EPT’s Marc Convey Talks to FlushDraw
Most of you are probably familiar with the name Marc Convey. He’s been a staple of the live reporting poker fraternity for what seems like forever. I’ve known Marc for a few years after meeting him at an EPT event, as well as my habit of tweeting the commentary booth of EPT Live with amusing comments and information. I’ve always considered him a fount of EPT knowledge on legs. Luckily for me, and everyone else, he’s also one of the nicest guys I’ve met in poker media. While we were both in the Grand Connaught Rooms at the PokerStars London EPT (in association with the Hippodrome Casino London), and in between live-blogging the UKIPT high roller and commentating on the EPT Main Event, we found a quiet spot and caught up on how his life was going.
FlushDraw: How does it feel to move into live commentary from live blogging? Has it changed anything for you?
Convey: I think that, personally, it’s rejuvenated me. I was blogging for so many years that it gets to a point where there are only so many ways you can describe how a hand plays out, and I felt that I needed a new challenge. A few years ago I set myself what I thought at the time was an unrealistic target, a pipe dream if you like, of being one of the commentators. But, I managed to get a few trial runs and they seemed to like what I did. When they made the decision to expand the commentary, do it from Day 1a onward, they needed a bigger team. James (Hartigan) and Joe (Stapleton) are brilliant, but they can’t be in two places at once. They have to do a lot of filming for the TV show. So they expanded the team from two to four, and a few people put me forward which was really nice.
I think it’s also helped my blogging, I still really enjoy doing the live updates, and I do them still for the UKIPT. If anything, I think it’s made my writing for that even better because I’m much fresher for it.
It’s made me find a new love for the game in a way; it’s stopped me going stale. It’s a lot more pressure because it’s the flagship medium for people to interact with. The numbers are huge. We broke the viewer number record in Barcelona. I haven’t been told what that number is yet, but the powers that be are very happy. They know it’s becoming a really powerful tool. They also know that they want to protect the integrity of the product. They don’t want it to become too much of a vehicle for getting the corporate message across. They want it to be enjoyable.
FlushDraw: How do you think that works at the moment?
Convey: I think at the moment we’ve got the balance right. I guess being in the middle of it makes it hard for me to have a proper perspective on it.
I do know that we’ve got to realise that everything that PokerStars does in terms with these tournaments is, in a way, a loss leader to maintain their presence online, because that is their core business. Everything we do is to try and attract more players to the PokerStars brand to play online. It is what it is. Everything is marketing in a way. The blogs, they’re not really journalism, they are marketing, but that doesn’t mean we can’t create a really good, fun, balanced product for viewers as well. I think at the moment we get it right.
FlushDraw: Has there ever been moment for you on the EPT Tour that you look back at and shudder?
Convey: The obvious one is the armed robbery in Berlin a few years ago, which happened to be on my birthday as well! Me and Kirsty Thompson (Head of Team Pro and President for Life of the UKIPT) have birthdays that are near to each other and we were going to jazz café that night. I mean, forget the money, my birthday was ruined!
FlushDraw: Is there anything you’ve done on tour you’d like to take back?
Convey: I’m definitely known for pushing the limits of what you can get away with in terms of cheekiness. So I have, believe it or not, had to reign myself back a bit for the webcast. A lot of people do come to me and say that they’re just waiting for me to overstep the line.
Flushdraw: You more than Stapes? B****y Hell!
Convey: I know! Maybe they think that because they see Stapes getting away with that, the more they think that I might try to compete and keep up with that? I’m not, I’m just trying to be myself as much as I can on air and a hell of a lot of babble comes out of my mouth.
I don’t really have any regrets. I have upset a few people, pushed the limits in terms of what is acceptable to say to someone, but we’re always learning about what we can get away with, aren’t we?
FlushDraw: The EPT Live team is currently top notch, but is there someone else out there you’d like to bring into the booth for just one stop?
