An Exclusive Interview With Kara Scott
photo by Fabian Grubler
Kara Scott is a Canadian/British TV host, broadcaster, anchor and reporter for many popular TV shows and events, including the World Series of Poker on ESPN. Recently she joined Team 888Poker, becoming their brand ambassador.
Kara lives in Ljubljana, Slovenia with her husband Giovanni Rizzo.
Iza: Thank you for a chance to talk with you, Kara. Let’s start with a quick question about our city and then come back to Ljubljana and Slovenia at the very end. What are your impressions about Ljubljana after living here for a year, seeing it now in all four seasons?
Kara Scott: It’s a little embarrassing but the best way to say it is that I have a huge crush on Ljubljana! I really adore this city. It became, almost immediately, my favourite place I’ve ever lived and it just gets more so all the time.
There’s something so alive and joyful about Ljubljana and her people, that coming home after long trips for work is a huge pleasure. I tend to bore all my friends with how amazing it is here and how they should come and visit me. They joke that I’m the unofficial tourism board for the city!
photo by Fabian Grubler
Iza: You live an exciting life, traveling to fine places, meeting interesting people, attending and hosting classy events. It’s a world of style, fashion and everything that goes with it. How does it look from your perspective and what do you like the most?
Kara Scott: You’d think that after years of living and working in this lifestyle that it would become commonplace, but I’m still constantly amazed that this is how I get to make my living. I always wanted to travel and see the world when I was a child, so being paid to arrive in fantastic new places all the time means that I’m definitely living my dream. It can become a bit physically taxing though – I don’t think our bodies were meant to be in different time zones every week! It takes its toll but is still very much worth it.
I think my favourite part is being able to go to brand new places. Poker tends to stick to the same places and the same casinos, but every once in a while, I get the chance to see somewhere entirely new to me. I visited Georgia last year to attend a press conference about the World Series of Poker Circuit expanding into that part of the world, and that was such a treat. They gave me a tour guide who showed me all over Tbilisi and outside the city as well. Learning the history of places is fascinating to me.
photo by Fabian Grubler
Iza: You are involved in many different projects, and it’s not easy to understand what exactly it is that you do. How would you describe your work and could you tell us how your average week looks?
Kara Scott: Instead of having one average kind of week, I have three and just cycle through them all the time. The TV week, the playing poker week, and the at-home, relaxing week.
When I’m in Vegas working on the World Series or doing another TV show, it’s very intense. I’ll wake up around 8.30, roll out of bed and meet my makeup and hair artist Cara Maccianti around 9 a.m. I’m lucky that we’ve worked together for so long and have become good friends, so she usually drives by and picks me up at my hotel. As a thank you, I grab us both our first of many coffees and we chat and catch up on our drive to the set.
I go over my notes and look at the plan for the day while Cara does her magic and makes me camera-ready. Then, I’ll head to a production meeting with the producers and other talent to discuss stories. I’ll hang around the tournament area before play begins, getting quotes from players or listening for good story angles to report on.
The poker itself starts around noon and after that, I’ll be around digging up stories and reporting them to the ESPN cameras, or I’ll be interviewing players. When I’m not on camera, I’m carefully watching the poker being played on the feature table, so that I know what might be developing. Play lasts until around midnight/1 a.m. (although it can definitely go later). We finish for the day just after the players do, and then it’s a race to run back to our hotels to get as much sleep as we can before doing it all over again the next day, usually for about a week.
I used to have TV jobs in England that could stretch to 10 days in a row, and when you’re working on five hours of sleep a night – phew – that’s intense. I’m actually glad not to be doing those anymore! I don’t think I have the stamina I used to.
When I’m at home, I’m either preparing for a TV job or I’m collapsing on the sofa for a few days to get over jet lag and get myself rested up. I’ll work on one of my video projects (interviewing players online or a new ‘poker update’ video that I started for 2017). I answer emails, catch up on the paperwork of life that definitely builds up when you spend a lot of time traveling, and of course I try to see my friends in Ljubljana as much as possible.
This city is such a great place to live that we always have a lot to choose from. We’ll go for walks, drink wine, watch movies, go see art, attend one of the many festivals, grab a great dinner… there’s always so much to do and not enough time to do it in!
