Sports Broadcaster And Poker Superstar Kara Scott Builds Her Career In Male-Dominated Industries

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Kara Scott isn’t your average sports broadcaster or poker player. This woman has had quite an incredible career journey so far and is rising up the ladder in not one, but two male-dominated industries. Kara grew up in rural Northern Alberta, Canada, and to date has lived and worked in 5 different countries. In each place she gets to play, write about or talk on TV about poker, a game she was introduced to in 2006.

In her second country, England, a small cable TV poker show saw the work she had done at the World Series of Backgammon and offered her a job, and the rest, as they say, is history. After working her way up, learning both about TV broadcasting and the work of poker simultaneously, she was handpicked to host Sky Poker when it launched.

From there she expanded her reach into Europe, became familiar with some of the more household poker names, and got involved in the World Series of Poker tournament. After Europe, Kara made her way back to North America, where she settled in California for a bit. During her time in the US she eventually made her way to the gaming mecca, Las Vegas, where she began working with ESPN, hosting their WSOP coverage.

But Europe came calling again, and Kara moved to Italy and then Slovenia with her husband a few years ago where they became heavily involved in local tournaments. 2016 saw Kara officially become an ambassador for 888Poker, who are also the main sponsor for WSOP. As her adventure continues to unfold, we caught up with Kara to talk about her work.

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Kara, it’s an honor to meet you, we are impressed with your rise in the poker and sports industry. What advice do you have for other poker players who are just starting out and are looking for some inspiration from one of the poker superstars?

Thanks for the kind words! The past decade has certainly been an exciting ride for me. When I look back on all of the things I’ve been able to do, it makes the hard work worth it.

I suppose that’s my big piece of advice for people getting into the industry – work hard. After playing poker for over 10 years myself, and spending time hanging out with or interviewing all the best players in the world, the common factor is that hard work pays off. Every once in a while we’ll get an unknown player who shoots up to the top briefly on an incredible run. But for lasting power and longevity, studying the game, playing, talking over hands with people you respect, going through hand histories and being brutally honest about your own style are all part of the ‘homework’ that the top players do.

But if you’re not looking to be a professional, (and that’s really okay! Not everyone should go pro) then my other big piece of advice is to never lose the fun in the game. Find places to play that you enjoy, build home games and communities around people who have a similar outlook to you. Use poker to help you travel the world by ‘satellite-ing’ into great tournaments and really, truly enjoy it! Then, even if you’re paying rather than winning, you’re getting a great experience out of it.

Most people can point to a key moment in their life where everything changed direction. When did you know that playing poker was something you wanted to do professionally? Was poker always your passion, or did you simply enjoy covering the game for TV?

When I was a little kid, I played a lot of card games but I had never played a single hand of Texas Hold’em Poker until I was offered a job hosting a TV show on the topic. I was still trying to figure out what my passion was, so being thrown into the deep end of poker was exhilarating. I fell in love with the game pretty fast and I was determined to improve as quickly as possible. The reason is that I wanted to do the best job I could on my new show, and not just be the talking head who asked silly questions.

The key moment for me was actually right before poker. I had been trying for a few years to properly break into TV work in London. I did a million auditions and had eaten a lot of cheap, bulk-bought rice while I worked at jobs that only paid in experience. Experience is great but you can’t eat it and it doesn’t pay your rent.

I landed one last audition and I remember telling myself that this was it, I either got this paid job or I conceded defeat and found a ‘real’ job. I stood in front of the producers and gave it my absolute everything but their solemn faces practically screamed, “Thanks, but no thanks!”

I left that meeting completely dejected and went across the street to get a drink and wash the taste of disappointment out of my mouth. All of the emotion that I’d been holding in, all the sleepless nights wondering how I’d pay my bills, all the rejections from auditions came out as I resigned myself to giving up my dream. My hands were shaking so badly that I even chipped my tooth on the glass I was drinking out of. It felt like the end of the road for me.

Then out of the blue, a week later I got the call saying that they loved me and I had the job! That TV show was the one that got me noticed by the poker industry. That was the moment my life changed.

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What can you tell us about your 888poker team fellows? Have you had an opportunity to meet with some of them?

