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Poker News | People in Poker | Poker Interviews

The Round Table – Ali Nejad – Poker’s Colorful Commentator

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You’ve seen him on Poker After Dark, the NBC Heads Up Championship, and now as one of the hosts of Poker Road Radio. Now, really get to know poker host Ali Nejad.

KL: Where are you from?

I was born in San Francisco and I lived there until about 3 years ago when I moved to LA. I was sick of commuting to LA for my television work. A lot of people don’t realize I worked in TV way before I was doing anything on poker. When I went to Berkeley for college I quit a couple years in and started playing poker. I met up with Prahlad Friedman and Erick Lindgren and a few other people up there. After 5 years of playing poker I went back to school and while I was in school I was flying to LA for TV work and it just started to get silly, going to class, flying to LA and then back to class all in one day.

KL: What TV work were you doing?
There were a couple shows I was doing for the NBC affiliate, one was called First Cut, it was a magazine show for younger people and then a spinoff show from that. We were Emmy award nominated, it was a good couple of shows but I started getting too old for it so I moved on and did the poker thing for awhile.

KL: How did you transition to poker TV work?
I met Mori Eskandani while I was on the Party Poker Million Cruise; I think it was the second season of that. Erick [Lindgren] actually won a couple of seats and he called me up and offered me the chance to go. Sensing that poker was about to be really big and knowing that there weren’t a lot of people out there who had my kind of resume in television who also had my kind of resume in poker as far as knowing a lot of the pros and playing a lot of live games and understanding the game I brought all my materials with me and I happened to meet Mori playing $75-$150. We were sitting at the same table playing hold ‘em and he started talking about how he was thinking about doing some poker shows. I told him about myself, ended up showing him my demo reel and he thought I would be perfect.

So I started with Poker Superstars, I MC’d in the background as my start, then I did the Heads Up Championship when that started and I did some guest spots on Ultimate Poker Challenge, and I also got the Poker After Dark gig and also did some stuff on Pay-Per-View about last year’s WSOP Main Event. It’s tough to think of poker shows that I’m not working on these days.

KL: Where can we expect to see you in the future?
Pretty soon I am going to be doing some men’s lifestyle work on the Tyra Banks show, I am in Motor Trend this month, and I’m in Cosmo as a contributor. I think the new thing we are doing is calling me a men’s lifestyle expert. I know a ton of stuff about fashion and dating and music and movies and clothes. I’m super metro, I won’t lie! Over time I have gathered a wealth of information about a lot of different subjects and this is the package that it seems to fit well into. So, this fall I should be on some talk shows doing that kind of work and we will see where that takes me.

KL: How did you get involved with Poker Road?
Joe Sebok and I went to Berkeley at the same time, had the same friends, definitely were at the same parties, and never were introduced and never remembered one another. Years later I met him during the WSOP I think, possibly through Barry [Greenstein]. Then we reconnected when he was doing the Mansion Poker - Poker Dome, he was working for it and I was doing some commentary for it. We went out to lunch and kind of touched base there. When Poker Road finally got going almost 2 years later, he and Gavin [Smith] were trying to discuss who they wanted as a new host. Along with Barry they came up with my name so they approached me and said hey, here is the deal, would you like to be a part of it. To be honest I jumped at it, because first off I get along well with Joe and Gavin and second it kind of frees me up to be me more than any of the other stuff that I work on. It’s allowed people to get to know me as more than a dry commentator, and see that there is a person there.
KL: Have you had a favorite moment or favorite guest on Poker Road Radio?
Yes, Eugene Todd that guy is freaking hilarious. I really didn’t know much about him before he got involved in Poker Road. We were interviewing him at the Bellagio recently and he was talking about how brutal it is the way they regiment everything with the scheduling and how he hates it and wants to have more freedom on the tournament trail and at one point he literally poured a bottle of water over his head while he was wearing the headset and was soaked and I’m surprised he didn’t electrocute himself. That’s how genuine he is when he acts like that. It’s genuinely not a front, and I like people like that for sure.

KL: Tell us about your involvement with All In - The Musical.
Oh no…Ok. I have a H.O.R.S.E. table on Full Tilt Poker and I play $8-$16 on there to allow people to play with me. Usually I am playing $100-$200 and up hold ‘em so it allows me to get better at other games and play with people. Gavin likes H.O.R.S.E. as well so we decided to play heads up. We wanted to bet it on something fun so we decided that the loser had to audition for the All In Poker Musical in Vegas. We ended up playing and he absolutely face smashed me, I rematched him and then he smashed me again and I ended up singing for the poker musical. It’s on youtube and like 31,000 people have seen it. It’s easily one of the most embarrassing moments of my life and I regret ever making the bet with Gavin. Now he wants to make a bet again, play H.O.R.S.E. and the loser has to shave their eyebrows off. I can’t really do that, though, because if I am on camera without eyebrows that will look pretty funny!
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Like a wheel, the Round Table is a circle of adventures and victories, beats and stories, and life as it unfolds with a cast of characters that may, or may not, have joined you in your home on a local TV program. There's so much more to poker than what you see on TV. Although I won't use canvas, I will paint the full picture for you as I follow the lives of some of your favorite (and some unknown) players. The Round Table is an ongoing series of life, viewed full circle.

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