Tatjana Pasalic…even the name drops out of your mouth like silk.
Beautiful, industrious and strongly independent: you don’t meet this woman and forget her in a hurry. You don’t need to be one of Elon Musk’s Space X rocket scientists to catch on to her aesthetic beauty. But that’s just gold wrapping covering an engine that never stops working, never stops thinking about others, and never stops thinking about the final product.
She is a professional, and here she is providing her view from the other side of the table.
You have blogged, presented and even taken photos…what were the toughest gigs that you had and why?
I think some of the toughest gigs have been when I have worn multiple hats. Times when I was blogging and photographing required incredible tenacity; one has to constantly bounce around the poker room to catch the action and there is little downtime from when the cards are in the air until after the players have gone home and recaps are written. I have a lot of admiration for all the people that work the big events like WSOP, EPT, or WPT, etc. It is not easy to remember all the new faces, snap professional quality photos, write engaging and accurate updates, and deal with uploading and internet connectivity issues, and daydreaming about sleeping once the current series has concluded.
What do you love doing the most within poker?
I find it challenging and satisfying to refine my presenting skills. There is a lot to think about when the film is rolling: posture, poker strategy, language translating, elocution, and more. Over time a lot of these skills become habit, and I feel like I have come a long way in my craft, but I also have a desire to constantly improve.
I have become more involved with the producing side of videos in recent years and that has helped deepen my understanding of the job and the ultimate final product of the content; I re-watch my videos with a very critical eye. At the end of the day though, I am fortunate to get paid to have conversations with a really interesting and diverse set of people. Although one has to prepare ahead and be quick on one’s feet when asking questions and engaging people, I find it is very rewarding and has helped me work on my listening skills… and sometimes it can be super easy when all you have to do is hold a mic and let Phil Laak’s stream of consciousness take the wheel.
I know you play occasionally. Was there ever a time in your career where you wanted to play professionally?
Every time I played the WSOP ME, I told myself: “Man, it would be so much fun to do this as a job.” However, shortly after I hop in front of the camera and I remind myself how much I truly enjoy bringing the information to the fans, and other players, and I quickly leave the pro life to the more skilled ones.
Talk about the way you feel you have been treated within the industry: both good and bad.
As with any industry, there can be a lot of variation in levels of professionalism across companies, the shuffling rosters within them, and players on tour. Although there have been times when people may have been rude or inconsiderate, I have ran very good to get to work with a slew of amazing individuals.
One of the advantages I have found being in a young industry is there is a lot of opportunity. I have received a lot of autonomy in many of my gigs since the beginning of my career. I am really grateful for people taking a chance with letting me be on camera early on and later companies to allow me to expand my professional roles to produce and manage events. However, I have found that working within a nascent industry also has its challenges.
Many companies may not benefit from years of organization or having people in positions with years of training and expertise. Many fledgling poker operations do not have robust HR departments and policies. This reality of start-up culture can result in uncomfortable and sometimes less than optimal scenarios, but I have found the opportunities available far outweigh the finer points of corporate structure and culture. As with anything, I look forward to the poker industry continuing to mature and evolve.
What have been your toughest times within poker?
Six months after Black Friday was a really hard time for me professionally. TV and video projects were slashed across the globe. Luckily, I had people who believed in me and kept me on their team. I weathered the storm and am very rosy on poker’s rebound.
What has worked well for you within poker, and what has not worked so well within poker?
Regardless of whether it has always worked or not I am a very honest and assertive person. Usually these qualities have helped me chase down gigs, but sometimes may cost me as I can be seen as “rough around the edges” by some. I think to some degree that is part of my cultural legacy as an Eastern European girl from ex-Yugoslavia; we are very blunt in our speech. Living in the UK and marrying an American have helped my awareness of Western sensibilities, but I think most people can find my emotions right on my rolled up, industrious sleeves.
What are your brightest memories?
There are so many!
I have been immersed in poker for the better part of a decade… it has basically become my life. I met so many amazing people through poker, including my husband; traveled the world, worked my dream job, and got so many opportunities that I am very grateful for. This past summer I received my highly anticipated and long awaited staff badge at the Rio while working with Poker Productions. Since the inception of my poker media career I have sought this badge and it had finally become a reality!
