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Madrid Gallery: From Poker to El Prado May 31, 2011

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In May, I traveled to Madrid for the European Poker Tour Women’s Live package I won on PokerStars. During my stay in Madrid, I played a little poker and spent the rest of the time meeting new people and exploring the beautiful Spanish capital. Living it up felt mandatory–my Stars bankroll was direct deposited into my account the day before my flight. Full Tilt players are sadly, still waiting for their money. It was bittersweet when I picked up what would most likely be my last PokerStars gift bag, which included a paperback copy of Victoria Coren’s book For Richer or Poorer, a hot pink hoodie and a stuffed shark holding two aces in his fins. PokerStars sure knows how to do swag. For a full trip report, read my piece on PokerStars Women, and see photos from the trip below.

Outside Gran Casino Madrid, site of the 2011 European Poker Tour Grand Finale
Me outside the Prado. I saw paintings by Goya and Velasquez which I was quizzed in long ago in Art History 101
An amazing store, Agatha de La Ruiz Prada--I bought two neon fantasy dresses.
The Women's Event Final Table
Me at the poker table
Fountain in El Retiro, a giant and lively park in central Madrid
Minnie Mouse and a bubble in Retiro Park.
Relaxing on a Madrid rooftop
At the PokerStars Women cocktail party: Professional player Xuan Liu, Philly poker friend Grace Flanagan and Team PokerStars Pro Liv Boeree
Rie Woodward, a poker pro I met in Madrid.
The food in Madrid was amazing, and the small portions (tapas) were perfect for tasting everything without over-eating.
My brother was also in town during the tournament. Here we are eating at a fantastic Spanish restaraunt-specialties included blood sausage, raw tuna & anchovies.
Ruy Mora of the ICC took me to this restaurant, the closest I got to a bullfight.
A gorgeous little museum near my hotel, featuring the work of the Valencian painter Joaquim Sorolla
me & Rebekah Mercer, editor of PokerStars Women
View From Reina Sofia Museum where I saw Picasso's La Guernica
Ajedrez in Madrid
A girl jumping rope in the lobby of my hotel
Me at the PokerStars party

Sundance Gallery February 6, 2011

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A couple of weeks ago, I attended the Sundance Film Festival and saw the Fischer biopic Bobby Fischer Against the World, directed by Liz Garbus. I had a great time–Park City, Utah was absolutely gorgeous and the film was tight. The purpose of my visit was generally to promote chess and specifically to participate in a reception hosted by the World Chess Hall of Fame and Museum (mark the museum’s grand opening for September 8, 2011.) The reception displayed stunning never-seen before photos of Bobby by Harry Benson, who will also be showing his photos at a World Chess Museum exhibit in 2012. Watch the HBO Buzz clip below, where I was interviewed about the museum and Bobby’s influence on my generation of chessplayers. The Bobby Fischer Against the World section starts at 1:35.

Check out some photos of the event below by Shannon Bailey of the World Chess Hall of Fame and Museum and add the World Chess Museum on facebook for more. Also coming soon to uschess.org/clo is “Grandmasters Sundancing” a piece on the trip by three-time US Chess Champion Joel Benjamin.

The beautiful Sundance setting

At the reception

Promoting chess at Sundance

WIM Iryna Zenyuk, GM Alexander Shabalov, GM Joel Benjamin and me

Alexander Shabalov teaching a young Utah chess player.

PCA Ladies Bahamas Gallery January 20, 2011

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I just got back from Paradise Island in the Bahamas, where I played in the PokerStars Caribbean Adventures Ladies Event, held at the overpriced but spectacular Atlantis Resort. Ricki Lake (yes, that Ricki Lake!) busted me with AK>ATs in a standard spot about seven levels in. I did have some interesting hands earlier in the tournament, which I’ll share later.

As you can see from the photo from my hotel room balcony, the Atlantis was an easy place to enjoy. The waterslides and aquarium made me feel like a kid again and it was lovely to meet and drink with people I had previously only known from their online screen-names. I actually felt sad to leave at the end of the trip, which is rare for me–I’m usually excited to get back to Philly.

