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Vegas, According to my phone August 10, 2014

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My yearly trip to Vegas for the World Series of Poker is my favorite time of year. A week after covering the US Chess Championship in Saint Louis, I was strapped in for my first live poker in months.




After a week of bricks, I moved on to covering the National Open in Las Vegas and also played in the G/10 Championship at the Riviera.

Daniel and I also filmed a video for CLO on the Millionaire Chess Open with GM Maurice Ashley. As usual, Vegas local and X Chess Champ Elliott Liu showed the chessplayers a good time. Here we are at one of my favorite spots in Vegas, Insert Coins.



Then I met with my friend Renae Garcia about REG “Raising for Effective Giving”, a non-profit she founded along with Liv Boeree, Phil Grussiem and Igor Kurganov.



I helped Daniel direct some promotional video for them and after learning more, decided to sign up and pledge 2% of my tournament winnings. I was just in time to win a contest for free training with Igor and Phil.
I wrote about that experience and some thoughts on giving on the PokerStars Blog.

I also had a great time at the Chad Brown Memorial tournament sponsored by PokerStars, which raised over $70,000 for charity.




My quick trip to Los Angeles for Adventures of the Mind “TED for teens” was another highlight. I played a simul against the high school students. After winning the final game, I was told by one high school girl that “I had so much swag it was ridiculous.” A sincere compliment from a teenager is no joke.




Back in Vegas, tournaments weren’t going too well for me so I kept my spirits up by running like god in Open Face Chinese. From my hotel room, I made a video for RunItOnce, which included some live hand histories:



Truly, the beauty of Chinese Poker is you can play it ANYWHERE.

Below are some of my favorite interviews in Vegas, including a dual one for the Mark Hoke show with Katie Dozier.


Seeing and rooting on friends like Katie is one of the best things about the WSOP. I was really proud of my friend Melissa Burr for her amazing performance, which Jen Newell covered in an excellent profile piece for Cardschat.




Some other fun Vegas pix:













When I finally left Las Vegas, a few days later than originally planned, I overslept for my flight. I haven’t been late for a flight in a decade. I’ve been waiting for a sign that I need to ease up and schedule in more breaks from travel.

But not quite yet. I’m too excited about my next batch of trips. First I head to Indiana for a Yamie Chess Simul with Scouts and panel talks at Gen Con, Then it’s off to STL for commentary of the Sinquefield Cup, the strongest chess tournament in history. Soon after, I’ll head to Europe for some WCOOP events (World Championship of Online of Poker), the Isle of Mann UKIPT & the PokerStars Chess International.

Follow me on twitter and Instagram for real-time updates.

Saint Louis to Jerusalem & a New Role at Stars April 24, 2014

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I have a new role at PokerStars, as their Mind Sports Ambassador, to help promote the connections between chess and poker leading up to the PokerStars Isle of Man International this Fall.

My first official tournament representing PokerStars was the World Series of Poker circuit Main event in Saint Louis (which I did not win). I played in that immediately after a two-week stint giving lectures at the Saint Louis Chess Club and the World Chess Hall of Fame. Brian Jerauld at the Chess Club wrote this sweet piece on my visit and the connections between chess, poker and PokerStars support of chess, including nine years of PokerStars sponsorship of the US Chess League.

Right after Saint Louis, I traveled to Israel, where I am now, playing on the Pokerstars client for the first time since PCA. As lucky as I feel lately, I can’t help but feel a twinge of regret when playing a limited number of Sundays here. As I soak up so much playing just a few tables at a time, I realize how much stronger a poker player I’d be now if not for Black Friday. Part of me knows it’s futile to predict such things. Maybe I wouldn’t have taken up Open Face Chinese Poker in that case, for which I now do videos on Run It Once. Or maybe I wouldn’t have met so many amazing people, leading to a lot of the opportunities I have now. I certainly wouldn’t have played as much live poker, and I better appreciate some of the specific skills required in that arena.

And yet it still pains my ego to know that I’d understand the game better if not for Black Friday. In the future, I need to schedule more trips to grind online, and focus less on the excitement of live stops. That being said, see you all in Vegas :)

On a positive note, I’ve done a lot of other fun interviews on chess, poker and making both games more popular.

