While I rouse myself from the doldrums, I will tie up some loose ends. Here’s a review I promised:
Robbie Strazynski appears to be a big fellow with a giant face, giant body, and giant white teeth. He probably wears those stretchy polo shirts because he’d rip a standard dress shirt just living his life; he looks very goal-driven, as if he does pushups randomly throughout the day and lifts children over his head between tapping out titles. Maybe it’s just the bloom of the East Mediterranean sun or a just good camera angle. In any case, what is more certain is that he has the energy of multiple poker players (I guess that’s not much of a benchmark), and on top of everything else, should probably hire himself out as life coach to TBC and other earnest gambling fellows who find themselves wandering well off the straight and narrow. We can guess at all this because Robbie manages Card Player Lifestyle, an ambitious poker newsite-cum-blog.
Actually, let’s get that part out of the way, since it’s relevant here and relevant to the recent effort (actually it’s just an update, which explains a lot and the comments that are a year old) by Your Hand Sucks to catalog all the poker blogs they could find with one Google search. Listen carefully: some blogs are not blogs. A Web Log, origin of the clumsy word we now are stuck with thanks to people who think shortening and mashing together words is neat, is more or less a personal online diary in all its varieties or a continued reflection on a specialty, issue, or problem by one or more authors. People generally say the opposite of what they mean, and Robbie’s site as advertised is no exception. The blue badge on Cardplayer Lifestyle advertises “Poker Blog,” but this is in the same vein as McDonald’s calling itself a Family Restaurant. CL is so much more than a blog, and the fine print (never skip it) at the page bottom verifies this and its founder’s true aims.
In fact, one man construction crew Robbie takes everything on at Cardplayer Lifestyle. He editorializes, interviews, reports, and collates, all for the mission of serving as “the go-to news and information resource for recreational poker players and fans.” He has some favorite notes to hit, however, and is especially focused on the online industry, likely a strategic choice for both global appeal, his physical distance from the center of the games, and advertising potential for his site. Interestingly, he is not alone in this attempt to create a comprehensive poker newsite without apparent corporate investment (consider pokergurublog.com, among others) but this one’s scale and longevity is impressive and one of its strengths. He seems to be seizing on the Global Poker League as a stalking horse for poker growth. Cardplayer Lifestyle has another distinct advantage, aside from its founder’s work ethic: being associated with the Top Pair Podcast, which lends the site a heavy dose of audio while distinctively lifting it out of pure blogging territory.
Whatever this type of hybrid site should be called, Strazynski’s is less personal than a web diary (some articles, such as his thoughtful Passover Poker reflection, are exceptions, although he spends a 9/11 reflecting modestly on his business model; we are always most sensitive to ourselves): the bells and whistles give this away without much examination required. The unevenly stacked social media icons make me nervous. The stylized pixilation around certain items is busy. All the headlines (so large and so long) and smiling faces and color blocks and different headers and their sizes render me unable to settle on where to go. I don’t think this is mere kibitzing, because the internet is a visual as much as a textual medium. Perhaps eyes more calloused to zippy attention-catching tricks have no issue and plow in without hesitation.
Nevertheless, what, ultimately, is the theme of Cardplayer Lifestyle? What does it purport to be, and (as we are more interested in, here at OOP), what is it really? Why has it not been gobbled up by a poker magazine or some media front needing the fusillade of content that drives advertising click-throughs and the soft-serve info economy? How can Robbie be so stubborn and have pulled this off without a nervous breakdown over seven years?
To find the answer, we must first reflect upon the site’s title and bifurcation in purpose. Poker is a competition and a battle and an endless, often lonely challenge, so away from the felt, many players, whether they know it or not, want some blend of calm excellence, thoughtfulness, stories, conversation, and a little bit of fun; a sort of helpful respite. CL takes a different tack, preferring the subtext of Promotion and Energy. This probably derives from its founder’s industry background and the instinct to cajole and attract: it is this that Robbie offers to the recreational player he mentions in his mission statement. Perhaps so, but the definition of a recreational player is broad, and my first impression is that there is too little of the much desired, down to earth, yet plainly titled Lifestyle in the formatting and editorial direction of Cardplayer Lifestyle, whose presentation is all activity and buzz. Compare this site’s clothing to a visual and textual oasis for poker players, thinkingpoker.net, where you want to find the Easter eggs and you feel like you are in the company of your fellows- that is “lifestyle” in action. Cardplayer Lifestyle makes us wonder who wants what?