And my third kind of ‘average week’ is when I’m traveling to play poker. I usually wake up a couple of hours before I need to sit down at the table, and I’ll have a solid breakfast and answer my emails. Then I’ll spend (hopefully – if all goes well!) 12 hours sitting and playing poker, trying to outsmart the other players. We usually get an hour for a dinner break and a 15-minute break every two hours to stretch our legs, but otherwise it’s just poker all day, every day!
photo by Fabian Grubler
Iza: You are a popular TV personality, a true celebrity in the world of poker, a game that is played and loved by millions. What does your success mean to you, and where do you wish your career would go from here?
Kara Scott: I’m pretty amazed by where my career has brought me. Poker is still a relatively new industry, so the fact that I’ve been here 12 years kind of means I’m one of the ‘old guard’ now. I’ve been able to work on every single TV show that I wanted to, had articles and stories in all the major poker magazines, I’ve been interviewed by mainstream news outlets, I’m considered an expert at what I do… all of that makes me feel very proud. I worked pretty hard and sacrificed a lot over the years to find this success. I feel quietly grateful for it. I’m quite aware that I was also *very* lucky to be in the right place at the right time. Success is always a combination of luck and hard work. I never trust people who say it was all their own doing!
As for where I wish my career would go, that’s a good question. I love my job as an anchor on ESPN for the World Series of Poker, and I like being an ambassador for this game that stretches my brain and keeps me competitive. I’m curious to see where it takes me next but I have no grand ambitions, besides to find the time to enjoy more of my life with my husband and friends in Slovenia.
photo by Fabian Grubler
Iza: Your beginnings weren’t so easy, as you were starting from scratch. I think it took a lot of determination, hard work and courage to get where you are today. And possibly a bit of luck. How did it happen or, better yet, how did you make it happen?
Kara Scott: Like anything, poker and TV broadcasting both took a lot of hard work. They both seem like the kind of glamorous jobs that just fall into your lap from the sky but in reality, there’s a lot of self-education to do. With poker, I initially read everything I could on the subject, from online forums to strategy books. I’ve also worked with a number of coaches over the years for different parts of my game, and I spent a lot of time going over old hand histories, pinpointing weak spots in my game and working on closing those gaps.
Now, I spend the bulk of my self-education on broadcasting, so my poker game has actually fallen behind. I realised that I couldn’t keep trying to do everything, so I decided some time ago to play poker mostly for fun, rather than as a way to make living. Broadcasting is my career and poker is more of an all-consuming hobby!
Iza: Many successful people attribute their success to a single breakthrough event — a small role in a movie or a short story published. Was there a similar situation in your life which opened doors to really big opportunities for you?
Kara Scott: I never would have gotten involved in poker if I’d not already been working in TV. I was a sports reporter and a TV producer in England when I was offered a job hosting a poker show. I was supposed to be the ‘novice’ who would ask questions of the professional poker analysts on the show and the role was perfect for me! I’d played games my whole life but not really poker, so I fit the novice role very well.
I ended up being one of the hosts of a show in the UK called Poker Night Live, which was a very fast way for me to learn the game and get expert advice. That was the start of my love affair with the game, and since then, I’ve not gone back to Sports TV or actually had time at all for anything else!
photo by Fabian Grubler
Your early years
Iza: You grew up in the wilds of Northern Alberta, Canada. Was there something — a favorite school subject, a hobby, an emerging talent or interest — which could have hinted that one day your hometown would become too small for you and that you’d leave it to explore the world?
Kara Scott: I was always a big reader. My parents had so many books covering the walls of our home, and Alberta winters can be bitterly cold, so indoor activities were a must. We played a lot of card games, and I read everything I could get my hands on. I loved stories about other lands, so I suppose it’s not surprising that I ended up in a career that lets me travel and experience these stories first hand.
I genuinely never thought I’d be on TV, though. I was quite shy and awkward as a kid, so the idea that I’d end up speaking to millions of people, live on television would have made kid-me laugh.