Can you remember the warmest welcome you ever received in poker?
Although I have received many warm welcomes over the years, two of my most recent gigs are present in my mind. Seth Palansky, David Tuchman and the Poker Production team are so great, and were so gracious and welcoming this past summer. We worked the craziest hours and by the end I felt we became one big family. HPT lived up to its Mid-Western roots as well. Since my first day with them everyone I met was warm, welcoming, and inclusive. After a few shots, I felt like we have been working together for years.
Describe what it’s like being a woman in a heavily male dominated environment?
It’s great! I make them pie and they walk me to my car when I finish work at 3am and it’s dark. Seriously though, it has always been great. Men I work with are very professional and treat me like a brother when appropriate and like a princess when I need it. There are dudes that I consider as my best surrogate girlfriends, lunch buddies, tour guides, and so much more. When you spend four to six weeks working with a person/people every single day for 10+ hours, you try to make it fun for each other.
How do you get your work?
I hustle! It’s a small industry. I have worked hard to build my brand and develop a professional network within the industry. There are so many people that I am eternally grateful to for introducing me to someone in need of my services and others of which I pestered until they finally acquiesced and gave me a shot. I have always been open to learning new skills and fulfilling many various roles.
Have you ever been subjected to personal criticism or abuse whilst working in the poker industry and how did you handle it?
Unfortunately, it has happened before. Just like in any industry, there are times when you are not treated like a delicate flower but you have to keep your head up. Fortunately, I find a lot of intrinsic motivation, so it may be easier for me to be resilient to abuse and to strive to produce work of which I can be proud.
It can be difficult when you feel colleagues do not reciprocate your dedication to being professional in the workplace. I strive to keep criticism constructive and to be receptive and open to finding ways to upgrade my skill set. I have found that not everyone shares my same set of values, which is ok. There are times that working with people with different values can make them feel threatened; sometimes people can develop a tendency to lash out and get abusive.
I really focus on processing these moments and realizing that the source of this mistreatment is often times something outside my control and not worth being upset over. I think that people can too often fall into the trap of being a victim and looking for an excuse to be outraged about their perceived mistreatment. Life is inherently unfair at times and all one can do is move forward and keep grinding!
I do find it interesting that in my experience some of the harshest abuse has not come from men, but from other women in the industry – both media and players. There has been a lot of talk recently about sexism and mistreatment of women in poker. I think there could be a more in-depth conversation about how viciously many women in poker act both outwardly, but perhaps more often surreptitiously towards their peers. Maybe the contraction in the poker economy and perceived availability of jobs and sponsorships contributed to vitriol, but unfortunately I believe this undercurrent has been present throughout my time working in the poker world.
Give me a few pieces of advice for people looking to get into the poker industry?
Pay attention when reporting hands and learn people’s names AND double check your facts before posting/recording. I see reporters and hostesses mispronouncing names and hands very often and it can be very frustrating for the players and the fans.
What is the one thing you would like to change about the poker industry?
Just like everyone else, I wish online poker was legal in the US and opened globally.
Who has been the most interesting person you have met in poker and why?
Myself in five years and myself five years ago: we all learn so much about ourselves as we develop and evolve within our careers and personal lives. I have been working a lot on contemplative meditation recently and the journey within can be both frightening, enlightening and exhilarating.
If you had to name one person in poker that you miss who would it be and why?
Howard Lederer: If he were still around, it would probably mean that he had not mismanaged Full Tilt and maybe Poker After Dark or the Onyx Cup would still be around.
What is the most difficult problem you have ever had to solve within poker?
Trying to keep everyone happy! Some engagements I have worked have required me liaise with many various individuals in different companies within different departments on various levels of the corporate hierarchy, casino clients, players, lawyers, etc. It sometimes impossible to satisfy all stakeholders in the complex wild-west of the gaming world. But I do my best to deliver a quality product regardless of required reworking or re-strategizing.