Returning the Favor and other Slices of Life

Returning the Favor
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Wednesday, June 04, 2008

A question of style

I'm having a good time this morning actually reading about the WSOP. After spending the early morning hours writing my own recaps, I decided to take a look at what some other folks are writing. Not the bloggers, although like most people, Tao of Poker is my first stop each morning for the Pauly-tinted flavor of the WSOP. This time I took a few minutes to troll through the recaps my cohorts at PokerNews are writing.

There are three of us doing recaps so far for the WSOP - me, Amy Calistri, and Shari Geller. I was unfamiliar with Shari's work before the past few days (unless she writes somewhere else under a pseudonym, as some of us have been know to do), but am enjoying the relaxed, conversational style of her pieces. I always like reading Amy's stuff, because she's a better poker writer than I am, and I feel like whenever I take the time to read a few of her pieces, my own work gets better.

But it's been very interesting to me to note the difference in style between the three of us. After writing recaps of these events for the past year, and writing dozens of them, I've developed something of a formula. It's not exactly the inverted pyramid style that I learned in my journalism class, but it is a style that I pretty much follow each time I write a recap. The first paragraph is broad brushstrokes of the day's action, with how many people, what they're playing for, and who's ahead.

Then I move on to a chronological chronicling of the day's events, from morning to night. I try to feature 2-3 big hands and list a bunch of the notable eliminations of the day. I try to mix up the people I list as notable, because I figure everybody has their favorite pro and wants to know what happened to them.

There are a couple of ways to guarantee that you're on my list of notables - be Doyle Brunson, Johnny Chan, Phil Hellmuth, Phil Ivey or Daniel Negreanu is one of them. These guys are ridiculously popular and it would be silly not to mention them. Win the Main Event and you'll get a nod. Another way is to be part of Team PokerNews. I try to mention the people that PN sponsors, because it just makes sense. If I've met you or played with you it'll likely get your name in my recap - so Brandon Schaefer and Gavin Smith almost always get a mention. Be tight with one of my friends or room with them at the WSOP (Kristy Gazes) and it'll get you more ink from me. But I try to be fair and include as many people in my list of notables in rotation as possible, since there are so many people that can rightly be considered notable now.

After I've run through the big bustouts, I try to do a paragraph or two near the end about the players that made it through the day, and if there is anybody that makes a big surge late to pick up a bunchof chips, they go into the latter part of the article. That way as people are reading down towards the end of the article they start to see more about the folks that are left than about the folks that are gone. I do tend to finish with one big hand that happened on the last level, which usually is between someone that ended up a chip leader and some name player that is now eliminated.

That's kinda my outline, and I think it works well. So it's interesting to me to read other people's recaps, to see how they approach the task. I find the first day of an event to be pretty easy, with the second (or intermediate on events longer than three days) to be the hardest. It's prety easy to give someone an overview of the beginning of an event and the initial flurry of action, but capturing the play from the middle of the field down to the final couple of tables is tough. It's easier when it's a small field and gets down to two tables, because then it's just all about the bustouts.

Final tables are actually the easiest to recap, because I know from the get-go who I'm writing about and honestly, there are usually fewer interesting hands at the final table. Plus I know that I'm getting all the hands, since we've got people covering every hand at the table. There aren't enough people to do that for the preliminary days, so it might happen that we just don't know about a sick beat or a great read that someone makes.

I try to make it interesting for readers, while still getting all the information across. I don't have any real journalism experience, just a few years of college newspaper feature article writing, but I think I've developed a decent feel for this work over the past year. So now I'm enjoying reading the stuff Amy and Shari are putting out there, to see the different ways in which we approach the job.   
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1 comment:

Short-Stacked Shamus said...

Interesting observations.

Am also beginning to reflect some on how these tourneys evolve into narratives -- or well-constructed "dramas" (to employ yr blog's central metaphor).