- Interview with Bet Raise Fold producer, Jay Rosenkrantz.
Roughly seven years ago, high-stakes poker player Jay Rosenkrantz had the idea to create a documentary on the life and times of those who were living the online poker lifestyle. And on June 30, the public got their first look at the completed film, “Bet Raise Fold: The Story Of Online Poker.”
Well, on Black Friday we all immediately realized this is a different, bigger story. This is a really big deal. Produced with some of the biggest names in the online poker scene and the hard work of director Ryan Firpo, Rosenkrantz and crew encountered a stiff challenge when Black Friday forced them to change the direction of the film entirely and, as a result, Rosenkrantz and Firpo ended up telling the history of online poker.
We had a few minutes before the World Premiere of “Bet Raise Fold” earlier this month for a short interview.
PF: Talk to us about your role on the film.
Jay: I am a producer on the film, so Ryan and I, really, it was a kind of two-man, long Herculean effort over the course of three years to get this thing made. We brought in a lot of collaborators to help us behind the scenes, in many different ways, but really in the day to day Ryan and I kind of really did everything.
He did a lot of the editing and the directing and the actual filmmaking and I watched countless hours of footage and gave notes and helped figure out what the story was and how we would put in on film. But really, anything you could imagine that goes in to making a movie, I was responsible for.
PF: I know filmmaking is a passion of yours, as is poker. Was this your original concept? How did the idea of the documentary come about?
Jay: About 7 years ago, believe it or not, I was an online poker pro and a Two Plus Two’er and I met this other Two Plus Two’er named Dean Strachan, an econ student from the UK. We went to Atlantic City and had a ridiculous time and we felt like, wow, these people, these characters that exist in the online poker world, these stories that are happening around us, they’re insane and I’d watch a documentary about that. Maybe we should make a documentary about that. That kind of idea just stuck with us and we started down the kind of long road that took us here.
That’s my goal—put it in front of everyone that’s ever played a hand of poker in their lives. PF: How’d you come together with (director) Ryan Firpo?
Jay: Ryan… so Dean and I made a post on Two Plus Two that we wanted to make a documentary about professional online poker players, like: “Is this a good idea?” A bunch of people gave feedback, gave ideas, some encouraged us, some discouraged us. Ryan saw our post, he was a lurker on Two Plus Two … he emailed me out of the blue: “Hey, Jay you don’t know who I am. I’m a San Francisco independent filmmaker but I’m the guy who needs to make this movie. I’ve been thinking about this too, let’s do this.”
He kept emailing me “let do this, here’s more ideas I have!” At the time I was really obsessed with playing online poker so he was kind of the driver behind getting it off the ground. We started doing short films called from “Busto to Robusto” as kind of an experiment to learn how to do it.
PF: Talk about, if you can, the day or the meeting after April 15th 2011 when you knew the narrative in the film had to change because of Black Friday.
Jay: Well, on Black Friday we all immediately realized this is a different, bigger story. This is a really big deal. We didn’t know how it would change but we knew immediately that we had to go film with the people we were following, our characters (Tony Dunst, Danielle Moon-Anderson, Martin Bradstreet), so we sent cameras there.
I hope that people that are not poker players see this movie … this story is a big untold story of American history in the 2000’s We just started having long discussions about the fact we have “this” idea for the movie, not the story has changed and what is the story. We took a step back and had to re-conceive what this documentary is and should be about. We needed to figure out what caused Black Friday, who’s responsible, figure out how to show this on film because this is the biggest event in poker’s history.
So we went out and we raised more money to be able to do this. We went to that World Series in 2011, interviewed maybe 30 different people, all experts from all different corners of poker. We became, like, investigative journalists and figured out kind of what happened. It was a long process in getting to where we are today. Figuring out what’s important about the whole story. And really, it took us until early this year to get a stronghold of what we wanted to say with the movie, why it matters and why it should matter to people.
PF: Now that it’s all done, and you’re going to show it to the world. What are your hopes for the movie? Both in what it’s going to do and for you personally?
Jay: Firstly, I hope that a lot of people see it. I hope that poker players, there’s a lot of poker players in the world, all get to see this movie. That’s my goal—put it in front of everyone that’s ever played a hand of poker in their lives. I hope that they take this movie and then show it to their friends and family and say “Hey, sit down, watch this. You’ll understand a little bit more about me by the end of it. Understand more about this crazy story I was a part of. Understand why it might matter to me.”
I hope that people that are not poker players see this movie and maybe they become interested in poker, maybe they don’t, but they see the story. I think this story is a big untold story of American history in the 2000’s. Of American history since we’ve had the internet. It’s quite unlike any other story and at the same time it’s a very classical “rise and fall” type of thing. I hope it gets really big. It’s hard to say with me being so close to it. I try to take it one step at a time. Not spending to much time on hopes and spend more time on execution and strategy and I feel if I do the best I can in those areas then the rest will happen. Fate or destiny or whatever will take it from there.
PF: A lot of people will be looking forward to it. Hey, maybe it will be on Netflix.
Jay: That seems like a very reasonable thing that we have in the works. That it will be on Netflix and other Video On Demand distributors (Amazon, iTunes). Beyond that, it would be great to be on ESPN or HBO or something that would be really cool. So, we’ll see! We’ll see what happens, the way we’re distributing, we have all our rights in total control so this is just step one in raising awareness in what we’ve been doing. Seeing what people think about it and what it’s impact is.
“Bet Raise Fold: The Story Of Online Poker” is available to be viewed by the public starting at $9.99, via their website.