1. I was on one of my favorite poker authors, Jared Tendler’s podcast. We talked about the “Mental Game” in both chess and poker, why Magnus Carlsen has a mental game coach and whether there is tilt in chess.

2. Another podcast I love: Thinking Poker. We talk about everything from Open Face Chinese and why I decided to do training videos on the game, to what little I remember about Comparative Literature.

3. Some questions you just can’t prepare for. In this fun interview with a popular Spanish YouTube chess channel, they asked me if I’d rather play Strip Chess with Magnus Carlsen or Chess Boxing with (the infamous) Borislav Ivanov!

4. I was recently on the Twoplustwo pokercast. The hosts Michael and Adam have such great chemistry. They also just interviewed the first two-time EPT Champion, PokerStars Pro Vicky Coren. It’s exciting that a woman and an accomplished writer is the first to achieve this milestone. I’ve played with Coren a few times and her humor and charm comes out in person just as on the page.

5. I really enjoyed doing this two part interview with Poker News Daily from a few months ago- they did a flattering amount of research into my career.

6. Also a while back, me, Katie Stone & Katie Dozier were interviewed on the Full Tilt Poker blog and by Lee Davy on women in poker.

I was reminded of the last two pieces when reading this controversial piece, quoting Selbst, Stone, Danielle Moon-Anderson, Kara Scott and several other female pros.

Around 80% of the time I have a better time at the tables, because I get more attention as one of few women in the game. 20% of the time my experience may be particularly negative because I’m female. This polarization can apply to a woman’s image at the table- play a hand poorly, you’re probably a whale, pull off a well-timed and calculated bluff, you may be the next Vanessa Selbst.

So overall, it’s a net positive for me, but as a writer, I can’t help but highlight the hilarious examples of poor behavior (as I explain in this Bluff video). Things like this just aren’t quite as funny:


as this

The more involved I become in the poker culture the less my own experiences are relevant to women starting out. More people recognize me at the table and tend to be nicer to me as a result. Poker is a global game, and picking up the game may present very different challenges for women in other situations and countries.

The comment plug in isn’t working here so hit me up on twitter or email. I’ve also been far more active on instagram lately, especially because Jerusalem provides such a photogenic backdrop for sunsets, food porn and selfies.

Watch my TED Talk! March 4, 2014

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PCA & TED X: Bahamas to Baltimore February 4, 2014

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2014 began with my yearly trip to the Bahamas for the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure. A couple weeks before the event, I decided to play in the Main Event, rather than focus on my favorite new game, Open Face Pineapple. The PCA Main was technically my highest buyin ever, $300 more than the World Series of Poker Main.

In my PokerStars blog “Count His Stack First”, I wrote about my experience of going super deep in the event, ultimately coming in 31st place for 43,000.


Immediately after returning from the PCA, I headed to Saint Louis for some chess classes and promotion of the Queen Within (see a good video piece on it here).

Then it was time to cure my glossophobia forever; Ted X Baltimore! I spoke to a crowd of about 1000 on chess, decision trees and poker. I’ll post the video here when it lands on TED X. For now, you can find it at the livestream link. (Stream A, 49:10). Thanks to Gretchen and Mike of Code-in-the-Schools for connecting me with the opportunity.

For updates follow me on twitter. And I’m finally on instagram!

A Perfect Trip, A Queen Within & Philly on Chess November 10, 2013

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Last time I updated you here, I was on my way to Vegas for a panel at G2E, the largest gaming conference in the World, and Rosarito, Mexico for WCOOP, the World Championship of Online Poker.



It was one of my favorite trips in a while, as I got to play online, catch up with close friends and enjoy all the perks of a legit vacation, from clubbing at Hakkasan in Vegas to a wine tour in Mexico.



I wrote more about Mexico in my piece, “Vegas to Rosarito: Goodbye Kitty”, where I concluded, “I could get used to this quiet resort town, now a bit louder with the big personalities of so many young poker players. I was so relaxed that I could see things more clearly and felt more sympathetic and less judgmental.”

Next I went to my second home Saint Louis, the capital of chess in the US.



The spectacular “A Queen Within” show opened last month at the World Chess Hall of Fame.
The fantastical installation above featuring designs by Hideki Seo represents the “Explorer”, one of nine archetypes of the queen explored (!) in the show. Photos don’t do it justice so see it in person.




