The Travel Channel's World Poker Tour is to card-game enthusiasts what Fox's American Idol is to wannabe pop music stars: The stakes are large, and the competition can be intoxicating. Even celebrities such as Ben Affleck have been bluffing on Bravo's Celebrity Poker Showdown. "The word is out -- poker is fun," says Barry Shulman, champion player and publisher of Card Player magazine, grinning as if he's holding a royal flush. (A video interview with Shulman is also available.)
Shulman began playing poker while in college in the 1960s, but he didn't have much time to hone his skills while working for the next 25 years as a real estate developer in the Seattle area. It wasn't until the mid-1990s, when he retired to Las Vegas and started playing more that he caught the "poker bug."
Shulman decided to go back to work, and he used his retirement nest egg to purchase Card Player, which he calls "the bible in the poker industry" and which he read religiously to learn the game, in 1999. Published 26 times a year, Card Player has expanded from being just a free handout in casino poker rooms to a subscription publication that hit newstands at the end of 2003.
The colorful 128 pages are still filled with casino ads, with a cover story about a top player and additional columns by the best practitioners of the game. "Here I am now, working harder than I've ever worked," Shulman says. "Don't have time to play poker anymore, but I'm having a great time building the magazine and our Internet site."
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