Betting on Yourself: James Hartigan

When choosing to come to university, every choice you make can feel like a gamble. It may not always be what you had in mind, but it may still pay off in ways you didn’t see coming. This alumni profile from James Hartigan (BA/BSc (Hons) English and Radio Film And Television Studies 1996), explores how he went from studying for a career in filmmaking to working as the Head of Poker Editorial at PokerStars.

What can you tell us about your current role?

I’m the Head of Poker Editorial at PokerStars, responsible for planning and executing the content that the brand produces from major live tournaments around the world. I’m also the lead commentator and presenter on the PokerStars live streams, European Poker Tour TV shows and weekly podcast.

What made you want to pursue a career in the tech/gaming industry?

I very much fell into it by accident. My career was in commercial radio, as a journalist and presenter. I’ve always been a casual (i.e. bad) poker player, and in 2005 the opportunity came up to combine my hobby and trade by doing some poker commentary. Over the next 5-10 years, this went from being an occasional side job to my main source of income, and, eventually, I created a full-time role for myself!

What is your favourite thing about what you do?

Live broadcasting has always been my passion. From when I started as a newsreader in local radio, to hosting shows on LBC, to anchoring a ten-day series of live streams from a poker festival in the Bahamas. If you want to make me happy, put me behind a microphone without a script and let me talk all day (mostly about poker, but I do occasionally get side-tracked and share my thoughts on James Bond movies!).

If anyone reading is thinking of a career in your field, what one piece of advice would you give them?

Refine your skills before carving out your niche. Decide what it is you want to do, gain as much experience as possible in as many places as possible, become really good at it, and THEN look for opportunities in an industry that aligns with your interests.

How did you come to study at CCCU when you did?

I wanted to study film theory, as I was a huge cinema nerd. I also had pretentious aspirations to be a filmmaker, and Christ Church offered one of the few courses in the UK that included a practical element (video and film production).

If you want to make me happy, put me behind a microphone without a script and let me talk all day (mostly about poker, but I do occasionally get side-tracked and share my thoughts on James Bond movies!).

Back in the 1990s, Radio, Film and TV was only available as a joint honours degree, so I had to combine it with something. English Literature was one of my strongest subjects at school, so it made sense to tick that box.

How did your time at university impact on your life and career post-education?

I came to university wanting to make films. It didn’t work out, as I didn’t have the talent or patience. But I discovered radio. That became my specialism, and I gained so much experience producing a wide variety of programming: presenting, recording, editing, mixing. I developed a skillset that enabled me to get my first job in the radio industry, and my career developed from there.

One of my fondest memories of my time at CCCU was working on the campus radio station and being part of a group of students who helped produced the weekly ‘youth’ programme on BBC Radio Kent.

What are your goals for the future?

I’m very lucky that I get to work with great people and talk about a game I love. However, I rarely find time to actually play poker. And that needs to change. I want to play more poker; I’m going to play more poker!

What does being a CCCU alumnus mean to you?

I’m still in touch with many of my contemporaries, especially the team who worked on the student radio station and at BBC Radio Kent. We meet up from time to time. Sometimes in London, sometimes in Canterbury. It’s always fun to come back to the university to see how it’s changed, and also occasionally check in with my former RFTV lecturer, who’s STILL there 30 years later.