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Poker Stories Podcast With Ali Nejad

by Card Player News Team |  Published: Nov 20, 2019

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Poker Stories is a long-form audio podcast series that features casual interviews with some of the game’s best players and personalities. Each episode highlights a well-known member of the poker world and dives deep into their favorite tales both on and off the felt.

Age: 41
Hometown: Albany, California

Ali Nejad is one of poker’s most experienced television personalities, having lent his talents to productions such as the NBC National Heads-Up Poker Championship, Poker Parlor, The Ultimate Poker Challenge, The Pro-Am Equalizer, and Poker After Dark. He has also done commentary for a majority of the flagship poker tours, including the World Poker Tour, European Poker Tour, World Series of Poker, and most recently, the Triton Millions.

The 41-year-old has also done his fair share of work outside of poker, having hosted Road Trip and UNite for ESPN, and The Daily Share for CNN. While attending UC Berkeley, he was tapped to host Total Request Live on MTV before tragedy changed the course of his career. Before stepping in front of poker cameras, the San Francisco-native worked as a prop and dealer in local cardrooms, eventually grinding his way up the cash game ranks. These days you can find Nejad on PokerGo, including coverage of the British Poker Open and Super High Roller Bowl in London.

Highlights from this interview include being confused for the pantyhose rapist, confidence vs. arrogance, landing a TV gig in high school, First Cut, consuming condiment cocktails at Cal, entering the tee pee kingdom, getting hired to host TRL, and why Carson Daly took the job instead, dealing with tragedy, self-destructive escapism into the poker world, befriending Prahlad Friedman and Erick Lindgren, propping his way up to the high-stakes games, a lifeline from SuChin Pak, playing soccer in a literal dump in Guatemala, a game of backgammon with the Ice Princess, a chance meeting with Mori Eskandani on the PartyPoker Million cruise, subbing in for Daniel Negreanu, NY to Bristol and back, landing a dream gig with ESPN, an infamous call for Justin Bonomo, a death match with Maria Ho, playing football with Kevin Durant, why Don Cheadle gets great service, a crooked 11-handed poker game, a low-limit $800-$1,600 game at Bellagio with Joanna Krupa, and the perspective of a 59-cent taco.

The Transcript Highlights

On Giving Up MTV’s TRL And Getting Back Into Television

Julio Rodriguez: This was before TRL (Total Request Live) was a thing. You had no idea what you were turning down.

Ali Nejad: Exactly. I had no idea. But look, MTV? Are you kidding me? I knew enough to know that was not a bad move for someone in my age bracket working in my industry. That was probably the quintessential opportunity. You’re big into pop culture, you get to meet and greet celebrities, athletes and musicians and be on the network that all the kids watched. Come on. That was clearly going to be awesome. And living in New York wouldn’t have sucked.

JR: I remember being in high school in Times Square, and only caring about seeing the TRL window.

AN: Yeah, all the kids would go after school with their signs. Obviously, I couldn’t have known how big and how long… I mean, it was a real long run there.

But I mean… no regrets. Obviously, I don’t have a choice. You just try to make the most of a bad situation. And that’s kind of what I did. Rather than throwing on my whites and working at the Cheesecake Factory while I was hunting jobs in LA in TV, I was able to play poker instead. I was able to make more money, make my own schedule, and have a blast doing so.

I mean, this was the early 2000s. It was amazing. Everybody knows and we all get nostalgic for it. We didn’t know how good we had it and we all took it for granted. I thought I would be able to walk into the Commerce until the end of time and find a $400-$800 game full of whales and marks. It was just that easy. Now I’ll walk up to a $80-$160 and be bum hunting, game selection. You know, what are the plaques in the mix?

Anyway, a couple years in, SuChin Pak called me. She said, ‘Hey Ali, what are you doing?’ And I said, ‘Hang on, I’m in a hand.’ I think I was just playing in an $8-$16 hold’em game. And she goes, ‘What?’ So I told her, ‘Yeah, I’m playing poker right now.’

And she said one word. She said, “Enough.”

We weren’t that close, you know, for her to call me out of left field like an intervention. But she said she was at 1515 Broadway in New York, and her and some producers were looking at her resume reel. She had been working at MTV at the time. They recognized me from having supposed to have worked there, and they asked her what I was up to.

JR: They wanted to know what pre-Carson was doing?

AN: Right. What’s that guy up to? Is he still in the industry? And SuChin lied and told them yes. So, they thought I would be good for this thing they were doing, a video game-based show. So within two weeks, she had me down in LA, meeting with her agent, signing with them, and booking this pilot. The pilot didn’t end up getting picked up, but it marked my return to television. ♠

You can check out the entirety of the interview in the audio player at the top of the page or download it directly to your device to play on the go from Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Google Play, Spotify, or your favorite podcast app.

Catch up on past episodes featuring notables such as Doyle Brunson, Daniel Negreanu, Bryn Kenney, Justin Bonomo, Nick Schulman, Barry Greenstein, Michael Mizrachi, Mike Sexton, Brian Rast, Freddy Deeb, Joe Cada, Layne Flack, Chris Moneymaker, Maria Ho and many more. If you like what you hear, be sure to subscribe to get the latest episodes automatically when they are released.