genius, and I already believed the same. Even today, I consider him and his father two of the most brilliant business folks I’ve run across. But at the time, if Sorkin had been directing the shot, he would have had me run into a pillar, stumble over a misplaced stack of papers, and then chase down the head of state just before he entered the Oval Office.

“A newsletter?” I said, doing my best to hide my dripping incredulity.

Sheinberg looked at me to make sure he didn’t need to explain what a newsletter was, assessed me as probably not-that-dumb, and kept walking.

Still on his shoulder—walking and talking and dodging and changing the course of history—I summoned every bit of false bravado I had and said, “What I think you need instead of a newsletter…is a blog.”

Bear in mind here, live poker blogs weren’t really a capital T “thing” then. BJ Nemeth of Cardplayer and I had started doing live reporting about the same time, but it hadn’t caught on as the type of business on which companies like PokerListings and PokerNews built their empires. It was a curiosity. It was a fun diversion. It was not….a newsletter.

If Mark Scheinberg had been a head of state at the time, someone important would have appeared with some important papers for him to sign and instructions to step into an anteroom to have a conversation with some agitated parliamentarian. Instead, Mark grabbed for the door of the ballroom, considered my suggestion for a matter of seconds, and said, “Okay. We can try that. But the newsletter comes first.”

And that was that. It probably lasted no more than 90 seconds, but the result is the nearly 17-year-old website on which you are reading this now.

By April of that year, then marketing director Dan Goldman had named the site The PokerStars Blog. Today, the PokerStars Blog team has written more than 30,000 articles from six different continents (we’re coming for you Antarctica!), and publishes sites in eight languages. To people who grew up watching streams, the idea of a blog might sound like getting news via Western Union telegram (you can Google it), but to paraphrase an old bluegrass song…we’re still here.

And yeah, we did the newsletter.

You can probably find it in your spam folder.

 

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Author

Brad Willis

Brad Willis is a former television news reporter who left the TV business after ten years to start the PokerStars Blog. Since the blog's launch in 2005, it has expanded to a dozen languages and covers events all over the world. Willis serves as the Head of PokerStars Blog and is a frequent face at many PokerStars live events.

Willis spends his free time with his wife, sons, and dogs. Outside of his poker interests, Willis is a an amateur musician, live music lover, and the producer of the investigative crime podcast, Murder, etc..

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