Since Black Friday, I have seen a growing number of threads pop up in poker forums online from posters and/or ex-players who show an interest in becoming a freelance poker writer.
Being that I have worked in some capacity as a poker writer/editor and forum manager for the better part of a decade, I would like to share my experience with anyone who is interested in knowing more about the ins and outs of the poker writing industry.
In my opinion, it is relatively easy to get your foot in the door as a poker writer (assuming you fulfill the requirements below). Websites that report on the poker industry are constantly seeking quality content, and are generally very open to publishing a thoughtful article from a new writer. So if you’re somewhat hesitant to reach out to a poker content site with an article proposal or just want to know what to expect before taking the proverbial leap, read on.
To start with, there are four essential “must haves” for anyone considering poker writing as a profession. The following points extend to many writing gigs outside of poker as well.
Knowledge and Love of the Subject Matter: Experience as a current or former poker player (or even being a fan) who enjoys the game is very helpful as a poker writer. If you’re not very familiar with the game, then your opportunities will be limited to “hard news” and “recycled” stories that can be regurgitated from basic Google searches. I got my start as a fan of online poker tournaments and have retained a weekly “online tournament report” article for nearly eight years.
Typing Skills: It’s not impossible to be a poker writer if you’re not proficient with a keyboard, but being able to use all ten digits will significantly increase your hourly rate. I would say that 30 Words Per Minute (WPM) is a bare minimum, although that number should be much higher if you’re typing often.
Verified PayPal Account: Many websites that hire poker writers don’t deal in poker site transfers because of how difficult it is to move non-poker related funds around on such sites. Some employers based within the United States may prefer to do direct bank transfers or send paper checks to American employees, but otherwise PayPal has become the most widely used method for poker writers to receive payment.
Fluency in Target Language: This is self explanatory. Articles written by authors who can’t fully express themselves in the target language by rule aren’t as comprehensive as those published by native speakers.
Freelancing as a Poker Writer
With the basics ironed out, it’s time to look at the most probable (and potentially profitable) business arrangement a new poker writer will engage in with a prospective company, freelancing. Formal “full time” writing jobs in this industry are rare nowadays, with most of these agreements encompassing other tasks such as Social Media Outreach, Analytics, Editing, Project Management, etc. There are also a few seasonal live tournament reporting jobs available, but the most likely scenario for a writer entering the industry is working on a per-article basis.
If you’ve never been published on a poker site before and are required to submit writing samples when job searching, your best bet is to relay links to your most informative poker forum posts when sending a resume. Being involved in the poker community as an active poster can be very valuable when making the transition to becoming a writer, as it gives employers insight into how you express ideas to an audience.
Freelancing often requires a poker writer to be on top of several “stories” or articles at once. You may have a Fire at Las Vegas Casino headline that needs to be submitted ASAP, plus a Tournament Report article that must go up once a final table has concluded, along with a VIP Club Review that yet another client is awaiting… and don’t forget about that Interview With a Top Pro piece that needs to be formatted. Being able to get the work done in a timely fashion is king in poker content creation. If writing about the poker industry is a profession you decide to take seriously, then you’ll often-times find yourself with too much or too little work on any given day. This is why organization and time management are so important for a poker writer.
While you’re cutting your teeth as a beginning poker writer, chances are you’ll receive one-off requests for content if your work is connecting with readers, so you shouldn’t be shy about doing basic research into big name poker players, poker social media feeds, tournament result databases, high traffic forum threads, and mainstream articles. All of these are great resources for keeping your finger on the pulse of what’s happening in the poker world.
Cultivating Business Relationships with Your Clients
Traditional boss-to-employee relationships in a freelancing arrangement have evolved over the years to become more of a client-to-consultant agreement — especially since most if not all of the work can be performed remotely from your own home. There are psychological advantages to considering your “boss” as a “client” first and foremost. For one, it makes it much easier to actively seek out ways to improve the service you provide. Some prospective employers such as training sites may focus on strategy related content, while poker industry news domains might require articles that revolve around current events. It’s up to you as a poker writer to execute ideas that correspond to specific needs.
Poker industry editors (or “bosses,” or “clients” — however you choose to consider them) come in about as many varieties as snow cone flavors. Some are very hands-on and some aren’t. Some will frequently recommended topics for articles and some won’t. Some may gain enough trust in your work that they almost always publish your write-ups as is while others may provide feedback on every sentence you write before posting. For a freelancing poker writer, you need to learn that all of these methods are completely fine. It’s your responsibility to adapt!
The main thing you require as a poker writer is editors who send you work! Dealing with clients who can clearly communicate their ideas, relay feedback, stay somewhat consistent and notify you of any changes is always a big plus, but those attributes of a superior are really secondary to you being self-motivated and flexible.
What poker industry editors need are writers who consistently submit quality, informed content. So if you’re asked to write about a topic and are confident you can do a good job, get to work! If there is an article topic that you don’t have an informed viewpoint on (such as How to Become a “High Stakes” Poker Pro in my case), then politely decline but make it clear that you are still available to work on other projects.
