We all like to follow coverage of major poker tournaments. There is always someone on the spot apart from number of reporters, who pictures the action at the tables for you, whether we are talking about monster tournaments abroad such as European Poker Tour and World Poker Tour, or local top events such as PokerStars Poker Festival Pardubice, Czech Poker Tour, etc. Here, that someone is a professional photographer Thomas Stacha, and you can find his work at Poker-Phorto.eu.

Since not many of you have an idea what it takes to be a poker tournament photographer, we decided to interview Thomas and introduce him to you. If you are wondering how one gets to such job, how does the photography post-processing work; or whether you can work in poker environment and not to be playing the game, read on:

How did you get to photo shooting and specifically to shooting of poker tournaments?

I started photographing when I was 10 years old. I got my first camera and I shot everything I could think of, although mainly it was ZOO and classmates in the elementary school. I was brought to the art of photography and to the process of making photographs in the dark room by my neighbour, who was a professional photographer. As time passed I got to the macro photography and I was going out to photograph the nature almost every nice day.

I started to photograph poker by chance, when my colleague cameraman brought up an idea to try it. I found out that poker and emotions going with the game are those I can relate to and I really enjoy and find fulfilling. I stopped photographing other things and devoted my work exclusively to poker photography.

Do you have any favourite poker series, or you do not care what pictures you take within poker environment?

I certainly like all the events with the participation of around 300 players. I am talking about events with higher buy-ins; let’s say from 500 to 1000 Euros. There are definitely interesting amounts in the pool and lots of emotions are bursting out throughout the final table from players and from the rail. On the other hand there are less of these situations in lower buy-in events. Emotions, however, are rare in poker. A player can receive sit out for showing emotions in some situations. It is, however, something crucial for poker photography and I would even say the underlying ingredient.

The most emotions I have ever met were at my favourite PokerStars Eureka Poker Tour in Bulgaria, where you could tell you are in the Balkans; and the security was often forced to take action against fans in the final table rail, who almost through themselves at the players after every successful hand. EPT is a wonderful series. I was present at the last year’s victory of Roberto Romanello in Prague. When he won, he was in tears. Roberto almost collapsed at that moment and although he left to calm down, the surrounding photographers tried to capture his every move I thought that was unethical and I prevented photographers from taking the shots.

I was also comforted by the pleasant atmosphere of "PokerStars Poker Festival 2011" held in Pardubice, where the Main Event attracted 903 runners.

Thomas did not miss the Festival in Pardubice

Which one is your "dream series" in terms of photography?

I have already worked at many poker tournaments, but I have never attended WSOP. This is probably a dream of every poker player or for anyone in the industry. I am attracted by EPT, especially the grand final.

Every reader is always looking forward to the batch of photos from poker tournaments. Can you describe, at least a little, what it takes to get action from the poker tables to the readers on the website?

Photography is not just about squeezing the trigger, but also about communication with players and about compliance with the tournament rules. Sometimes I even get warnings from floorman, but I try my best to avoid these situations. At the beginnings I was moving around the tournaments like a bull in a china shop. I am thankful namely to poker cameraman Milan Zadelak, who had patience with me and taught me the basics of the conduct at the poker tournaments. I always try to document the overall situation and eventually I get to details and interesting situations. After photographs are taken, it is necessary to make a choice; and the selected photos needs to be compressed, watermarked and then uploaded to the website. Yet that is not all. This is only a fraction of the work and it is followed by sending media packs to newspapers and magazines in full resolution at the bigger tournaments. There is often very little time for resting and sleeping throughout the international or bigger tournaments.

Thomas Stacha is always trying to capture the best moments

Operating in the poker environment to this extent must almost attract you to its playing. Fess up, do you play?

I invested some money in the game of poker in the beginning; to get into the mindset of a player, to understand the feeling and poker itself. I tried to play poker to understand the philosophy and the mentality. Lately, I rather play media tournaments and rarely a tournament online.

Talking about your work, what pleases you the most?

The greatest joy I have had is when some player thanks me for the good work. Recently I was truly very pleased by an email I received from Israel. I would like to quote a comment from Facebook: I noticed a comment under one picture:"This is not pokerface.” and the player responded – “There was this photographer, such a nice guy, I had to smile at him." I also enjoy finding interesting details and unusual moments; capturing these is totally fulfilling. In such moment I get into our so called photographic "heaven"

Focus on details

What is your opinion on politics and on censorship of poker?

Actually, I'm in shock, and the government should reconsider prohibiting something they can rather tax and draw the funds from. I believe that drastic cuts are very bad. It brings us back into the totalitarian period, when censorship was a common practise and people were afraid of their own words. In November, I voted for democracy, not for this.

What plans do you have for the future?

I would very much like to reach a more international level in the future; and to participate in big tournaments outside Europe. My goal is definitely to be better and to improve in the field of work which I like a lot.

What would you wish for the future to our readers and poker players?

34 percent of luck
33 percent of logical and mathematical reasoning
33 percent of flawless psychology

In short words - success and victory!

 Thomas Stacha & Martin Staszko

 Tomas and Neil Stodatr

 Martin Staszko, Tomas and Martin Hruby.

 Tomas and Gus Hansen

 EPT Prague 2012