I myself am impressed by the amount of content effusive Robbie and staff create – content is diverse, from the latest industry stuff to where are they now pieces (always fun) to encouraging charity – but I initially had a very hard time being persuaded to read on; we see which who I am. Maybe this is natural, or maybe this is a pity, because Robbie (man of many hats), underneath the framework of his creation and plans, is a writer and communicates his ideas easily. I can and do enjoy his pieces best outside his site. Here is a good example: http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/the-case-for-legal-regulated-kosher-poker-in-israel/
Sticking with CardPlayer Lifestyle, the strongest elements of his content are all the interviews, both audio and text. Here the name of his site definitely lives up to its promise and theme; it’s here that I found my way forward into the content. The poker life is addressed in a pleasing and comfortable way. Its characters highlighted. Conversation and fun shared. His latest, with a tax attorney, is timely. The Bardah interview came off as true and unforced; I learned something about a real minor character in the poker world that I would not anywhere else. In a video, Robbie asks a clever metaquestion of Negreanu and we get something new out of our time with him. (If he were to reach out to less celebrities and more actual rec players, he would keep to his stated theme better, of course.) Robbie even provides transcripts out of radio shows out of professional pride and thoroughness; he is no hack and this easily overlooked nicety marks him for potential content greatness. CL, Robbie, and Top Pair do interviews really well.
Robbie and staff cover a multiplicity of topics in its poker news category, and you are unlikely to miss anything of significance if you could only use CL for your poker headlines. Formatting, not quantity, is a bugaboo: the lack of headlines per page here and elsewhere is troublesome because there is no way to scan all the potential information and you must click on each page, leaving the impression there is less content than actually is published. Poker Events is a dead category and takes up header space, even though it could be a very useful one as much of poker is in fact organized around events. We see how back end problems create home page ones, no matter how good our content might be.
In the same vein, the voluminous Poker Tips and Strategy is a catchall for everything from city reviews to bankroll principles to humor pieces to opinions on what’s verboten to talk about at the table. Here Robbie has thrown significant effort and a number of writers on the case. There are good pieces under this rubric. On the other hand, many of these extremely short, factoid-oriented buckshots give Cardplayer Lifestyle little differentiation from clickbait sites such as Pokerlistings. It’s individuality that often brings loyalty, so as an alternative, I’d like to see Robbie pursue journalistic excellence and let the paid-by-the-worders and interns handle such trivialities if he needs to keep up a publication rate or if he truly feels these fluffers bring hard value to the set.
So then, to answer our original question, what is the true theme of Cardplayer Lifestyle? What got Robbie through the seven year itch of one devotion? It’s the spirit of the fan, the nerd. The poker nerd. (We even hear it in his voice.) The lover of the game lavishing his attention and desiring to be the object of its attention. It’s not Lifestyle Robbie really offers us, it’s Enthusiasm. However, Robbie is not so secretly ambitious and will not be entirely satisfied with his present rate of rec players tickled by his work; this is hinted at in his otherwise unnecessarily humble and self-restraining business plan reflection..
Cheers to that. Perhaps, too, in our ADHD, socially mediated, flashbang wikiculture, I am underestimating the demand for the double shotgun approach and the desire to be a part of it. Robby S. has created and continues to build his own hub of poker information, which is a feat to be praised and recognized. His site and its hard-earned audience are a tribute to his devotion to the game’s community and his sense of professionalism. It is a marvel that even after seven years, Cardplayer Lifestyle’s best platonic form is still ahead of it, has a fighting chance to keep up with the changing nature of our game, and that I can say this because I think Robbie, more than most, has demonstrated that he has the capacity, love, and will for new and great things.
Posting Frequency: Top Notch
Writing quality: Varies by writer
Overall rating: AJs