The main mistake freelance writers (poker or otherwise) make is being overly sensitive about minor details related to their work. Don’t make this mistake! It does not matter whether one editor requests that you capitalize all words in a sub-heading while another wants prepositions in sub-headings in lower case letters. Train yourself to realize that both methods are correct for their respective clients, make the necessary adjustments, and move along. The same goes for whether to use behavior or behaviour. The market (i.e. reader base) region determines what is correct, not your elementary school upbringing. Again, if poker editors are giving you freelance work and a fee has been agreed upon, then they’re pretty much already fulfilling their part in furthering your poker writing career.
Promoting Your Articles and Gauging Results
Social Media Engagement is a modern word-of-mouth promotional wrinkle that has surged in importance for poker writers. Growing your Twitter followers and Facebook friends (and exposing them to your work) is a great way to increase not only page views, but reader participation as well. An article’s success is often measured by how many views and comments it receives just as much as how well it’s written.
Like many, I initially got into social media to keep in touch with childhood friends, then began adding business contacts as they emerged. You may be hesitant to share a lot of your work with acquaintances you’ve known all your life (and may balk even more after you notice they tend to “like” your personal views more than links to your professional efforts), but that’s okay. You can make a polite, open-ended request on your Facebook wall asking your friends to visit the links you post. Slowly but surely a percentage of this “Friendship” segment will begin sharing your work, and you should do the same for them.
Poker industry contacts are much easier to cultivate, especially when you tag them in any content that relates to them. As a freelance poker writer, you should make a point to also tag the site each article is published on so you can join forces with your clients to get eyes on your work. Take a proactive approach to social media promotion and you’ll see your readership grow. Note that it only takes one BIG winning article to cross over from a relatively unknown poker writer to an authoritative figure.
The “Give & Take” Improvement Process
As a writer, evaluating others’ articles is essential to adapting and constantly improving. It’s no secret that I read a lot of poker-related online content. Give me a poker writer’s name and chances are I can immediately list a few strengths when it comes to his/her “writing style.” Truth is I became enamored with the conversational tones of WSOP bracelet winner Steve Badger and former Bicycle Casino prop player Shirley Rosario way back when I got into the poker writing business — happily mimicking their methods of connecting with readers for the past decade. (Steve actually mentored Big Brother 17 houseguest Vanessa Rousso years ago when she was making a name for herself as a live pro in California-based card rooms).
My point is that you can incorporate things you like about others’ poker content into your own work. Take my articles as an example. You may like certain ways I express my ideas, so by all means, fit those into your own poker writing mold. On the flip side of that token you can likely spot some things you don’t like about my writing style. In that case, think about ways to improve upon my stylistic flaws to become a better writer yourself. Give and take!
Salary Expectations and Freelance Contracts
Freelance poker writing compensation generally ranges from $0.02 USD to $0.15 USD per word. The lowest portion of that scale is typically paid to writers who are hired full-time while the highest is for image-based pieces that don’t have a lot of text. Most work you do as a freelance poker writer will likely fall within a tighter range of $0.04 to $0.12 per word.
Over the course of ten years as a poker writer I’ve written for free and for slightly more than the top of that range, so it goes without saying that most poker (and other) writers make a modest living. That’s not to say that you can’t make a good living as a freelance poker writer (if you can type, do basic research and organize your thoughts then you should be able to book $20-$25 per hour for most articles)… it just means that writing will need to be one of your top priorities in order to do so. Right up there with family, personal values, and all that good stuff. If you can be a successful poker writer then chances are you can branch out into other sectors that interest you. In my case that has been evaluation of WordPress premium themes along with video game tips and reviews.
Business relationships between poker writers and their clients are often formalized via a freelance writing contract. Most of these are very basic in nature and exclude you from divulging private information about the company you work for. Such private info includes (but is not limited to) content meetings, analytics, passwords, and strategic directions you become privy to as a poker writer. As a rule of thumb, don’t share anything that’s not publicly available on the actual website and you should be fine. Payments to poker writers are typically sent once or twice per month depending on the company.
“Non-compete clauses” are uncommon in freelance poker writing contracts unless you’re being hired for a major project or something equivalent to full-time. Still, you should consult with all new clients beforehand and inquire whether the new business will affect your current/future poker writing opportunities before signing a contract.
Poker may be evolving and adjusting, but it’s certainly not dead. Millions continue to play the game worldwide and there are plenty of opportunities for aspiring writers who desire to cover one or multiple aspects of the industry. If poker writing is something you believe you’d be good at, then it’s time to get your feet wet! Get in touch with poker-related websites, submit an article idea, and do your thing once you’ve worked out your first deal.
If you’re motivated and take some of my advice to heart, I’m confident you’ll soon find yourself with more work than you originally anticipated! Best of luck!
### A quick shout-out to my high school typing teacher Mrs. Marek. I may have complained at the time, but covering my hands with a piece of cardboard while I was learning was indeed helpful!  With utmost respect. -David
If you have any questions related to this topic, I will be more than happy to answer them in the Comments section below!
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