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Accidentally Grinding & the 2012 WSOP May 29, 2012

Posted by Administrator in : chess,feminism,poker,travel , trackback

Years ago, before I played poker at all, I showed my brother Greg aka “curtains”, an early draft of my first book, Chess Bitch. In the final chapter I chronicled my second US Women’s Championship title win and wrote about how Greg, also an International chess Master, had switched from chess to grinding online poker.

Greg circled the word “grinding” in red. “Grinding is sort of an insult” he explained, for players who are so mediocre they have to play as many hours as possible to get by. He wasn’t grinding, but gliding on a four-hour workday while developing early theory of sit-n-gos. So I edited the section to: “Greg had been earning a good living playing [poker] online and occasionally flying off to tournaments. While I was playing at the World Women’s Championship in Russia, Greg [was] in Las Vegas at the World Series of Poker.”

Greg and I have since traded places. I play more poker while retaining a deep involvement in chess, while Greg stopped playing poker after Black Friday, both due to a renewed passion for the royal game and a dislike for live poker.

Grinding also means something different in 2012 than in those poker boom years.

At the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure this year, I became good friends with a MTT and live-cash game pro Jamie Kerstetter. Some of my most vivid memories from the Bahamas were talking intently to Jamie about poker, life & gossip as slot machines, chattering poker heroes and waves barely registered in the background. “If you’re still in the game in 2012”, Jamie pointed out, you are probably grinding. This would no longer read as a vague insult.

And perhaps we were good examples. Neither Jamie or I were sponsored players, millionaires or tagging along high-rolling boyfriends at the lavish Atlantis resort. Yet there we were in January to play cards and drink alcoholic milkshakes in the sunshine.

A little over a year ago, Katie Stone, a poker player and entrepreneur I knew from the chess world invited me to be one of four “Grindettes” along with Jamie and Katie Dozier. The idea of the group was to travel to events, work on training and media projects to inspire other women and show that many lesser-known females were also strong players.

Flattered, I agreed right away even though I don’t consider myself a pure poker grinder. Since Black Friday, I can’t squeeze in the ~20 hours of weekly poker I used to, though I play on Bovada and watch more poker training videos than ever. But I surely qualify as a life grinder. From editing Chess Life Online to producing the Extreme Chess Championships, preparing chess lessons, promoting my books and writing for PokerStars Women, I’m constantly multi-tabling word docs. I express darker thoughts via video art projects like Poker Fairy Tale. It’s diverse and wonderful but often exhausting.

All the women in our group work hard and attack the game from slightly different angles. Jamie is witty, streaks her blonde hair pink and is a clear unbiased favorite to win this year’s WSOP National Championship, an exclusive freeroll limited to 200 players. Jamie qualified by beasting in a number of WSOP-Circuit events. Katie Dozier has a strong mathematical understanding of the game and combines creativity with a strong work ethic in projects like her novel, The Superuser and a column for Cardplayer. Finally, Katie Stone thinks big, from forming the Grindettes to the nationwide series of chess camps she ran when I first met her.


At the final table of a side event at Monte Carlo® Casino EPT Grand Final

And it feels like my own work is starting to pay off. Next month, starting on June 16 I’ll play about ten WSOP events, including most of the weekend 1500s and 1Ks, the Ladies Event and the Main Event. I have mixed feelings on the massive fields these events attract. The adrenalin rush and education of a final table is so much harder to reach.

I made my first major live final table at the Delaware Park Classic, which I played after teaching at a seminar led by former World poker champion Greg Raymer. The $1060 buy-in attracted 312 players for a deep but grueling three-day schedule. Three pros I met there Alex Queen, Adam Cook and Michael Marder made the final table and were also eyeing the top prize of 72K. Keyed up by the stakes and amazing support from friends, I was shaking during the first orbit. An hour later, a debatably avoidable cooler (nines vs. aces) halved my stack after which my decisions were relatively straightforward. I finished at peace with my play in 5th for a 12K payday. A few weeks later, I final tabled another MTT in Monaco, and was more relaxed, though I finished 5th again. I can’t imagine making such mental game progress by mincashing or 4xing my buy-in at a WSOP 1K.

But the WSOP is seductive still, not only for that sparkling jewelry but also for fields filled with dreamers who would normally avoid 1Ks. I pre-sold just over 50% of my action, so decided not to advertise shares on the open market via twitter or twoplustwo. Huge fields drastically increase variance so playing for so much of myself may be suspect bankroll management. But I feel good about my game, have been running well lately in life and poker, and want to save some points for potential swaps. To counter, I’ll be disciplining myself against leakage at the WSOP. The bankroll I spend at the WSOP is strictly going toward my share of MTTs, with the possible exception of Chinese poker. I’ll certainly take on all comers in my latest chess chance concoction, Chinese poker chess (I’m playing with Greg in the photo.)

To stay updated on my Vegas hijinks (with very occasional chip counts) follow @Jenshahade & @Grindettes. Till then, check out my PokerStars Women piece on the European Poker Tour in Monaco. Also jam to the video that is getting me in the mood for bad BRM in Vegas.

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