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Poker News | World Poker News

Ante Up! Hosts Raise The Stakes Of Award-Winning Podcast

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When Chris Cosenza approached Scott Long about doing a poker podcast for the St. Petersburg Times three years ago, it had about as much of a chance of lasting this long as pocket Aces holding up at a $2-$4 Limit table with eight drunk calling stations.

Tbt*, the Times' alternative entertainment publication, was pushing its staff to do Podcasts because they were considered new, hip and cool and could attract younger readers, something newspapers desperately want in this age of declining circulation.

But Long was a much more traditional business editor, and sure, he wrote a poker column, Bet On It, for the tbt*, but Long knew nothing about Podcasts and had no broadcasting experience. In fact, when Cosenza asked Long about doing it, something he would call Ante Up!, Long answered with, "A Pod-What?"

Long also barely knew Cosenza. Cosenza was on the staff of the tbt* and loved poker after catching the bug the way millions did, after Chris Moneymaker won the Main Event in 2003. So Cosenza would grab Long in quiet moments to talk poker, and they had just started playing together in a loosely organized home game.

Now they would be expected to sit at a microphone, as if they were DJs at a radio station, and talk poker together like old friends for an entertaining show that people could play on their iPods.

However, against those odds, the kind of odds that normally would make the two poker players squirm, they became fast friends, found the chemistry of the "Seinfeld" ensemble and even won a major award.

Now they're business partners.

The two are leaving the Times to start their own company, Ante Up Publishing. And the Podcast is at the center of it.

Thanks to the chemistry that developed only six months after that first unsteady show, Ante Up! grew into something of a sensation. Last year it won Bluff Magazine's Podcast Of The Year and attracts listeners from all over the world.

Now Cosenza and Long want to capitalize on the show's burgeoning popularity, even as other poker podcasts die off. St. Petersburg is a huge publication, and yet Ante Up! seems to have outgrown it. For two years, Cosenza and Long had more ideas and wanted to expand the show, and the paper never seemed interested, he said.

"The beginning of the year, we got a little frustrated, and we started to think we could grow it on our own," Long said in a phone interview. "We never thought we could make a living on the Podcast, but I literally woke up one night and thought, 'Hey, a magazine.' In a weird way, that's allowing us to continue to do the Podcast, which is what we've always wanted to do."

That magazine is Ante Up Magazine, a publication that will cover Florida's poker scene. Long said the two had no desire to tackle the national niche already occupied by several other publications and Web sites. But the two made many contacts in many of the state's 30 poker rooms and believe they've got a handle on Florida's poker scene, one of the largest in the country.

When it started, The Times' idea of a Podcast was a conversation that lasted about as long as a Seventh-Inning Stretch. Eventually as the show's audience grew, Cosenza and Long's Podcast grew as well.

"We kept hearing from our listeners that they loved the show, they just wished it were longer," Long said. "So Chris finally said, 'Screw it, let's just make it long until they tell us not to do it, and no one told us not to do it.'

It didn't take long for it to settle into a pattern of bantering to start the show, replaying a few calls on the show's "Hotline," then a "One-Minute Mystery" hand puzzle with the poker blogger Columbo and a main topic, which many times included interviews with authors, instructors or well-known professionals. A Hand of the Week, sometimes sent by listeners, would end the show.

"It really clicked," Long said. "We both really understood where the show was going."

That format won't change much, save for a few more ads (hey, they have to make a living now, remember) and new music, although the Tampa Bay Poker Replay, a list of events from local poker rooms, won't make the cut. The Replay was an edict from The Times, which wanted the show to be more local, but Long said it was a little odd to include so much time on a poker scene that meant almost nothing to many of its listeners.

Even with the new freedom, the show probably won't be more than an hour from now on. That will help market the show to radio stations.

Long admits that the idea of quitting his steady job to continue with a Podcast, when he didn't even know they existed three years ago, is a little scary.

But there are talks with a major advertiser, and if they land that account, they will be able to breathe, Long said. Card rooms around Florida have shown enthusiasm about their new magazine, which will be released in September, and most have agreed to make it available for free. A local radio station has expressed interest to broadcast the Podcast.

Already, their tough decision appears to be validated, and Long's starting to get used to the idea of Podcasts.

"I see the power in them," Long said, "and that wasn't there three years ago."

What's available

Head to www.anteupmagazine.com. You'll find information on the new Ante Up Poker Magazine and an RSS feed to the Ante Up! Poker Podcast. Even if you already subscribe to the show, you might need a new feed.

The site launches July 4 and will also feature a PDF format for the magazine starting in September and a blog and forum.

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