(Distributed Nov. 21, 2006)
NEW WPT HOSTESS MIXES QUIRKS WITH SINCERITY ON TV
Life experiences keep piling up for Sabina Gadecki, the new Season 5 hostess for the World Poker Tour television show. She wouldn’t have it any other way.
Named in May to succeed Shana Hiatt (hostess the first three years) and Courtney Friel (one year), Gadecki took on the job without giving up much. The 23-year-old still is an international business student at Fordham University, still studies acting and dance at studios in New York City, and sometimes still tends bar there at a trendy little nightclub.
“It’s a little overwhelming,” said Gadecki, a former beauty pageant winner who seems to fit perfectly into the on-camera and private antics of Mike Sexton and Vince Van Patten, announcers on the Travel Channel production.
“They’re always inviting me out to dinner, and they won’t let me walk outside by myself. They’re just really great. They’re so goofy! They make me laugh,” she said. “I was a little nervous when I first met them, but they’ve really gone out of their way to just take me under their wing and help me out and teach me all that they can.”
A crash course on poker was part of Sabina’s training with Sexton and Van Patten. Her boisterous Polish family upbringing in Chicopee, Mass., included exposure to plenty of gambling, but not much of that rubbed off.
“Oh my gosh, everyone in my family loves keno, and scratch tickets, and poker night at my house. But I wasn’t much into gambling even though I was surrounded by it when I was younger. Then here I am, hosting a poker show! It’s funny, it kind of went full circle. My parents absolutely love it. They are so excited. My dad is the biggest poker fan ever,” she said.
The poker lessons are paying off. “Coming into this I didn’t really know anything about poker. I have really become a huge poker fan now,” Gadecki said. Two weeks after completing WPT Boot Camp, she and Sexton played in a charity tournament in New York with about 200 people. “We both made the final table! I was proud of myself!”
She also played in the women’s event this year at the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas, but “that didn’t go so well. I had a bad beat — got two-outed on the river! So that kind of stunk, but I really think I’ve grown up a lot as a person.”
Some might argue she grew up years ago. Her Miss Western Massachusetts and Miss Polonia World beauty titles in 2002 were based heavily on community service. “That’s something I’m passionate about. Since I was 15, I’ve collected about 7,000 new teddy bears and delivered them to sick kids in hospitals and elderly in nursing homes. It’s something I still do.”
She also dances and runs marathons to raise money for the AIDS Foundation, the American Red Cross and the American Cancer Society. Her charitable efforts earned her the Presidential Student Service Award from President Bush in 2001.
Five years later, she hasn’t changed much. She says the toughest part of her new job is “really trying to be myself on camera. It’s hard when you’re still a little bit nervous and trying to do your best in front of an audience and still trying to let your personality shine through,” she said. Her “quirky and goofy” personality is matched with a sensitivity that comes across on the screen.
“I sincerely feel so bad when they come up to me after being knocked out. I realize they’re winning hundreds of thousands of dollars, but can you imagine getting that close! I really feel bad. I think that ’s the hard part. It’s a tough job, because I know they really don’t want to be talking to me. But you know, we have to,” Gadecki said.
“It’s getting better as we go along. My first show was difficult because nobody knew that there was a new hostess. So everyone was kind of like, ‘Oh, hey, nice to meet you, whoever you are.’ But now it’s really great because I’m hanging out with the players and I sit in on the players’ interviews before the final table so I can get to know them better.”
That first show was in May at the Mirage in Las Vegas to open the WPT’s fifth season, which will air starting early next year. Her only show telecast so far was the recent 2006 WPT Ladies Night event, which produced an inadvertent but memorable one-liner during her post-knockout chat with Erica Schoenberg.
When Sabina said, “It looks pretty tense down there at the table,” Erica replied: “I wasn’t expecting the ladies to be so loose, if you will.” After watching the replay, Gadecki said, “I forgot she said that. Yeah, that was funny.”
But she takes seriously the growing impact of women poker players. “It used to be such a man’s world. I absolutely think it’s changing.” Evidence she’s right came last week at the World Poker Finals in Connecticut where, for the first time in WPT history, two women — Mimi Tran and Kathy Liebert — made a championship final table.
Familiar with challenges herself, Gadecki looked one step ahead. “I don’t see why a woman couldn’t win the World Series main event. Why not?”
Why not, indeed.
A transcript of LuckyDog’s interview with Sabina Gadecki is posted at luckydogpoker.com. E-mail your poker questions and comments to email@example.com for use in future columns. To find out more about Russ Scott and read previous LuckyDog Poker columns, visit www.creators.com or www.luckydogpoker.com.
COPYRIGHT 2006 RUSS SCOTT
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