On Saturday, February 26th, the seventh season of “High Stakes Poker” will premiere on GSN. Hosting the upcoming cycle will be none other than former “Saturday Night Live” funny man Norm Macdonald, who sat down with Poker News Daily to discuss his new gig.
Poker News Daily: How did this come about?
Norm Macdonald: It only happened a couple of weeks ago. I was stunned by it. “High Stakes Poker” is my favorite poker show, so I was shocked that Gabe Kaplan wasn’t coming back. I thought he was the best announcer by far. I was a little reluctant to do it because I didn’t know if I’d be as good as him, so that was a little daunting.
PND: So you’re a fan of “High Stakes Poker” on GSN?
Norm Macdonald: I love it. I remember a huge pot where Gus Hansen had quads over Daniel Negreanu’s full house for a large amount of money. I remember that being very funny because they were locked in this fight and the other four guys were doing prop bets and having all of this small talk. That’s what I love about that whole world. No one ever breaks down into tears in cash games and that fascinates me. In tournaments, people are angry. In cash games, the guys are ultra cool. It’s beyond my comprehension.
PND: Have you ever done live announcing before?
Norm Macdonald: The only time I ever did it was at the Commerce Casino. They used to call a game at the Commerce online. I did that, but it was live and incredibly hard. You have to move at the speed they move and those guys are amazing. I think it’ll be slightly easier than that was, though.
Gabe had such insight into the game that you could tell it wasn’t fake. He really knew his poker. I used to put “High Stakes Poker” on mute and figure it out from scratch. That was a cool exercise because it took me so long to figure out what these guys figured out instantly.
The key was trying to put yourself in a person’s position and go through their thought process. Then, you’d figure out what cards the other person could possibly have and what moves they could possibly make. It’s easy in poker terms, but it’s hard to announce.
PND: Describe your announcing style. Can we expect you to be serious or jovial?
Norm Macdonald: I want to be respectful to the players. I certainly don’t want to yap all of the time. Sometimes I’ll be watching a televised poker program and there will be too much talking while the viewer is trying to listen to a conversation. These guys are pretty fascinating even when they’re not talking about poker, so I’m going to try not to tell people what the flop is when they can see it. I’m going to try to say as little as possible about what people can see with their eyes. If there’s a joke, I’ll say it and hope it doesn’t get in the way.
PND: Who is your favorite poker player and why?
Norm Macdonald: Durrrr is the coolest guy ever. When it’s Durrrr and Phil Ivey, it’s amazing. Durrrr is hand merging at the speed of light. That guy is fascinating. I also like Gavin Smith. He’s my favorite player ever. He’s hilarious. He’s lovable. He’s unpredictable. He’s a great gambler and a great poker player.
PND: When and where did you start playing poker?
Norm Macdonald: I discovered poker at the Mayfair Club and played Limit because it would slow down the bleeding. When I went to Las Vegas, I’d try to stay away from the tables and just play Limit Hold’em. I started by playing 100% of the hands and bringing as much money as I could. Sometimes it’d be a good night, but I’d still lose less than at the pits. Then, by osmosis, I got better and started realizing that it wasn’t really gambling. I started reading books and then I understood.
PND: You told us that you read PocketFives.com. Do you regularly read online poker forums?
Norm Macdonald: I love reading forums. I think I’ll stop once I start this analyst thing because there will be vicious things posted about me. I love the interplay of people’s opinions. It’s just endless.
PND: What do you play poker-wise?
Norm Macdonald: I’m at the Commerce a lot. If I’m here for a long time, then I’ll go there. If I’m on the road doing standup comedy, then I’ll just play a bunch of sit and gos to kill time.