This is a great team! I knew most of them before joining the team and had interviewed them at different events around the world or played against them. Bruno Politano was one of the WSOP Main Event final table players in 2014, so I’d been there for one of the biggest moments of his poker career. He’s a lovely guy and so likeable.

Dominik, Sofia, Chris and I traveled the same European Poker Circuit for years so we all knew each other. Dominik is a lot funnier than I ever suspected. Sofia is a ferocious poker player and it was years before I think I won even a single hand against her. As a person though, she’s lovely and sweet and very generous. Chris is a lovely guy and is not just one of the best online tournament players of all time, but his second book is coming out soon as well. He has some pretty incredible stories about the industry and I’m looking forward to reading it.

The newest ambassador, Natalie Hof, was the only one I didn’t know before. I met her at 888Festival in London and honestly, welcoming her to the team was easy. She fits right in with her sense of humor, easy-going nature and love for poker. These are great people to hang out with, and travel the world playing poker with, as well as being players I respect. It’s a team that just keeps getting stronger and I think 888poker has a really good eye for talent.

You compete in online poker tournaments at 888poker. Which ones are your favorites and why?

I spend time playing at 888poker and what I play really depends on how much time I’ve got. I love the new Blast games which are super-fast and can be over in 5 minutes. I’ve not hit any of the really big jackpots yet in Blast, but I’m hoping to be lucky enough to land one soon! If I’m planning on a longer session, the knockout tournaments are some of my favorites. I like the added incentive of playing aggressively. The ‘ShowMe’ tournaments where you’re forced to show your cards when the hand is over is fun too. It adds a whole new dimension of mind-games to each circuit.

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What’s a typical day like when you’re getting ready to prepare for a poker tournament? Do you go through mental or physical exercises?

Some of the best players in the world spend a lot of time and money to be in peak physical and mental condition, and it seems to really pay off. Mindset coaching, yoga, healthy eating – these things are great for helping you focus when you’re playing and have the added benefits of making your life better OFF the table too.

I tend to be a bit more relaxed about it. I’m an ‘all things in moderation’ girl, myself. If I’m playing a big live tournament, I always try to make sure I get a good night’s sleep before. If I’m traveling a long way, I’ll show up a day early to get over jetlag because a tired mind isn’t going to play the best poker! A good meal is important before you play, something light that won’t make you super tired, and it’s always a good idea to have some healthy snacks with you so you can re-fuel at the table if you need to.

I like to take a walk to clear my mind and stretch my legs before sitting down at a poker table for 12 hours or so. I’d say the number one thing is to drink a good amount of water. It helps me keep my mind clear and focused, instead of surging and then crashing like too much coffee or tea will do.

What advice would you give to novice players when playing cash games and tournaments?

Bankroll management is important and you should always know how much money you’re happy to spend on poker, whether that’s per month or per year. It should be part of your entertainment budget, so that if you spend it all and don’t make anything that month, it’s not going to hurt your bottom line. At any one time, you should only be playing with a small part of your total bankroll (say, 5%) so that you have lots of chances to play and have fun and win. It’s no fun to feel like there’s added pressure on you to win back money you couldn’t afford to lose. Plus, it’ll hurt your game too.

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The golden age of poker had some legendary players like Doyle Brunson, Phil Hellmuth, Chris Moneymaker, Mike Sexton etc. Unlike other sports, it seems like the poker industry keeps its legends close and nurtures them. What do you think of this?

Poker is still a relatively young industry as it only really hit the ‘big time’ back in 2003 with Chris Moneymaker’s win at the WSOP. The poker legends put a lot into this game at a time when it wasn’t as popular or as lucrative as it is now. We all owe them a lot for pushing it forward.

Other sports do this as well. You’ll see the really popular players of years past as respected commentators or coaches, once they’ve stop playing. They sell books with their stories of the glory days and give insight into the history. They might be giving speeches or doing charity work. The best in the business (whatever business!) tend to be treated with respect for the things they’ve achieved.

