A couple weeks ago, we had the honor of sitting down with the famed Dan Goldman, one of the original PokerStars executives. Here, he recounts impressive stories & memoirs from his time with PokerStars as well as his predictions for WSOP 2015.
1. How did you get your start in the poker industry & what drew you to the game?
‘I’ve been a poker player all my life – my father taught me the basics of the game when I was about 7…. Over the years, I continued to play somewhat irregularly until I moved to California & discovered live card rooms.
‘In 2001, a long-time poker friend told me about a new company, PokerStars, that was looking for beta testers, and my wife Sharon & I began to play there regularly (in fact, I won tournament #1 and my wife won tournament #2). When PokerStars launched for real money, this same friend mentioned that they didn’t have a marketing department & asked if I had any interest. After 6 phone interviews, I was hired as PokerStars’ first CMO, a position I held through April, 2007.’
2. You have traveled the globe as an ambassador of poker. What event was the highlight of your career in the industry so far? What is the most unusual thing you have seen/experienced?
‘There have been many, many highlights, but there’s no question about the single greatest highlight, which also happens to be a seminal moment in the history of poker.
‘In early 2003, I convinced my boss (Isai Scheinberg) that we needed to start running online satellites for the WSOP. This may seem like an obvious choice, but it wasn’t – no one was doing it, and it represented some substantial risk. The poker boom hadn’t really started at this point – poker was popular, but it wasn’t the wild success it would become a year later. I estimated that we might send 20 players to the Main Event, which has a buy-in of $10,000. This was $200,000 that would disappear from our then-limited poker economy. Isai was horrified at the prospect.
‘But, to his credit, Isai was willing to take some risks…. In January 2003, we started running WSOP satellites & ultimately sent 37 players to the Main Event, representing about 5% of the total starting field of 839 players. And history tells the rest of that story – Chris Moneymaker, a 27-year-old accountant from Tennessee, who had never played in a live poker tournament before, went on to win the 2003 WSOP & changed poker forever.’
3. What advice do you have for online poker players now & going forward?
‘To new players, particularly young players, I’d strongly suggest that they balance their online play with live play early on. I’m not suggesting 50/50, but poker started as a game of personalities & psychology, and remains so today. New players can get a much better sense for this by playing both live & online.
The other advice I strongly suggest for online players is to keep very good records. This… can tell you things about your game that you would likely never work out on your own. For example, I used to play a lot of mid-stakes NLH on a variety of sites. When I looked at my stats, I found that I was making almost twice as much money per hour playing 5 games of $2-4 than I was playing 2 games of $5-10 on the same site, something that may seem obvious – the $5-10 players were much better, right? But then I discovered that I made nearly 3 times as much money per hour playing the $3-6 games, and at slightly lower risk.’
4. In your opinion, what is the most rewarding part of the work you do for the game of poker?
‘Poker is a serious game, a seeming oxymoron…. It’s played for more money than any other competition in the world. But, for most people, it’s a social experience that allows them to meet new people, learn while playing, and perhaps win a little money along the line.
‘The thing that I’ve found most exciting & rewarding is helping to create communities of players. At PokerStars, we encouraged our players to get together to play live poker…. At Barona, we hosted regular “Meet the Hosts” events in which players could get to know one another…. This convergence of online poker & live poker makes players happy, creates a vibrant community, and benefits the poker room – at essentially no cost to us.’
5. Who has your vote to win the WSOP Main Event this year?
‘With a projected field of about 7,000 players, I won’t even take a shot at predicting this. Poker is predominantly a game of skill, but to win the ME, you have to play well, get lucky, and not get unlucky, all over a 10 day period. Who would I like to see win? Me. Who do I think will win? I have absolutely no idea.’
For more info about Dan Goldman, we recommend reading his firsthand perspectives on his blog, smalltalkdan.com. Videos & additional photographs from the interview to follow.