Sabina Gadecki

When the World Poker Tour kicked off the taping of Season Five at the Mirage Poker Showdown, they surprised us with a new hostess, Sabina Gadecki. News about her appointment leaked just two days before the final table, and nobody knew anything about her. A Google search on her name yielded only six results.

Gadecki is now the third hostess in three years, following the departure of Courtney Friel. While Friel had a background as a TV news anchor and correspondent, Gadecki’s background as a model/actress is closer to that of Shana Hiatt, the popular hostess from the first three seasons.

Bluff jumped at the chance to interview the lovely lady who will be guiding us through the WPT’s fifth season, and formally introduce her to the poker world.

A HARD-WORKING DYNAMO WHO GIVES PLENTY BACK

Sabina Gadecki was born and raised in Massachusetts, with Polish as her first language. “I have the most incredible family. A large, loving, loud Polish family — that plays poker on the weekends!”

Gadecki isn’t a poker player herself, but loves learning new things. “The world of poker is so interesting to me. I want to take the time and learn all that I can about poker.”

Gadecki has been pursuing an acting career since she first moved to New York three years ago. “I want more than anything to become a successful actress.” She already has plenty of ad work to her credit, including an international Coca-Cola commercial and a Clearasil ad she finished just two weeks before her first WPT final table.

She missed one potential big break when the producers of the hit film Mean Girls turned her down because she looked “too innocent.” To that, Gadecki says, “It’s not the worst reason, I suppose.” Even though she didn’t get a part, she worked on the set as a stand-in for Rachel McAdams, and read lines with Lindsay Lohan. “It was a great learning experience.”

But the 22-year-old Gadecki isn’t relying solely on her good looks to get through life. In addition to studying International Business at Fordham University (with a minor in Communication), she attends acting classes at the prestigious William Esper Studios and studies dance at the Broadway Dance Center. She’s also part of a dance company called T.A.D.A.H. — an acronym that stands for tap, acting, dance, and hip-hop. T.A.D.A.H. is led by choreographer Jared Grimes, who has worked with some of the biggest acts in the business, including Mya and Mariah Carey.

Most aspiring young actresses would view the WPT as nothing but a stepping stone to other things, hoping to parlay the exposure into a film career. But Sabina is very excited about this opportunity, and takes it seriously on its own terms. “This is my new job, not just a hosting job to me.”

On the side, Gadecki works as a bartender. Will she keep mixing drinks now that she’s working in television? “Probably,” she says. “Why not? It’s a trendy little spot in New York City, wonderful crowd, and I get to hang out with my friends all night.”

Gadecki has a strong giving streak, raising money in the past for the American Cancer Society, the AIDS Foundation, the American Red Cross, and other charities. But the activity closest to her heart is collecting teddy bears and donating them to children’s hospitals. Over the past eight years, she has delivered over 7,000 teddy bears, and she received the Presidential Student Service Award from President Bush in 2001. She plans to continue her charitable work as long as possible. “It is a lot of fun collecting the teddy bears, but the impact of delivering them to sick children will stay with me always.”

Gadecki’s biggest claim to fame, prior to the WPT, was winning the title “Miss Polonia World” back in 2002. Unlike a traditional beauty pageant, it’s based on school grades, accomplishments, and community service. “Winning that title meant a great deal to me because of my Polish heritage, and has opened many doors to expanding my community service efforts.”

HOW SHE GOT THE JOB

After seeing Gadecki’s headshot in the search for a new hostess, the WPT requested a demo tape. Gadecki’s roommates took the lead in setting up an impromptu shoot in their apartment, allowing her to relax and have fun with the material. When they had finished, Gadecki went off script a bit and took control of the camera, filming her roommates as she thanked them for their help. When her agent saw the tape, he said, “They’ll either think you’re crazy, or they’ll love it.” The WPT must have loved it, because on the basis of that demo tape, Gadecki got the job.

Gadecki was actually on vacation when she received the call (“You got the job!”), and her trip was rerouted to Los Angeles, where the WPT is headquartered. At the time of her first final table, she had yet to return home since learning the news.

