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How To Photograph A Poker Game

The hobby of photography whisks us away on adventures all over the planet showing us things in much greater detail.

Safaris take us to the dense jungles as animals go about life in their natural habitat. Underwater deep-sea dives take us to the depths of the Earth, showing us life and architecture that we’ll most likely never see upfront with our own eyes. It doesn’t have to be on a grand level; concert photos capture the energy of artists and creatives in a moment. Sports photography, despite being commonplace for a long time now, sometimes gets taken for granted. Some of the best moments in sports history are etched in time forever because of photos taken at precisely the right moment. This includes taking photos at poker events, a unique sport that some don’t always consider as such.

Damian Nigro is a famous poker photographer with over a decade of experience traveling and documenting poker competitions. He explained that when he was low on the money he used the last of it and took his organic interest in poker to travel to competitions and documented them. This eventually blossomed into casino managers contacting him to attend and photograph poker tournaments. If this sounds like something you’d be interested in, we’re going to provide a few tips on how to get your career started.

Capture The Action, Not The Play

As with any sport, there’s a lot going on from play to play, but the key in poker photography is to get the action. For example, you’re not just trying to photograph winning hands or players putting cards down. You’ll also capture those moments where players are in deep thought, trying to determine what they will play next. Even the smaller moments of action, like players conversing with each other between breaks or even the dealer’s involvement in the competition, are worth grabbing. The moment-to-moment action in a poker game is just as important as the match-clinching or tide-turning moments.

Understanding The Game

A fundamental part of poker photography is understanding how the game works; even Nigro, who we mentioned earlier, was a fan of the game and played casually. Thus it’s important to understand the basics of the game, at least, to help you navigate the playing field and be able to photograph the ebbs and flows of the match. Different variants of poker have different moments that raise the stakes and atmosphere. It’s important you’re ready for those moments. Remember, even poker chips have different values depending on their colors and knowing the size of the bet will direct you to certain shots as the tension rises. Keeping up with the game’s pace is important as certain variants, like Three-Card Poker, have high-intensity, quick-moving rounds. Missing even a second of the action can mean missing the chance for an incredible shot.

Try To Capture Every Aspect Of The Competition

When photographing a poker competition, it’s really easy to get wrapped up in the crucial moments which are naturally worth capturing. However, every aspect of the competition is important; the dealers, the winners, the losers, the audience, and the sponsors all of these show different aspects of the game. Even Nigro talked about the storytelling involved in poker photography, “If there are 500 people playing a tournament, there are 500 different stories to tell…the players, the gaming staff, the waiters…it is a gold mine of impressions and viewpoints and translates into great entertaining coverages.”

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