Iza: It seems that a nomadic lifestyle is written in your genes. Your family was often on the road for longer periods of time. How did such a lifestyle shape your character and maybe fuel your desire to see more and achieve more?
Kara Scott: I’ve always had what we call in Canada ‘itchy feet’. As in, they’re always itching to travel somewhere new. I think I probably did get that from my parents. It can be a wonderful thing – I get to see so much – but it can also lead to a somewhat disjointed life as well, and make it tough to know where to call home.
I grew up in Canada but haven’t lived there since the late 90s, and although I’m also British by citizenship, I’ve not lived there in a long while. Slovenia is the 5th country I’ve lived in and I adore it. It’s my favourite so far, by far and I would dearly love to put down roots here. There’s something about it that makes me want to buy a home and nest.
photo by BJ Nemeth
Iza: Winters up north in Alberta are long and cold, and your family used to play a lot of board games and card games to pass the time. You loved poker but lost it for a long time, and it was actually backgammon which brought you back to the world of games. How did it happen?
Kara Scott: True, we did play a lot of games growing up. I played some poker when I was very young but it was 5 card draw, not the Texas Hold’em I play now.
When I lived in London and was working in Sports TV (I had a show about Muay Thai that I hosted and was one of the producers for), I was also always auditioning for other, new work. Working in TV is hard when you’re starting out and you have to constantly be grinding, looking for work and taking things that pay little to nothing. It can be really difficult to be working full time to make enough money for rent and food, while also trying to work full time (in TV) to get experience and get ahead.
I was a struggling TV host, trying to pay my bills and not always managing it. I decided to give myself one last shot at TV and if I didn’t get the job, I was going to go back to teaching and get a ‘real’ job so I could move on with my life. I was an overly-earnest and slightly dramatic 20-something so I told myself this was my last shot!
I managed to get the job to host a huge Backgammon event in Monte Carlo. That was the first time I really got to see anything else of Europe and it was also the job that got noticed by the poker channel, which brought me into the game.
Iza: You have studied Muay Thai and also competed in this sport. Both card games and martial arts show, I think, that you enjoy a good contest, that competition is important to you. Would you say that being competitive helped you achieve the level of success you enjoy in your professional career today?
Kara Scott: Definitely. Competition has been a driving force for me for a long time. I don’t usually feel very competitive against other people (which is actually a bad thing for my poker game) but more just against myself. I like to beat my own records, to go farther, to push myself. It’s the same in martial arts, in poker and in TV. I like being able to do things that people don’t think I can.
I’m also a believer that failure is not a bad thing. When we fail, it’s just because we’re trying to do things that are really hard. If we never fail, we’re probably not pushing ourselves enough or stretching to our full capabilities. Failure can be a great teacher and a stepping stone to improvement. It shows us where work is needed for us to get better and that’s a huge help in finding success.
Iza: Your original plan was to leave Canada to work in education, to be a teacher, possibly in a less-developed country. But after just a few years as a school teacher in London your life took a surprising turn…
Kara Scott: It certainly did. I spent my first full year as a teacher in a really challenging school in North London. It was such a ‘challenging’ school that the BBC actually did a documentary there for the full year to show how hard it was. For a small town Canadian girl, working in a big inner city school had its difficulties.
It was an intense year for me, and even though I did stay in teaching for a few more years, I’d lost my love for it and I wasn’t dealing well with the stress. I’d even snapped a few of my back teeth from grinding them during the day! I decided to quit teaching full time and just took small, supply teaching jobs instead while I looked at what else I could do.
The coach I’d been working with for Muay Thai in my spare time mentioned a friend of his who had a fight sports TV show that needed a host. I had no work and nothing to lose, so I decided to go for it. And the rest kind of flowed from there!
Next destination: Slovenia
Iza: After you left Canada at a very young age, your world travel adventures started, and in a big way. In the next decade and a half you lived and worked in four different countries and moved more than 25 times! Was this tavel work-related or was it your restless nomadic soul?
Kara Scott: My family was on the road a lot when I was a young child, so I think there’s also some truth in the idea that being a bit ‘footloose’ is in my blood.
I think … no, I KNOW that my life would have been much easier and more simple if I’d been a bit less flighty and found a place to put down roots. It certainly wouldn’t have been as much fun or as full of adventure, though.