She’s already had a few conflicts with her busy schedule. Gadecki missed her final exams at Fordham, but was able to reschedule them to a later date. They were less understanding at the acting studio, because she missed three straight classes in the week leading up to her first WPT episode. She had only a few weeks to go before completing her first year, and she was hoping to be invited back for a second. (It’s a two-year program.) But if she missed one more class, she’d be out. Her all-important next class was scheduled for the day after her first final table.

On top of everything else, that’s when she received a summons for jury duty back in New York. When it rains, it pours.

SABINA’S FIRST WPT FINAL TABLE

Gadecki made her debut at the Mirage Poker Showdown in mid-May. Her first WPT segment was recorded at night, out in front of the Mirage’s famous erupting volcano. George, the producer of this episode, wanted to start her out in a low-stress environment, rather than taping something in the tournament area, where she would be swamped by curious poker players, fans, and media.

On the big day of the final table, Gadecki arrived early, volunteering to sit in and watch the players’ WPT interviews. This isn’t a requirement of the job; neither Shana nor Courtney ever did this. But Gadecki knew she’d be interviewing those same players when they busted out, and she wanted to get to know them ahead of time. “When speaking to players, I want to have their respect that I am someone who understands the game they love. Respect has to be earned, and I am going to do what it takes to earn respect in my new position.”

After the interviews, Gadecki had her own call time for hair, makeup, and wardrobe, and she then made her way to the set for the 4:00 pm start.

With the show’s introduction recorded the night before (at the volcano), Gadecki wasn’t part of the opening ceremonies, and was able to absorb the experience for the first time, as a spectator. She watched from the sidelines as Steve Lipscomb presented the WPT Player of the Year award to Gavin Smith (who won this event the year before) in a short ceremony before the final table.

Then it was time for Gadecki’s first player interview, with none other than Gavin Smith. It doesn’t take much to get Smith talking, but it can take a lot to get him to stop. But Gadecki held her own with the larger-than-life player, and thought it was funny when he jokingly came on to her. With the wide variety of interesting characters in the poker world, a healthy sense of humor is a requirement.

With the pre-game ceremony and the preparations of a new set, the final table started about 45 minutes late. About half an hour into play, one of the cameras on the new set died, and there was another 25-minute delay while the crew rectified the situation. Gadecki stayed upbeat and bright-eyed during the delays, even as she pondered her 1:00am flight back to New York, and whether or not she’d make it to her acting class the next day.

The first player wasn’t eliminated for another hour — Robert Mizrachi, brother to “The Grinder.” She had barely finished talking to him when Steve Frederick was knocked out three hands later.

It took another two hours to lose David Williams, with Devin Porter departing an hour after that. With two players left (Harry Demetriou and Stan Weiss), it was time for Gadecki’s first money presentation.

She was joined by five women in brightly-colored dresses who would be carrying the money to the final table. Gadecki would follow behind with the official WPT chip set to be awarded to the winner (she was surprised by the heft and the weight of the chip set). There was a quick walk-through rehearsal, but once the cameras started rolling, they got it in one take.

It was about 10:15pm, and she could still make her flight if the heads-up match was a quick one. It wasn’t. Demetriou and Weiss played another 51 hands before Weiss hit a three-outer on the river to claim victory at 11:40pm.

Gadecki joined Mike Sexton and Vince Van Patten down at the table for the end-of-show toast to the winner, and then cheerfully posed for photographs with the final two players.

With her official duties complete, Gadecki borrowed a laptop to search for alternate flights home. Her only option on the same airline would have her landing the next night, 90 minutes after her class started. But she found a seat on another airline that would put her in New York at 4:00pm for her 7:00pm class. Crisis averted — until the next final table (June 8th at the Mandalay Bay Poker Championship in Las Vegas).

THE LAST WORD

There is one thing that hasn’t been revealed to this point. It’s the question that guys always want to ask, even though they never want to hear the answer. This is your last chance to stop reading, turn back, and continuing living in a world of self-deception. You’ve been warned.

Does Sabina Gadecki have a boyfriend? Yes.

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July 2006