When I’m on ESPN for the WSOP, I anchor the break-desk with two of the biggest names in poker – Daniel Negreanu and Phil Hellmuth – and that’s not a coincidence. Poker fans recognize their faces immediately and can connect to them in a way they might not to newer faces. Plus, they just keep winning! Mike Sexton just won a WPT title, Negreanu is the biggest all-time money winner in tournaments and Hellmuth has more bracelets than anyone else. Many poker legends are current, not just past.

How much progress do you see women making in the game of poker? Which rising stars do you keep an eye on?

Things have changed a lot in the past 10 years for women in poker and I’m so glad. We see a lot more variety in the faces who make it into the poker media and that’s important. There’s a wide range of women playing and we need to see more of that represented. We’ve started, but there’s still a long way to go. Vanessa Selbst is not a rising star – she’s already risen – but she’s such a talent that I can’t not mention her.

Cate Hall nearly won WPT Player of the Year last year and is an outspoken advocate for women in the game. Celina Lin, again not a new player but one who is pushing boundaries and is the Team Manager for a GPL team. Or Rachel Kranz, a player who advocates for all the older women who play poker, but are often ignored by an often youth-centric industry. She’s incredibly smart and is definitely due a big poker score. There are so many women playing and as more join the game, we can expect to see far more results for women as the current generation of new players hit their stride. 

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How would you describe your style of poker play in major tournaments like the WSOP? What do you recommend during the early stages versus the latter stages of tournaments?

In the big, deepstacked and long structure tournaments, it’s important to take the time to check out your table properly, see who is doing what and put some thought into how you can get each player to give you their chips. The same strategies don’t work for everyone. There’s no need to rush through and try to win it all in the first level, so take your time. You can get a lot of information from your opponents by being watchful.

After the first 30 minutes has passed, ask yourself what concrete information you now have on each opponent – who is showing down bluffs, how are they reacting to being raised, who is opening a wider range of hands, what are they doing in different spots. You won’t have something definite for everyone, but it’s a good exercise to keep you alert and looking out for tendencies you might otherwise miss.

As the tournament goes on and the ante levels come in, pick up your aggression, play more hands and push for more pots. They’re all worth more now, so you need to use all that information you hopefully picked up early on when the stakes were lower, to clean up at the table.

What was your favorite show on TV?

Growing up, I was a big fan of Star Trek, both the original series and Next Generation. That’s still true, actually. I even have my own tricorder. When I have a sick day, I’m definitely watching some kind of Star Trek to make myself feel better. Later on, I adored Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I used to watch it religiously on Tuesday nights when it aired, and God help anyone who tried to talk to me while it was on! That show was one of the reasons I took up martial arts myself.

If you could host your very own poker show, what would you call it?

Tough question! I’ve been trying to think up titles for things lately and I swear that it’s harder to think of names than it is to think of content.

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Have you written any poker guides, e-books, or strategy articles?

As I’m not a full time pro (my main career is in broadcasting), I tend to leave the poker strategy to the professionals. I’ve played for a very long time and have great results but poker moves quickly and it takes a lot of study to stay on top of your game. A lot of my focus goes into my TV work so I’m more likely to be reading the articles than to be writing them!

Poker is a male-dominated game, but you are working hard to introduce more female players into it. How do you ‘sell’ poker to women? Is there a difference between male motivations to play poker and female motivations to play poker?

I really don’t think we need to sell poker differently to women than to men. It’s a fantastic game and all of the things about it that attract guys – the fun, the competition, problem solving, the mystique – those all attracted me to the game too. I don’t think we need to ‘pink’ up the game to make women want to play it. I’m not a big fan of gendered marketing and I don’t think the whole male/female binary is even entirely accurate, so I’m wary of things that use it to sell things to me.

Poker has traditionally been marketed towards men in a heavily gendered way that relied on old stereotypes. If you looked at poker magazines or PR materials 10 years ago, there were a lot of pictures of beautiful women with a pair of aces in their cleavage or draped across poker tables with only poker chips covering their bits. The way women were showed in poker, tended to be as models or marketing devices, rather than as participants and poker players themselves. This is changing, thank goodness and women who play poker are seeing themselves reflected in the marketing materials now.  It’s important to note that it wasn’t just women who were put off by seeing tired old stereotypes of men and women. A lot of the guys I know in poker were pretty annoyed by some of the marketing which treated them like mindless hormonal lads.

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