Kara Scott is a professional poker player, a practitioner of Muay Thai, and, at the time of this interview, was hanging out in the Casinò di Venezia in Venice, Italy for the 2013 World Poker Tour (WPT). Her first foray into the world of poker started with a TV hosting gig, but Kara’s love of the game soon landed her a spot at the table. Since then, she’s traveled all over the world, playing poker in Canada, Britain, Italy, Australia, and many more. Currently she’s a member of Team PartyPoker, along with greats like Mike Sexton, Marvin Rettenmaier, and Felipe Ramos. Kara generously gave us some of her time to talk about her starting gigs, women in the WPT, and of course, poker.
Club 808: Kara, thanks for being here. I’m sure our Club 808-ers know who you are, but for the ones who don’t, how did you get into poker?
Kara: I’ve been doing poker for six or seven years now, and it’s a really weird, roundabout way I got into it. So the story starts in Canada—I’m from Canada—and I used to work in martial arts. I was a martial artist. I trained in muay Thai. And when I was living in England, I was training for a fight thing, and my trainer said, “Oh I have a friend who’s doing a TV show and he’s looking for a presenter, a host, that knows about martial arts.” And it happened to be about muay Thai, my specialty. So I went for that, and I got it. And then a poker channel saw some of my work and asked me to come in and work for them, and I learned kind of on the job. I was hosting a show that looked at online poker tournaments called Poker Night Live a long time ago in the very high cable numbers. And we used to watch online tournaments, every single hand, and I’d listen to the pros talking about the hands and that’s exactly how I learned to play. Then from there I just kind of went on. I moved from show to show. I’ve been really lucky. And now I’m a sponsored pro with PartyPoker and I do all of their TV shows. I do ESPN as well as doing World Series of Poker. So it’s a pretty lucky story.
Club 808: How did you go from just the host thing to playing as a pro? That’s a big jump to being a professional and making a living from that.
Kara: Well, I always say that I’m not strictly a professional poker player, because my main job is in television. I’m really lucky to be an ambassador and go out and play tournaments. But I think if you work in poker long enough—and I’m someone who’s always loved games and loves playing things, love competition—you kind of pick it up and it gets in your blood and you have to play.
You cant just ask questions, you can’t just be there watching other people play. So I started playing a few tournaments myself, in England, had a few lucky breaks here and there. Won some things I probably shouldn’t have, so a little bit of luck there. It just gets you there. You can’t set it down.
Club 808: So where are your favorite places to play, when you do play?
Kara: Well, I’d say one of them is Venice, in Italy, which is where I am now. I’ve always loved this city, and this casino is one of the oldest casinos in the world. Right now I’m in Casinò di Venezia; I’m in the top floor and there’s beautiful chandeliers and these beautiful frescos, and everything’s unbelievably old and gorgeous. There’s something about playing here that kind of makes you feel like James Bond, so yeah, this has definitely always been my favorite. It doesn’t hurt that I’ve managed to make a day 4 here for WPT Venice.
Club 808: So you said PartyPoker, that’s one of the things, you’re a big part of. Tell us what PartyPoker is, for those who don’t know.
Kara: PartyPoker is one of the biggest online poker sites in the world, and something that a lot of Americans will remember from a long time ago before Party pulled out of the states. And even though it disappeared from the states, from America, the rest of the world still has PartyPoker, and I’ve been working with them in Canada and Europe. They also do a lot of television shows. They do the PartyPoker Premier League, the PartyPoker Big Game, a lot of the different WCP stops as well.
Club 808: What’s a successful outcome for you?
Kara: It’s not actually where I place, it’s just how I feel about how I play. I’ve definitely been in some events where I’m tired or burnt out and I just didn’t play very well. So that for me is pretty unsuccessful. But there are other events—like I was playing in Austin recently and I was actually blown off the bubble and didn’t make any money. But I felt like I played really well. I played better than I had in ages. And for me that was pretty successful. Even though I busted before the money, I thought, “Yeah, I’m really happy with the way I played.” So that seems like a success for me. Though making money is always very nice thing to do.
Even though I busted before the money, I thought, “Yeah, I’m really happy with the way I played.” So that seems like a success for me.
Club 808: I imagine. So is there a type of player that just drives you nuts?