There are always good and bad sides to everything, and living a nomadic life is no different. It becomes hard to put down roots after a while, which I think is partly why we’re so keen to do that here in Slovenia. I want to buy a house, spend time in a garden, become part of the community – all those things that can’t happen when living out of a suitcase.
Iza: United States didn’t feel quite right for you, but when you returned to Italy you felt instantly at home. Was it the culture, your family roots, the language (I heard you speak Italian on YouTube!) that helped with that?
Kara Scott: Ooooh, my Italian is so bad! My mother’s family was Italian and so I have a lot of very warm memories of my grandmother’s cooking and singing songs in Italian and her stories … it did feel a bit like coming home.
The lifestyle and the belief that food is VERY important in life, those things really matched my own thinking. The big difficulty for me there was that I didn’t speak very good Italian. I’ve been studying it for years now, but I’m still not fluent, which isn’t great as all of my husband’s family speak Italian! It became quite frustrating and I found it hard to make friends in Parma, where we lived.
In fact, one of the reasons we wanted to move, was to find somewhere I might feel a bit less alien because of the language. I’ve been taking some Slovenian classes on and off, but I must admit, I’m not very good at it. It’s going to take me even longer to become conversational in Slovenian, but at least I’m able to use my English in the meantime, to navigate life in the city. That makes a huge difference.
Iza: At about that time, you met your future husband Giovanni Rizzo who also works in entertainment business. Not long after you got married you decided to leave Italy and look for your country number five. Why did you choose Slovenia as your new home and not some other country from your short list?
Kara Scott: We had a few different countries that we were interested in looking at, but the first one we visited was Slovenia. It was just a drive from our home in Parma, so we jumped in the car and decided to check it out. It really was love at first sight. We didn’t even look at the other places on our list after that, and instead just found our new house and moved in. We’re a little impulsive, you could say.
We worked with some great people at Fine Ljubljana Apartments who spent hours helping us find the perfect house and also just showing us a bit of this new city we were moving to. It all felt so warm and welcoming and of course, Ljubljana is also just an incredibly beautiful city. The pedestrianised centre really clinched it for us though. It seemed like a city designed for quality of life.
Living in Ljubljana
Iza: You still travel a lot for work, but maybe less than in the past. Do you find Ljubljana easy to travel to and from and how do you like its location and size in general?
Kara Scott: The airport is great, although my destinations usually mean that I have one extra flight on my journey. If they started a direct flight to LA or Las Vegas from Ljubljana, I’d be overjoyed! The small amount of extra travel is worth it though. It’s such a friendly and easy-to-use airport. Plus, it’s only 20 minutes from our house. Doesn’t get better than that! And for European destinations, it’s perfect.
Iza: Even though Ljubljana is a small city, there is always something going on which I think is something you clearly enjoy too. You even made it into a hashtag #randomhappeningsinljubljana for you and others to go back and revisit. Is this city dear to you because it’s actually very much like you: joyful, active, optimistic?
Kara Scott: I hope I’m those things! Ljubljana certainly makes me feel this way and that is part of what I love about it. There’s so much random joy in this city. It’s around the corner, all the time. There are so many festivals and street performers and food celebrations – it feels so alive and joyful!
Iza: Growing up on a small farm in Canada, you learned to appreciate the hard work needed to produce food. Because of this bond with nature, food was never just a source of energy to you but a delicious pleasure, a celebration of life. Are you able to experience some of this here in Slovenia?
Kara Scott: Absolutely. This is one of the things I adore about living here. People seem to really care about good quality, fresh food in a way that is for everyone. In some places I’ve lived, you can buy great, fresh food but only at a very high cost. Here, it feels like eating well is something that is far more attainable and not treated as a ‘luxury’.
I was a big fan of the guys who started the Foodko company here in Ljubljana and I think the Origin Trails app they’ve created to track food quality and increase the transparency in our food supply is really interesting. It’s so forward thinking and I hope they go far!
