The year was 2005. The Moneymaker poker boom was still in full effect. The main event was won by Joe Hachem for a Bink of 7.5 million. My favorite player at the time, Mike the Mouth, came in 9th for 1million, the event had 5619 entrants for a total prize pool of 52.8 million. This year also saw Jennifer Tilly win the WSOP Ladies event for 158k.
This was the year I fell in love with the game. I had come home from college and began playing poker at the local Cherokee Casino in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Scotty Nguyen was our ambassador and “yeah baby” that face was on our chips. I knew the rules of the game having played at family events starting at a very young age. Nobody had told me yet poker was a man’s game. My grandmother was always the best player in our family and I had learned the same confidence and fearlessness by watching her over the years.
I began playing 1/2 No Limit Hold Em and found some quick success. Most players expected me to be tight and passive, but I was anything but. If I smelled weakness from my opponents I went for it and quickly found I had a natural ability for the game. I believe the experiences I had growing up in a pretty scary environment allowed me to have a heightened sense of people's moods and emotions just from their tone of voice, how they moved their bodies, or looks they gave. I needed these skills to survive and now I used them to make money by folding and raising.
This was before the terms GTO, solvers, or stack to pot ratios were being used. Although I soaked up whatever poker content I could and would watch them again and again I didn't know near enough to be successful in today's poker climate. But in the 2005 climate I crushed the game and quickly gained respect.
One of the most exciting moments for me came during our big Scotty Nguyen tournament when the “ big pros” came to town. Matusow, Brunson, Clonie Gowan, Tran and many others showed up to play the big event. The casino setup the heads up machines for $200 pros’ vs amatures’ matchups.
I heard the announcement over the loudspeaker and quickly picked up and rushed over. I plopped down across from Clonie and was ready to go! The floor boss came over to politely inform me there was a list and I wasn't on it. Apologizing and a little embarrassed, I stood up ready to slink away when Clonie said, “No, I want to play the girl she’s first up now!” And so it began.
I was extremely nervous. I had never used the heads up machines before and was lost. I found a hand I wanted to play and couldn't find the button to raise appropriately. My pulse was racing and I was starting to freak out; luckily a friendly dealer helped me understand the machine while Clonie looked calm and stone faced.
She quickly started winning the match raising and playing aggressively. I was looking down at 92, 73, and just kept folding. Finally I found a hand and we ended up in a huge pot where I turned a boat against her flopped straight. I had her against the ropes. Just two short hands later, I rivered a set of aces vs her flopped top two pair for the match win. We shook hands and me being completely genuine and still “ fangirling” asked her if she had any tips for me. She thought it was a needle, got up angrily and a bit tipsy she said, “Double or nothing!” I told her the money was a lot for me and I wanted to play again at the same stakes. She got up and stormed out with Matusows girlfriend in tow. I stayed behind my adrenaline still pumping as Brunson and Nguyen congratulated me on my victory.
Well Clonie and I never did become the best friends I dreamed of, but it was the start of something bigger for me. My true passion to become the best no limit hold'em player took hold and never let up.
In the years that followed I got my education in poker the hard way. I won, I lost, and I lost some more. Eventually I went to work and rebuilt my bank roll and started studying hard. I talked to the best players I knew, read books and eventually found myself as a long term profitable cash game player.
One of the biggest gifts to me in poker has been the amazing charitable and truly genius level people I've met and now call friends. They have helped shape my mind and character and I'm forever grateful for the amazing community of which I”ve became a part.
When I moved to California I began playing cash games on the Stones Live Show as they were very juicy and action packed. After some great sessions, I was invited in to talk over some of my hands and after a couple audition shows, was asked to become a full-time commentator. It was all of these chance meetings, hard work and amazing people that lead to being at the right place, at the right time, with the preparation needed to now be a Thirst Lounge Poker host in the Virgin Islands.
I feel like I've already lived a lifetime in poker and yet it feels like my journey has just begun. Time to kick it into fifth gear and see where this journey goes. So hop in, lets go. I'm excited to take you on this ride with me.