Convey: That’s a really good question, ummmm….. I think maybe some of the darts commentators. Maybe the late Sid Waddell, he was phenomenal. I’d love to bring him back from the grave to do a day in the booth. I love the spectacle of the darts TV shows.
FlushDraw: Occasionally while in the booth, you and Mr. Hartigan do tend to clash a little over the NFL. Is that a bit, or are you really not a fan?
Convey: No, no, no. I actually think it’s a great game, I just do it to wind him up because I think as he really doesn’t like football, or soccer as he calls it, and I think just because he’s not into a game he doesn’t need to disrespect it. I do like the NFL, I just can’t help defending the rights of football and I just take the mick out of him to wind him up. He’s a great guy, but he’s very easy to wind up. It’s all funny and light-hearted; we laugh about it afterwards.
FlushDraw: Have you thought about where the next step in your career is going to be? I can’t think of too many spots in poker media that would be a step up.
Convey: I’d love to just keep doing poker, and maybe if we get back into the States there may be more live stream broadcasting to be done. So maybe more work to spread between the four of us. In terms of working for other tours, I just don’t think they do as good a job as we have done so far.
PokerStars puts a lot of money into production, so it’s not just about us four commentators. I’m sure there are many other people who could step into our shoes and do just as good a job, but what we have is the backup of the best production team in the industry. The amount of people, the amount of effort and thought and hard work that goes into putting on the broadcast. People just don’t realise at home. Other tours do try to do it, but they just don’t have the budget. They do the best that they can do with the resources available to them. We are just really lucky that we have more resources available to us than anyone else.
I’m happy with what I’m dong at the minute, but I have an eye on sports radio for the future.
FlushDraw: During the stream, a lot of people Tweet in during the show. How do you think that impacts the stream?
Convey: I think it’s what makes it. I think it’s the best thing about the stream. When I first started doing a few hours here and there, a few seasons ago, we didn’t have that Twitter interaction. It puts pressure on you as a commentator, and the great thing about it is you get the immediate feedback on the show. Most of it is thankfully positive, but you’re always going to get trolls online, but I think it makes it. It’s a direct line between us and our viewers, there’s not filtering, which is great.
FlushDraw: The stream is very well done and successful, but is there anything about it you’d like to change?
Convey: I think massages would be good. We’re four high-profile guys now, it’s stressful, and our shoulders get a bit tense. Our egos get tightened up, so if we could have a masseuse on call throughout all live streams and I get first dibs instead of Broughton, I think that would be ideal!
FlushDraw: Malta has just been announced as the new stop on the EPT. Are you excited?
Convey: Yeah, I’m really excited! I think it’s just too easy to go back to the same places time and time again. I think for us, and more importantly for the players, to have a new place to explore. Malta, it’s going to be in March; the weather’s going to be nice. It’s going to be ‘outdoors’ weather, and I’ve heard that the facilities, the hotel, everything is very reasonable price-wise, so the package costs shouldn’t be too expensive. We should be able to get a load of qualifiers in.
Now that we’ve got a reduced schedule compared to a couple of seasons ago, and we’re creating these bigger festivals, which have been a roaring success, it’s quality over quantity.
We kept on chatting about the European Poker Tour, and how it’s evolved and continues to do so, but unless you’re as big of a poker geek as we obviously are, it makes for dull reading. The next day, Marc was back in the EPT Live booth, covering the action as the players were whittled down on the way toward a champion. I may, or may not, have got him in trouble with a certain member of PokerStars Team SportStar over a less than politically correct comment he made on air, but that’s what the EPT Live stream is all about. It’s entertainment. It’s not full of high-level poker strategy and analysis. That would defeat the point.
While I know Marc is able to provide this kind of analysis, it’s not what I (and hundreds of thousands of others) want to hear when we tune into the show. We want the banter, the fun, and yes the poker, but the reason the EPT Live stream is the most successful live stream going is that they know their audience. The mob has spoken, and EPT Live, and Marc Convey will hopefully be around for a long time to come.