One of the first places I ‘found’ when wandering around the city was Sladkarnica in Marmeladnica Lotos (or I just called it the great jam place!). It exemplified to me, finding people who love food and have such joy in fresh things, while also being super welcoming. My mother in law adores the blueberry so every time I go to Italy to visit her, I take her some and am immediately in her good books.
Iza: Your husband Giovanni’s family comes from southern Italy. Actually they are one of the best producers of local organic foods. Does he miss Italian delicacies, that perfect tomato with the best buffalo mozzarella?
Kara Scott: We’re lucky that we get to travel back to visit his family fairly often and stay on their farm to eat all the buffalo mozzarella we can! Plus, the food in Slovenia really is so good that there’s almost nothing we miss. Actually, there is one thing. Tomatoes! For some reason they just don’t taste the same here as they do in Italy. We’ve even tried growing our own but with no luck. If anyone knows what we’re doing wrong, tell me. 😉
Iza: Speaking of food, do you have your favorite restaurants in Ljubljana and your favorite food stores? Maybe you like to visit food events such as Restaurant Week or Odprta Kuhna (Open Kitchen)?
Kara Scott: When we have reason to celebrate (like my husband’s birthday recently, or an anniversary) we’ll go to Valvas’or. We’ve been there so many times and they always treat us so well, showing us new foods and bringing out interesting wines that they think we’d like to try. In the summer, sitting outside for a meal and watching the world go by is just perfect. I think the fact that they were the first place we ever ate a meal in Ljubljana also makes it special to us.
If you want a more relaxed meal, then going to Pop’s or Hood Burger are both great options. Pop’s has an amazing selection of beers and does really high-end burgers. Hood has a fantastic Philly cheese steak that I just can’t stop eating.
Monstera Bistro is also a huge hit. They do the most incredible food there and it’s so pretty! It’s like eating a painting, only tastier.
And oh yes, the food festivals and the regular Odprta Kuhna are real favourites of mine. The atmosphere of Open Kitchen is almost better (almost, but not quite!) than the food itself. It’s so relaxed and you can try to many new things. Being able to eat the food of celebrated Slovenian chef Ana Roš while listening to good music, outside with friends? That’s not something you can do in just any city. This place is special.
photo by RevolutionPix for GPI
Iza: Please share any other favorite place you love in Ljubljana, a picture perfect spot or a place to relax and enjoy the day in the city…
Kara Scott: I have so many favourite spots that it’s hard to choose!
One of my favourite places is the daily market in the centre. I have my usual fruit and vegetable vendors who I see a couple of times a week. I love how it’s all very seasonal and local produce. At different times of the year, you can find new and interesting things to cook and it changes all the time. All of the colours and smells make this one of my happiest spots anywhere.
In the evening, I might go to either Centralna Postaja or Movia and drink a glass or two of wine with some good friends. I really like the ambiance in Movia and they know so much about Slovenian wines that I’m always learning something new.
I’m a lover of graphic novels and comic books too, so I might go have a coffee in Pritlicje and check out the new titles in the comic book store that’s by their entrance. They always have some really interesting stuff.
For ice cream, Ljubljana has so many great spots but my favourite is Fetiche, by the river. They have a homemade ginger ice cream that is perfect after a big dinner.
And I think my favourite sight in the city is when we’re walking into the centre and we turn the corner into Kongresni Trg. The whole view opens up and you can see the castle and people walking around in the sunshine. There’s something about that view that always makes both Giovanni and I take a big, deep, satisfied breath of air, no matter how much we’ve had on our minds.
Iza: It’s so nice to see that you are giving back to community (and economy) of your new home country by promoting Slovenian creative works…
Kara Scott: You’ll often see me wearing Slovenian designs when I can, whether it’s a Nina Susnjara dress while I’m hosting an award ceremony or Martina Obid Mlakar jewelry while I’m on TV (which I’m a bit obsessed by and have so many pieces!)
Iza: Thank you so much, Kara, for taking the time off your busy schedule. It was a true pleasure talking with you today!
Kara Scott: Thanks for asking me to be a part of this! I’m such a fan of this amazing city and it’s great to be able to talk about that.
Contact Kara Scott
If you are interested in hiring Kara for your event or project you can send her a message via the form below or through her website.