I was auctioned off at the Queen’s Gala (lessons with me that is!), and I promoted the idea of “Queen Power” in chess through girls simuls and lectures.





I was also in a panel discussion on fashion, art and chess, along with “A Queen Within” curator, Sofia K. Hedman and several other brainy fashionistas.






I stayed on to give lectures at the club, all archived on YouTube. I did a series on previous Carlsen-Anand games in honor of the World Championship as well as my favorite, a lecture on problems and beauty in chess.

Now I’m back in Philadelphia and excited to play my first live poker since August at the Borgata. I’m also pumped for the Carlsen-Anand World Chess Championship. We just filmed this video of Philly predicting the outcome.

I’m working on some technical problems with blog post comments, so until then, hit me up on twitter!

Fantasyland: Three Nights in Vegas, Four Days in Mexico September 22, 2013

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Our latest PokerFairyTale video stars Katie Stone, founder of the Grindettes and Melissa Burr, high stakes mixed game and Open Face player.

When you get to fantasyland in Open Face Poker (find the rules to OFC here), you get to see all your cards (or see into the future), so we posted two versions, one in which the visuals are backwards and the other in which the sound is backwards.

The first thing I tried to work out in Open Face is the math behind risking fouls for fantasyland. In simplified terms, if two lucky things have to happen for you to go to Fantasyland, it’s often worth it. Three lucky things is too much. Daniel and I made these videos partly because we feel the role of luck in determining your success is understated, especially in fields outside poker. And often you can make a series of well-calculated risks without reward. The rich get richer and in Open Face, those running well tend to play better (especially in Fantasyland, ofc) than those who are buried. Malcolm Gladwell popularized this idea of “The Matthew Effect” in Outliers.

The video contrasts the perceived glamour of live poker, which can be more of a grind (represented here by the founding Grindette who relocated to Mexico to play online), than sitting in any living room or hotel to play a beloved game. Two and a half years after Black Friday, I still feel a gaping hole that PokerStars used to fill. Bovada is profitable but not the same.

After this summer, I unabashedly call Las Vegas one of my favorite places. I return for the biggest gaming conference in the World, G2E. I’m on a panel with One Drop champion Antonio Esfandiari, November-niner Jay Farber, Parx ambassador Matt Glantz and moderator Marco Valerio. We’ll talk about online and live poker from a players’ perspective.

In a beautiful twist of timing, I’ll head to Mexico for the final weekend of the World Championship of Online Poker (Hello again PokerStars!). Three nights in Vegas, four days in Mexico, very much on purpose.

Highs and Lows in Seminole & Sinquefield Cup September 18, 2013

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In August, I played the 10M guaranteed at the Seminole Hard Rock in Fort Lauderdale and placed 63rd out of 2300 players for a 29,088 cash. The success came at a funny time. Going into the tournament, I was questioning the entire trip. I felt bad that I didn’t know much about open face pineapple, when my intention was to play a lot of OFC in Florida. I made a few major errors in butter soft satellites to the Main and came up empty.

I recounted on twitter a few funny Floridian encounters, two amusing and one truly scary.

After the last one, I rushed back to my room and reported the incident to the hotel. I regretted not saying something immediately to a security officer, just so that the guy (who was not a poker player) would be publicly shamed and potentially kicked out. Never use that line guys!

My starting table was far softer than any WSOP Main Event table I’ve ever played at. Since it was the second highest buy-in I’d played in (5K), this made me happy about my choice to sell for and play it. Though the field naturally toughened as levels progressed, I was even happier after winning a few bucks for myself and my investors.

I came home excited about poker, but immediately focused on the next gig, commentary for the Sinquefield Cup. In this TV interview for “Show Me Saint Louis”, I explain why the tournament was so ground-breaking.


As a member of the organizing team, it was thrilling when World #1 Magnus Carlsen agreed to play, his first major event in the United States. And now it was real.




Magnus’s 4.5/6 performance did not disappoint (he now has a USCF provisional rating over 3000), and I am writing about my top ten moments from the trip on my USCF blog (see GM Rogers top ten here).



A particularly memorable moment, from our Friday the 13th show.

Unlike previous shows, my wardrobe shifted from business attire to a more stylish, fun look, which was fitting since my next trip to Saint Louis will be for a celebration of chess and fashion, “the Queen Within.”



