Sign Up For Card Player's Newsletter And Free Bi-Monthly Online Magazine

Courtney Friel: World Poker Tour's Queen Among Kings

by Allyn Shulman |  Published: Dec 01, 2005

Photography courtesy of WPT

Flashing a radiant smile, former news anchor Courtney Friel explained how excited she is to be the new host of the World Poker Tour: "I love to be in the center of poker, because I have to be where the action is, and poker is definitely hot! I am so excited to be the new face of the World Poker Tour." Courtney Friel will replace Shana Hiatt as the World Poker Tour host for Season IV, which is now being taped and scheduled to air in March of 2006.

Courtney is not just another pretty face, although her striking beauty is undeniable and almost distracting. Having spent her career as an investigative reporter, 25-year-old Courtney brings a lot to the table. She is comfortable in front of a camera, knows how to draw people out, and is ever in search of the great "sound bite" – that is, a wonderful television moment. Equipped with a bachelor of arts in political science and a minor in broadcast journalism from San Diego State University in San Diego, California, Courtney has always loved working both behind the camera and in front of it. She half-jokingly admitted that she'd like WPT Director Steve Lipscomb's job of producing the show, quickly adding that she was kidding and that Steve and all the other folks at the World Poker Tour are wonderful to work with.

From the time she was a little girl, she has loved investigative reporting. She is interested in knowing people from the inside out. She loves to probe. During the interview, Courtney laughed as I quizzed her about this and that, explaining that she is used to being the person asking the questions and not the one answering them.

While growing up with two younger sisters in Philly, it was not unusual for Courtney to bury herself behind a video camera and follow around one of her family members while asking incessant questions. Courtney adds: "By the way, my two sisters, Lindsay, 21, and Meredith, 23, are cute and single." Do they have similar aspirations? "No," Courtney explained, "they're afraid of the camera."

At the tender age of 25, Courtney has landed the kind of job that other young women can only dream of having. Yet, she clearly did not just stumble upon it. She is a major worker bee. Intense, articulate, and driven, she has successfully held many jobs prior to landing this one. Let's take a look.

Besides Courtney's self-evident talent, you can't help but notice that she is an absolute beauty. We met in Paris prior to the shooting of the tournament at the Aviation Club on the Champs-Elysées the day after the Tour de France. The streets were still bustling with people and excitement. Courtney fit right in. When she arrived, she apologized for dropping by just before going into makeup, as it was such a busy day. Without a stitch of makeup on her face, she was one of those girls who are naturally striking. She has flashy white teeth and a dazzling smile that just doesn't quit. As a matter of fact, I found her to be more beautiful before she was all dolled up for the cameras. Best of all, she is as sweet and gracious as she is beautiful.

Not a bit pretentious, the pitch in her voice rose with excitement as she talked about the thrill of being flown to Paris to do a shoot. "It's the top job; it's the job to aspire to, and I've got it. It's a dream come true. I mean, here I am doing a shoot in Paris!"

No doubt, the World Poker Tour has picked another winner. Courtney is engaging, intelligent, and well-spoken. In one breath, she was childlike when describing her excitement about being in Paris one day, Aruba the next, and then on to a shoot in Las Vegas. In the very next breath, she was articulate and professional, explaining that she will do whatever is necessary to be great at her job. She wants to learn the game of poker as well as she knows reporting. She was going to boot camp, where Mike Sexton would teach her the basics of poker.

After the interview, I met up with Mike Sexton and Steve Lipscomb at the Aviation Club. Both agreed that Courtney was a great choice, and they love working with her. When I told Steve that she wants his job, he just laughed and shrugged, feigning defeat.

A few weeks after the interview, Courtney was excited to report that she went to boot camp and won her very first tournament, beating boot camp director Mike Sexton himself and winning a WPT chip set. "Everyone was laughing because I was so nervous.I needed Pepcid AC, it was so intense. I was the only player who had never played poker before. You can burn calories stressing out playing poker. Before the tournament, we all talked, but during the tournament, everyone's poker faces were so intense. It was hilarious. I got pocket aces and my face got all red because I wasn't sure how to play them. I tried so hard to shuffle the chips, I think I got carpal tunnel syndrome!"

With great anticipation, Courtney looks forward to interviewing the players, learning more about poker, and adding her own special touch to the flavor of the World Poker Tour. Courtney's multifaceted undertakings range from being a finalist for Miss Tennessee USA and Miss California USA to being a sky diver, a sushi chef, a freelance reporter, a news correspondent, a good softball player, and a host for a video game show. When she's not torturing herself with a regular Spin Class to stay in shape, she might be found taking a long power walk, either on the beach or in the canyon by her home. Never without her trusty iPod, she listens to rap and hip-hop. "I'm a ghetto princess. I just can't walk to something slow!"

Her great loves include her new hubby, her work, the outdoors, and especially her two cats. "Tucker is my kitten and Carmen is 2. Carmen is wonderful, but a brat. She knows how cute she is. Tucker sleeps with me. We spoon."

When asked what she sees in her future, she lit up: "I am really excited to see where I am in a few months. I want to play poker, understand poker, interview players, and hopefully produce some segments. The WPT is like a family. I'm really excited to be working with such a great group of people, doing such a fun and rewarding job."