Kara Scott may well be a name that rings a bell for many poker enthusiasts worldwide.
As a familiar face during live poker events, Kara is many things - TV personality, journalist, poker player and brand ambassador for 888poker. On top of that, she also hosts a unique podcast in which she interviews people of the poker industry.
The Heart of Poker Podcast was born out of Kara’s desire to find new ways to engage with the poker community. Determining that a normal interview or generic news format would only further saturate an oversaturated market, she decided to go a slightly different route.
“I love getting to know people, and their stories are my favourite thing. The Heart of Poker podcast, using the “36 questions to fall in love” idea from an old psychological study seemed like a good way to dig into the people behind the cards,” she said.
The first episode aired at the end of 2019 and featured Chris Moorman - one of the most successful online poker tournament players of all time. To date, eighteen more episodes have been released on a near monthly basis.
But who is Kara Scott and what is her story?
Kara grew up in Canada and holds a Bachelor of Education and a Linguistics degree from her home country. She then moved to the UK in 1999, where she went on to earn a graduate teaching degree.
During both her university years in Canada and in England, Kara picked up a rather unique sport - Muay Thai. In fact, it was this sport that first got her into a TV presenter role. “I was producing and presenting a TV show in London for Muay Thai and cage fighting,” she shared.
The Alberta-born also called Slovenia her home for a short while, but did not have enough time to try all the amazing cuisine. The food culture was one of the highlights she pointed out, and she considers Ana Roš one of the best chefs in the world.
“Slovenia has a weekly street food market through the summer and all the best restaurants put out their best dishes to try. But even with all of that great food, the best thing is their wine. They have some of the best white wines I’ve ever had in my life and if you’ve not had Slovenian wine, you’re missing out.”
Kara travelled far and wide, and became a fixture on the European poker scene. One of her favourite stops was Venice.
“I love the casino in Venice on the Grand Canal. It’s one of the most beautiful spots in the world. I think they stopped doing poker there and that’s such a shame as it has such an incredible history. Venice is one of my favourite places in the world.”
In 2013, Kara also found love when she married Italian poker player Giovanni Rizzo. They have a daughter together and now live in Italy on the family farm house.
“My favorite dish from Italy is Pipi e Patate (which is Calabrese for potatoes and peppers). Calabrese food is some of the best food in Italy, in my opinion and I love their spice. Put some nduja on anything, and I’m happy.”
And if there’s one thing Kara misses from back home in Canada, it would certainly be her mom’s homemade pasta and meatballs. “She’s an incredible cook, but that particular dish is the one I really miss.”
Surprisingly, Kara had not played a single hand of poker up until she hosted a TV show about the World Series of Backgammon in Monte Carlo back in 2006.
Her talents were noticed by a fledgling cable poker network and she was asked to become a host for their show “Poker Night Live”. One thing led to another and she found herself not only hooked on the role of a poker presenter, but also started playing poker actively.
“That show was so much fun to work on, and I met my good friend and poker mentor Nick Wealthall there. From that show, I joined Sky Poker shortly after they launched and then was the host of EPT for a couple of seasons, before focusing on working with Poker Productions for High Stakes Poker and WSOP.”
A mandatory trip to Las Vegas followed just a year after, when she entered the $10,000 World Series of Poker Main Event in Sin City. That first time has remained in Kara’s memory ever since.
“Going deep in the WSOP Main Event in 2008 was the most ridiculously fun time. The stacks are so deep and yet I still managed to double up early, which gave me room to tangle with players and not get into too much trouble. I actually had TOO much fun in the early stages and my poker coach Nick was biting through his nails on the sidelines watching me get myself into spots I shouldn’t have, just because it was exhilarating to do so!“
Kara made it all the way to 104th place for $41,816 on her first time playing the pinnacle event of the live poker circuit. One year prior, she also recorded her first victory in a celebrity TV format which was filmed at the Maidstone Studios in the UK. That win came with a top prize of £26,000 and even more impressive results were on the horizon in the next few years.
Kara followed that up with a cash in the EPT Budapest Main Event in 2008. One year later, she took part in the Irish Open Main Event in Dublin, one of the oldest live poker events in Europe.
It was a massive field of 700 entries and Scott made it all the way to heads-up. The elusive win escaped her as Sweden’s Christer Johansson came out on top. However, her runner-up finish was sweetened by €312,600 and her biggest poker score to date.
On top of that came another deep run in the 2009 WSOP Main Event as she became the second ever woman to cash in consecutive years. Her presence on TV also grew during that time, as she became the co-host of GSN’s High Stakes Poker for the sixth season in 2010 and worked as a sideline reporter for the ESPN coverage of WSOP in 2011.
As one can imagine from being involved in the international poker scene, there are plenty of tales to be told but those can be tricky to navigate.
“I have too many stories that I wouldn’t really want out there in print for everyone to read. I’m a fairly private person but most of my writing does tend to be very personal, so it makes for an uncomfortable balance. I may write an autobiography for my daughter to read, one day.”
Another aspect she considers is the level of expectation poker fans might have from public figures in the scene. Whether they want it or not, these players may be seen as role models and with that comes a lot of responsibility. It can be a task many are not familiar or are uncomfortable with, which Kara acknowledges.
“We ask that of WSOP Main Event champs and many of them are likewise uncomfortable with the idea. As brand ambassadors, we are representing poker companies and the poker community more widely, though. I think it’s important to know that and be aware that how we act and what we say does impact how some people see poker.”
At the same time, this exact scenario also represents a tremendous opportunity to grow the game in a positive way. While millions of people all over the world enjoy poker as a hobby or profession, it’s still a niche market in the mainstream media and riddled with prejudices and assumptions.
And one area in which poker can certainly grow is by attracting and keeping around more women. There are plenty of them who earn a living but in the grand scheme of things, they are in the minority.
“It’s important to me to try to support other women in poker and lift them up when I can. I know how tough it can be sometimes and having other women’s support has made things easier for me, that’s for sure. Passing that along is important.”
Kara Scott has become one of the most-well known presenters in the world of poker, and has had her experiences published in several magazines and columns over the years. She has also gained plenty of experience in front of the camera and learnt a few poker lessons along the way.
“Broadcasting was what brought me into poker so it certainly helped. Being able to interview great players and being around to see which ones were again and again reaching the winners circles; that let me see the kinds of people who were succeeding. It made it clear to me that hard work and preparation were a big part of poker success.”
Being ready to jump at any time in front of the camera can come with several challenges, as the hours are often very unpredictable and long especially during major festivals. According to Kara, “it’s easy to fall back on the same cliches when tired. It can be difficult to stretch yourself and treat every interview and every hand like it’s completely fresh.”
When asked what advice she would give her younger self, Kara had this to say.
“It would be to listen to my gut more and not feel like I have to stay in situations that aren’t right for me. Whether that’s work or relationships or whatever. As I get older, I learn that it’s okay to put myself first and advocate for what I want. I wish I’d learned that earlier.”
Follow Kara on Twitter - whether you’re after some poker puns, want to discuss recipes, or to keep up with this superstar presenter!
Image Credits: PokerNews.