In the final round of the Sinquefield Cup, the champion Magnus Carlsen fought on despite a draw offer which would clinch him first place and the $70,000 first prize. He ended up winning the game, and inspiring tens of thousands of fans, including me.


In addition to anticipating Magnus’s World Championship match vs. Anand in November, I also look forward to the 2014 Sinquefield Cup, which founder Rex Sinquefield alluded to in his final interview with GM Maurice Ashley.

A spectacular way to end the summer, and I felt sad to see it end. Onward to Vegas and Mexico, which I’ll preview in my next blog.

Summer End Times: Wisconsin, Florida, Missouri July 31, 2013

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Hello from Madison, site of this year’s US Open! The photo is from the awards ceremony of the 1st NGIT, where all the class winners won a copy of Play Like a Girl. In other book news, Chess Bitch is now available on the Kindle.

I’m finally starting to recuperate from the intensity of Vegas and the inevitable reflection. I wrote one of my most personal pieces last year, on time & poker immediately after returning from the WSOP.

This year, I combined my latest passion, Open Face Chinese Poker (OFCP) with a slightly more relaxed tournament schedule. If I busted a tournament on the early side, it was nice to be able to get right back into mental gymnastics with Open Face cash. Conversely, the intense focus that Open Face required motivated me to try to approximate that in the big tournaments I was playing, rather than succumb to bad habits, like constantly checking twitter when not involved in a hand…or my Open Face app games.

My next poker stop will be the $5300 buyin 10 Million Guaranteed at the Seminole Hard Rock. I’ve heard such great things about Florida poker and this will be my first chance to experience it first hand. I only intend to fire a single bullet, though I will come earlier to catch some cash action. I’ve sold about 40% of this tournament and would like to sell an additional ">20% 0% in increments of 2.5% (320 for 5%, 160 for 2.5%) Please contact me if you’re interested!

In September, I’m headed to the 1st Sinquefield Cup in Saint Louis. This is Magnus Carlsen’s first event in the US and likely his final event before he faces Vishy Anand for the World Championship. The ground-breaking tournament already has its own Wikipedia page. As a member of the organizing committee, I’m thrilled about the way it’s come together.

Follow me on twitter for all the latest.

Missing Vegas Already, in Photos July 17, 2013

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I fell in love with Vegas harder this year and felt emotional leaving after weeks in town, when I was supposed to be tired of it. I’ll miss the soft desert light and the random conversations with brilliant strangers and friends. My first piece on the WSOP, about Open Face action & strategy is up on the PokerStars blog. And now for some visuals:




I was flattered by how well-prepared the gorgeous Sarah Grant was for this PokerNews interview with me.



The no-frills Riviera Hotel was the site of the 2013 National Open, where we interviewed Amanda Mateer, among others, for USChess.

Daniel and I also shot a video for Poker Fairy Tale featuring Katie Stone, founder of the Grindettes and highstakes mixed game pro Melissa Burr. Some stills from the day:





















Melissa inspired me to become more serious about Open Face Poker, so it was a trip highlight to leave the Aria Open Face tournament with her triumphantly. We chopped the marathon overnight affair along with a few others.


Unfortunately, the WSOP Open Face tournament did not go as well.


As for the big one…




A few more happy photos from Vegas:





On the Speaking Grind: MIT to STL February 18, 2013

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I used to be terrified of public speaking, until the time I dated a blind Icelandic politician. He told me that the secret to success is very simple, “prepare until you no longer need to.”

Last fall, I was on a game theory panel with poker champion and financial analyst Bill Chen and Eric Maskin, Nobel Laureate in economics at the “Adventures of the Mind” conference for talented high school students. My alma mater NYU hosted this edition. Also in late 2012, I spoke at the Philadelphia Art Museum’s Art After Five series on Duchamp and chess, which I wrote about on Chess Life Online.

Most recently, I went to MIT to give a one and a half hour lecture on poker and chess for Will Ma’s second annual intensive for credit poker class. You can watch Part I below and find Part II on YouTube.

Currently, I’m in Saint Louis where I’m doing a series of lectures at the STL Chess Club for various levels. Many of the classes are uploaded to YouTube, and the topics range from Double Attack for beginners to analysis of the beautiful Aronian-Anand game for more advanced players.

More to come! I’ll keep you posted here, and more promptly, on twitter.