Kara: Yeah, and it’s not even how they’re playing poker, it’s just how they are at the table. It’s a huge pet peeve of mine when people are rude, or when they make fun of the newer players at the table and make it an uncomfortable place to be. I think poker’s a game as well, and some people are making a living, that’s true. But to make others feel uncomfortable at the table and feel like they don’t belong there, it’s not only rude, it’s also counterproductive. . . the poker team here in Italy is so friendly. It’s ferociously competitive at the table and everyone’s taking ridiculous bets off of each other, but everyone’s high-fiving. . . the atmosphere is just so much nicer. Call me crazy, but I like it when it’s nice.
Club 808: Do you play at home or casually, with family and friends?
Kara: I used to, when I lived in England I had a home game with a lot of friends. We’d throw five pounds in a pot each just for bragging rights, and drink and tell stories and have a lot of fun. And I loved that. but I’ve been on the road so much recently that I haven’t played a home game in years… Hopefully I’ll pick that up again.
Club 808: Any games besides poker that you love?
I grew up playing canasta and all kinds of card games, so those I really do love. I played a bit of backgammon as well.
Kara: I grew up playing canasta and all kinds of card games, so those I really do love. I played a bit of backgammon as well that I don’t really play anymore. And right now open face Chinese is sweeping the poker world. And I love games—I’m a tower defense junkie. I play some of those games online. Or they’re kind of fun on your iPad when you’re not doing anything else. I’m definitely a game fan.
Club 808: We’d love to hear what other things you have planned now or coming up in the future you’d just like to talk about.
Kara: It’s kind of been a ridiculous few months. I’ve been traveling all over Europe. I did manage to get out to Australia for the World Series of Poker. Hopefully I’m going to win WPT Venice first. This is my first thing, we’re down to 18 players, we’re all in the money. We play down to the final table today. . . after that I go to Barcelona for another WPT, and after that, I believe I’m going to Montreal for an event with Party Poker and the WPT. So that’ll be nice, I’ll be kind of back in my homeland. And after that, it kind of goes on.
Club 808: Speaking of the World Series of Poker, there aren’t that many women who participated this year. Is that something you’d like to see more of?
Kara: There aren’t enough. Generally it’s like 3-5% of any live field is female. And that’s just not enough, but we’re doing really well. I think last year overall at the World Series, not in terms of bracelets, but in terms of money that was cashed, we were cashing above our percentage. We’re doing really well.
I think last year overall at the World Series, not in terms of bracelets, but in terms of money that was cashed, we were cashing above our percentage. We’re doing really well.
And you’ve got women like Vanessa Selbst, who’s just a world-class unbelievable player. And she’s really paving the way, I think, and there’s lot of women who are just grinding for a living, and people don’t really see that. People see a female face at the table and think, “Oh, she’s probably sponsored.” “Oh, she’s here for just one shot.” But its not true, and I think women need to realize yes, we can do this, this is something that’s totally possible, and it’s a lot of fun. There’s a really strong female community in poker. We’re a really supportive group as well. It makes it a lot friendlier. If you’re playing a tournament for the first time, definitely seek out some of the familiar female faces and say hello. We love having new players. If you see me at a tournament, come and say hi, please!
Club 808: Who is someone—you mentioned Vanessa—who are some other players we’ll hear of one day?
Kara: Well, for people who don’t maybe know my teammate: Marvin Rettenmaier. He’s amazing. He just keeps winning everything; he’s an absolute beast at the poker table and one to watch, absolutely. He won back-to-back WPT events already. He’s incredible, I think. In terms of some of the female players, being in Italy right now, there are two that come to mind: Carla Solinas and Giorgia Tabet. They are both grinders. They play for a living and they’re unbelievable. And I think it’s just a matter of time before they win something big. In fact Giorgia and I are both in the last 18 of this event, so she may win it. And if she did, as long as I came second, I wouldn’t be too upset.
Club 808: Where do we find you online?
Kara: Yeah, check out my Twitter—I try to keep it updated, I try to be funny. I’m not promising that much. But it’s @KaraOTR, which stands for On the Rail for a podcast I used to do. So @KaraOTR on Twitter, of course my Facebook page, Official Kara Scott. I blog over at CardRunners, and I blog over at PartyPoker Blog.
Club 808: Kara, thank you for your time.
Kara: I appreciate it. It’s great to talk to you guys!