Q&A with poker announcer Lon McEachern

April 23, 2012  

Lon McEachern is a professional sports broadcaster, best known for his hand-by-hand commentary on the World Series of Poker. He has appeared in ESPN’s poker coverage since the late 1990s. In the past, McEachern also hosted K-1 kickboxing, martial arts, Scrabble and billiards. He recentlychatted with our Mike Owens.

Where is home for you? I have lived most of my life in the San Francisco Bay Area. I grew up just north of San Francisco and now live south of the city in the San Jose area.

How did you get into broadcasting? Broadcasting is in my blood, I guess. My dad was one of the first people anywhere to make a living being on television in Memphis where I was born. He moved the family to the Bay Area shortly after I was born to continue his broadcast career. My older brother later got into the business after college and I did the same when my lifelong dream to play pro baseball died in junior college when I went undrafted. My teammate, Jesse Orosco, did have a pretty decent pro career, though.

My best decision was to join my college radio station, KCSB-FM, while at UC Santa Barbara. While there I got great hands-on training and on-air practice that served me very well. From there I got a job at KTMS radio in Santa Barbara (where Jim Rome used to work), and later moved to TV to become the sports guys at KCOY in Santa Maria. Several years later I was freelancing at ESPN, which led to my first poker gig.

What has it been like working with Norman Chad? Norman has forced me to learn patience, tolerance, grace and sympathy. Imagine being locked in a small room with only one way out while people, whose careers are balancing on how well YOU perform, stare at you eight hours a day expecting pearls of wisdom with every utterance. And then look next to you and discover HIM. It’s a miracle we’re still on the air. But, I have to admit we’ve had some good moments and he’s someone I would trust to perform well on just about any show. He’s a true professional and a wonderful journalist who has more integrity that most people I know.

Are you a fan of the delayed World Series of Poker Main Event final table? I was very skeptical of the November Nine format at first but have come to love it. The delay in play does not affect the thousands of main event entrants; it only impacts nine players. The taped Tuesday night shows give viewers a chance to see how it all unfolded and when we’re done with those shows we follow immediately with the final table and the big payoff. I think it’s a terrific format that allows maximum exposure to the players who deserve it and gives them a chance to maximize the financial gains that come with being one of the November Nine.

Can we expect any surprises in this year’s coverage? Yes, I believe you can, but we are very early in discussions of what will take place so I can’t give away any secrets right now.

Do you play often? I do not play often, but I do have a regular group of friends who gather once or twice monthly to play. Many are casual players though some make it a goal to play an event or two at the WSOP. We have had yearlong competitions in the past, which culminated in winning a $1,500 seat and travel money for the WSOP. I won it one year! I have been making personal appearances at some casinos around the country and I certainly make it a point to play with the locals, which is a great deal of fun.

Where is your favorite place to travel? Anywhere I have not been before. Over the years I have been lucky to travel quite a bit. Often times, though, it’s the same place again and again. While I love those cities for what they have to offer, I do enjoy a new adventure such as I had last year when the WSOP-Europe took their events to Cannes, France. I’m looking forward to the WSOP’s continuing expansion to other continents so I can take some new trips.

Do you have any advice for someone making a first trip to the WSOP? Be prepared for your jaw to drop when you first enter the playing area at the Rio. It is a sight most poker players have never seen before. It can be overwhelming so I would advise someone to come at least a day early, visit the poker rooms and get over the “OMG” moment, so when you come to play you can focus on your game. The size of fields can be intimidating, but just scale back your focus to your table and pay attention to your competition. Bring snacks and drinks, take note of where the “less-used” bathrooms are located and rest every chance you get because the long days can catch up to you and ruin your chances.