New Decuis employee gambled and won in world of high-stakes pro poker broadcasting

Tatjana Pasalic Karr covers the Super High Roller Bowl at the Aria Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, NV, for CBS Sports in 2016. Karr now works for Joseph Decuis, in Roanoke, but prior to that, she spent 10 years covering poker professionally around the world.
Tatjana Pasalic Karr covers the Super High Roller Bowl at the Aria Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, NV, for CBS Sports in 2016. Karr now works for Joseph Decuis, in Roanoke, but prior to that, she spent 10 years covering poker professionally around the world. Photo provided.

Tatjana Pasalic Karr once played in a poker tournament where there was a lot more at stake than money.

Karr currently works for Joseph Decuis, in Roanoke, but before that, she covered poker events all over the world, working for poker tours and media outlets.

It wasn’t an easy field to break into. But one of the reasons Karr was able to was because of her performance in the aforementioned poker tourney. Occurring in, she recalls, the mid-2000s, Karr had approached a poker tour about making videos for them. When the tour’s leadership decided to take her up on her offer, she was thrilled.

“They said, ‘We’ll partner up with you and we’ll pay for them,’” she says of the tour and the proposed videos.

With funding lined up, Karr went and hired a videographer to work with her on the videos for 2,000 euros. While Karr wouldn’t be getting compensated for her work on the project, she was excited by the prospect of adding high-quality content to her portfolio and forwarding her career in poker promotion and coverage.

A few days before the tournament was set to begin, however, the tour pulled the rug out from under Karr. The tour, she says, informed her that it no longer had the funds to pay for her videographer. Instead, it offered to buy her into the tournament, giving her an opportunity to win enough money to pay for the videographer herself.

“I do not recommend this,” says Karr, “but I went and played the tournament.”

While the tour may not have treated Karr superbly, the players at the tournament did.

“Everybody at my table knew my story,” she says. “So, the guys were pretty sweet and they would like tell me, they were like, ‘I know what cards you have. So, I’m not going to call you. But just so you know, don’t do this.’”

Karr was grateful for their help. While she was interested in covering poker, she was less keen on playing it, confessing to not being the most gifted player. With the other players’ support, she made it to the precipice of the tournament’s money round. And at that point, she shares, “they were all like, ‘Let’s just not bust her.’”

Karr ended up winning money – a little over 2,000 euros. She could pay her videographer.

“It was a combination of people being nice and generous,” reflects Karr. “And being a little lucky.”

At that point, Karr got to work doing what she really wanted to do at the tournament, which was cover it, not participate in it.
It ended up setting the tone for the next several years of her life.

Originally from Croatia, Karr first got interested in poker over a decade ago when, while living in Denmark, she noticed that her friends had become obsessed with playing it online. It was an obsession that ended up paying off, big time, for one of her pals.

“One of them told me that they won tickets to go and play the World Series of Poker in Vegas and they have two flights and they have hotels and all this and I was like, ‘This is a scam,’” says Karr. “And they were like, ‘Nope. You can come if you want to.’

“So, I was like, ‘Yeah, of course I’m going to go.’”

Upon arriving in Las Vegas, Karr’s interest in poker deepened when she realized just how much enthusiasm the game was generating. That enthusiasm, she learned, had given rise to a global poker industry that sought to meet the booming demand for all things poker.

When Karr got an opportunity to meet the World Series of Poker’s VIP hostess, she picked her brain.

“I was like, ‘What is going on?’ And I figured out there’s this whole industry that no one knows about,” says Karr. “So, I spoke to her. It was such a new industry they barely had any people working.”

Karr was excited by the prospect of getting in on the ground level of an industry that exhibited the promise for exponential growth.

“So, I got into the hosting part and then customer service and then eventually I progressed into broadcasting,” says Karr.

In the wake of producing the aforementioned videos for the poker tour, Karr established a foothold in the industry. In addition to making videos, she conducted on-camera interviews and livestreamed events. Because of the services she offered, she found herself in high demand.

“I had one point in my life in 2009 where I would wake up in a hotel and I wouldn’t know which country I (was) in. Or I would come home and I would be so exhausted I would just pass out, wake up, do my laundry and go on a plane.

“Jobs were just pouring from everywhere.”

Through it all, one of Karr’s biggest ambitions was covering the World Series of Poker.

“I always, always wanted to work the World Series of Poker,” she says. “It’s the biggest thing.”

In 2014, that dream came true.

“That was exhausting, but probably one of my favorite jobs,” says Karr. “We would start at the end of May and we would go until the end of July.”

During that time, Karr notes that it wasn’t uncommon to work 17 hours a day. Because so much work went into covering the event, Karr says she quickly learned that she couldn’t do it on her own.

“It teaches you how to work in a team,” she remarks.

After covering the event in 2014, Karr got the opportunity to cover it again in 2015 and 2016.

Karr ended up working in the poker industry for 10 years. While it was a busy decade, she did find time to meet her future husband, McLean, a poker player. The couple got married on the Joseph Decuis Farm.

When Karr began pondering a change in careers, the farm stood out in her mind. She’d developed an affinity for the farm and stayed in touch with Joseph Decuis’ proprietor and special events manager, Alice Eshelman, since her wedding, letting Eshelman know that she’d love to work for Joseph Decuis in some capacity.

This year, Karr got her wish and joined the Joseph Decuis team as the special projects manager. In February, she and her husband moved from California to Fort Wayne.

While Karr enjoyed her time working in poker, the long hours and frequent travel it necessitated started to wear on her as the years marched on.

“I felt like I needed a change,” she says. “I was so intrigued by just changing my career completely and doing something that is different.”

While working for Joseph Decuis may be a change from covering poker, Karr says she will still get to utilize a lot of the skills that she picked up during her poker days. Livestreaming and video content, she teases, are in Joseph Decuis’ future.

Ultimately, Karr is grateful for the talents that she was able to develop while covering poker, which have given her a livelihood that she enjoys.

“It’s a very versatile job,” she says. “If you are proactive, I think you can learn a lot of things.”