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Jay Rosenkrantz - The Storyteller of Online Poker

Jay Rosenkrantz The Storyteller of Online Poker

This week no deep tournament runs, bracelet bets or all-time-money-list related discussions. Jay Rosenkrantz is by no means a tournament player, but one of the true online cash game legends. Under his handle “pr1nnyraid” on Full Tilt Poker and “purplEUROS” on PokerStars he won millions, but poker hasn’t been a part of his daily routine for quite some time. The former star and producer of Two Months Two Million, founder of DeucesCracked, producer of From Busto to Robusto and creator of The Micros spent nearly three years working on a huge project which will totally change the outlook the world has on our beloved game, online poker. BET RAISE FOLD: The Story of Online Poker is to be released this summer and Rosenkrantz granted an hour of his time during these extremely busy times.

Frontpage photo: BET RAISE FOLD director/editor Ryan Firpo and Jay Rosenkrantz

Has it been a road filled with bad beats on your way to creating this movie, and maybe even tougher than it has been fun?
I would say it was equal parts very, very difficult and taxing, and at the same time incredibly exhilarating and fun. It’s definitely a fun thing to be making a movie about something that you love and have deep ties to. You really feel a responsibility to do this right, and make a lot of people, who want to see something like this, happy. It’s fun to be a part of the team working on realizing something as ambitious as that. On the other hand that responsibility can sort of seem maddening when things are going wrong. This project has devoured three years out of my life, and at times like when Black Friday happened, or when we applied to film festivals and weren’t getting in, it gave us a feeling of, “Can we really do this?”

Everyone had moments of doubt, and there were always issues coming up. Something would cost more money than we had budgeted, or we made a mistake in the motion graphics that we wanted. So we lost money there, and we had to come up with money from elsewhere. You have to make sacrifices, and it was a mixed bag, but I’m glad we’re here because now we get to look back on all of it and see how worthwhile the time spent was. It took so long, but now those three years of toiling away are just a memory. Now we’re moving into the exciting part. It’s surreal to know that we’re actually here. We have a finished movie and we get to show it to people.

Let’s just make a reference to the show you were previously on, Two Months Two Million. Were there times where a tilt room would’ve been nice during the process of making this movie?
Yeah totally! I had to create my own tilt room metaphor to stay sane and the gym was really good for me. Having a regular gym and writing routine was very important to me, just so I could focus on something completely unrelated to what I was working on. It’s good to be alone in the moment when you’re destroying yourself in the gym so you can forget everything else that’s swirling around outside. Having an actual tilt room would’ve been fun too though.

How expensive is it to make a movie?
Pretty expensive, but I haven’t talked to Taylor (Caby) to know how comfortable we are putting the exact budget out there. It would be cool to eventually release the budget to show where the money went and analyze our wins and mistakes. I’ve told people that the film cost more than $100,000 and less than $1,000,000. That might give you a sense of how expensive it can be, but it’s all relative to what kind of movie you’re trying to make. Documentaries are usually on the low end of movie budgets, especially now since the technology to make a great film has gotten a lot cheaper. Even during BET RAISE FOLD, which started production in 2010, we saw technology becoming so much cheaper and better towards the end. For instance, we wanted to achieve this type of shot where the camera would be sliding back and forth. We had watched a few “netizen” documentaries that were doing cool things with people who spend a lot of time on the Internet. In that genre they would have to figure out how to make scenes of people sitting behind a computer screen look visually interesting.

So the sliding camera was a way we saw to do this that seemed like it would work well for online poker. A few years ago achieving this kind of camera movement would’ve cost a ton of money. But towards the end of shooting, when we were running out of money and had just a few days left with each character, we found that we could buy some new portable tech to do this for just a few hundred dollars. By the next project this stuff will probably get even better and cheaper. So now we have the experience, we’ve learned from our mistakes here and the technology keeps getting cheaper and cheaper. It’s expensive to make movies, but it’s doable for anyone. We started out making short films, From Busto to Robusto, and the budget for those was closer to $10-20k. You can start smaller and build your way up while learning how to do it, kind of like poker.

When you were a professional poker player there were very many things that influenced your learning curve. Talking to players, reading articles, watching strategy videos and playing are all a part of that process, but how does that work when you decide to switch to making films?

I think it’s a very similar process. I went to film school, but after my pro poker career I had to retrain myself to be a filmmaker. I found myself doing this by applying all the lessons I had learned playing poker. In poker you can study, read all the books, watch all the training videos but if you don’t play poker, and play a ton of it, you’re not going to improve. You’re not really going to know what you’re doing; you’re just not going to get better at the game and make more money. It’s really the same thing I’ve seen with making films.

I produced the short films From Busto to Robusto, the reality show Two Months Two Million and The Micros which is a scripted animation of about six to seven minutes. Even at DeucesCracked, creating and overseeing the production of hour long training videos, provided me with useful experience and lessons. All of those are kind of the hands I put in, and I learned a lot from the people I worked closely with on all those projects. Kind of like the friends in poker and the people on 2p2 I learned a lot from, back when I was getting better at poker. In that sense it has been kind of similar. Through playing poker, coaching poker and training people on DeucesCracked. I learned more than poker in doing that, I learned about how I learn best. Being able to take the lessons from how I improved at poker and apply them to improve at filmmaking and story telling. That has been very useful and accelerated my learning curve. It’s just the way the human mind learns a skill. You need practice, repetition, to analyze and talk about it with other people. You really need to just do, you can’t just sit around and dream about it.

Interview by Remko Rinkema
Remko Rinkema - Interviewer

Remko Rinkema has covered the biggest poker tournaments in the world since 2008, including many WSOP, EPT, Aussie Millions, APPT, MCOP and Unibet Open events. As an in-depth interview and story enthusiast he tries to do things a little differently. Besides the usual writings Rinkema grabs every chance to appear on podcasts, live streams and in the occasional video.

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