Most poker fans know Kara Scott from her work away from the tables at the World Series of Poker and on televised poker shows “Poker Night Live,” “High Stakes Poker”, and the Sky Poker channel, but she’s had more than her fair share of success at the tables as well.
She’s rolled up more than $500,000 in lifetime cashes — headlined by a runner-up finish at the 2009 Irish Open — and cashed in back-to-back years at the WSOP Main Event in 2008-2009.
We caught up with Kara in between her adventures to talk a little poker, including how she got started with the game and the challenges — and benefits — of juggling all the different poker hats she wears as a player, presenter, and PartyPoker pro.
When did you first start playing poker?
I started playing poker quite a few years ago while I was working on the UK cable show ‘Poker Night Live’. When they asked me to join their hosting/commentary team, I really didn’t know anything at all about poker beyond playing 5 card stud as a child for pennies. I had to learn the entire game from scratch but quickly realised how much fun it is. After working in poker for about a year, I started playing more regularly both online and live and it took off from there!
Did your interest in poker lead to your work in the industry as a presenter and writer or vice-versa?
I was a Sports presenter for Channel 5 and a producer as well when Poker Night Live got in touch with me. I don’t think I would have really considered poker as a career (I didn’t even know it was a possibility!) so I owe them a lot.
Tell us a little about juggling all the different poker roles you play today. Are there any times when you just want to chuck all the other work and focus solely on playing poker?
I’m really lucky in that I get to balance playing poker with my work in television. I really love my career and have always enjoyed learning more about media and entertainment. For me, getting to switch between the two (playing and hosting) means that it always feels like I’m getting a break. When I work hosting a show, the hours can be really long and the focus required can be tiring after a while. At that point, playing poker feels like a holiday! But playing poker requires a lot of stamina and hard work as well so after playing on the circuit for a while, going back to TV work feels like a break. Best of both worlds!
You’ve had plenty of success in the Main Event in the past. How hard was it the last few years to have to skip playing in order to focus on your work for ESPN at the Main Event?
Playing the Main Event is an incredible experience as a poker player. It so deep stacked and there’s so much time to play, plus the buzz and excitement of playing in Las Vegas at the most famous tournament in the world is something else! When I’m there working for ESPN now, there’s only a slight feeling of ‘I wish I was playing.’ I had so much success in the Main Event that I kind of feel like I’ve had my turn on that stage. I definitely love working on the TV coverage and I’d choose that over playing it any day!
What is your favorite casino to play poker in as a player? Same answer as far as your favorite casino to work in as a presenter or member of the media?
I think the most beautiful casino in the world is Casino di Venezia, right on the Grand Canal in Venice. It’s an amazing place with so much history and I love getting a chance to spend time in that city. It’s definitely my favourite.
Finishing runner-up in a major event is always bittersweet, especially when it comes early in your poker career. If you could hop into a DeLorean and travel back to 2009 and start heads-up play again with Christer Johansson at the Irish Open final table, would you play it any differently with the experience you now have?
I don’t think I would play it differently. At the time, I really didn’t have a huge amount of experience behind me, certainly not enough to put me on parr with a really excellent player like Christer Johansson. I knew that he was by far the better poker player and so I wanted to play as fast as I could against him in the heads up. Pushing big pots and big decisions rather than letting him outplay me down the streets. I’d certainly change my decision in that last hand but hindsight is 20/20. I’m still really proud of that result and I think I always will be. It’s not bittersweet at all, especially considering that the result was way over my expectation at the time!
When playing you always draw plenty of attention from the cameras and media. Is there ever a point when you want to pull a Phil Laak and show up in disguise so that you can simply play without all the attendant drama and hoopla? Do you think it’s to your advantage or disadvantage that many people at the table know you when you take your seat?
I have really struggled in the past with feeling very ‘visible’ at the table. I’m not a professional at the same level as many of the players I play against. They’re putting in incredibly long hours, working on their games and playing professionally. Although I do play and love the game, my profession is also that of a media person. I’m a huge poker enthusiast but being around the best players in the world all the time makes it clear that they really do think at a higher level! I used to feel very self-conscious when playing against them, trying not to make dumb mistakes and look like an idiot. That actually really hampered my game for a long time and I’ve finally realised that I need to just block that out if I’m going to play more effectively. I had a very bad habit of psyching myself out before I even sat down.
You meet and hang out with lots of poker players through your professional work. Are there any that have been particularly helpful to your development as a poker player, as far as talking strategy, giving advice, etc.?
Nick Wealthall is a British poker player, commentator and teacher and he’s actually the person who taught me how to play poker. We worked together on Poker Night Live and quickly became very good friends. He was a huge support, coaching me in all aspects of the game and being there for moral support when I needed him during my deep runs at the World Series. He’s still the person I go to with questions about the game.
You’re heads-up at the Main Event and come back from a huge deficit to win, masterfully outplaying your opponent at every step. You get to pick the opponent that you crush: who is it?
This is one of my weak spots in poker – I don’t have that killer instinct! I try not to focus on who my opponents are because I generally really like people and I feel bad if they lose. Don’t get me wrong, I still prefer to win of course! If I had to pick someone, I’d say Erik Seidel because he’s such an incredible player and a really funny, great guy. If I could actually win a hand against him (let alone a whole tournament), I’d feel like a hero!