The photo gallery below includes shots from the tournament, the resort and Nassau, the capital of the Bahamas. Also look for my full recap later this month on PokerStarsWomen.com. Many congrats to Change 100 (Kristin Bihr) who took down the tournament for almost 30K and wrote a candid recap rich in details on her blog, Pot Committed.

What were the chances that the final four would be all blonde? I came up with about 50 to 1.

Daniel tapping the glass.

A statue of Columbus and Bahamian schoolchildren.

A cannon used as a horizontal trash can.

At this point the tournament was down to just four players, including Team Pokerstars Pro and writer Vicky Coren and the eventual winner, Kristin Bihr.

Talk show host & actress Ricki Lake and Poker Player/tax attorney Jamie Kerstetter

Maryann Morrison, the editor of Woman Poker Player Magazine and producer of Women’s Poker Hour

Lauren Kling, highstakes tournament player and PCA Ladies Event runner-up.

Carmelita Cothron (left), who won 100K on PokerStars’ Million Dollar Challenge and Stella Davila (right) a Women’s Poker League regular.

Kalik, a Bahamian beer drunk in spades by poker players last week.

Chess at Sundance! January 18, 2011

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Bobby Fischer Against the World premieres at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival. The World Chess Hall of Fame and Museum (to open in Saint Louis on September 8th) will present a photo exhibit and will host a series of chess exhibitions by chess players, including me, Alexander Shabalov, Joel Benjamin and Iryna Zenyuk.

Being in Sundance for a few days should be great inspiration for the Extreme Chess shoot on Sunday the 23rd. See the flyer for details, and if you’re within striking distance, join the fun!

Introducing PokerStars Women October 24, 2010

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I’m excited to announce that I am part a brand new team of writers for PokerStars Women! My first article covered Lauren Nakhoneinh Pottmeyer’s (pictured below) big win at the US Ladies Poker Championship. Lauren’s successful but risky road to immigration really put into perspective the vast difference between fortune in life and poker. To be clear, it’s more important to be lucky in the former :)

My second piece for PokerStars Women will detail how to qualify for the Ladies PokerStars Caribbean Adventure (PCA) Weekend (January 14-16) and provide basic satellite strategy tips. I’m really psyched to be part of this unique initiative to bring more women into poker via live events, the Women’s Poker League and an online community. Rebekah Mercer, who wrote a profile of me earlier this year in her Examiner column is the Senior Editor while my Women’s Poker Hour co-host Amy Zupko is also a contributing writer.

Speaking of Amy, listen to our latest Women’s Poker Hour shows (also available for free download on itunes!), with Team PokerStars Pros Maria “maridu” Mayrinck, Celina Lin and entrepreneur Ellen Leikind, author of PokerWoman.

2010 Ladies World Series of Poker Redux June 20, 2010

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I’m back from Las Vegas, where I played in the Ladies World Series of Poker and covered the National Open for Chess Life Online. I also made a quick stop in Saint Louis for meetings related to the 2010 US Women’s and US Junior’s Championship (July 9-19)and to give a group of Saint Louis women a sneak preview into “Play Like a Girl”, the 9queens/Mongoose Press collaboration that will be coming out later this year. It was all a blast, though predictably, I came back with a serious case of the Vegas/airplane flu.

I reported on the Ladies World Series of Poker on the second episode of Women’s Poker Hour and in an article on WomanPokerPlayer.com, which begins thus:

At the Ladies Event of the World Series of Poker, Vanessa Hellebuyck of France won her first bracelet and a prize of $192,000. Despite the uproarious applause of what seemed liked every French man or woman in Las Vegas, Vanessa’s win barely registered a peep compared to the media coverage of the dozen men who took their legal right to play in the “Ladies’ Event” seriously.

About ten minutes into the event, Seth Palansky made it clear that Harrah’s was not happy about the men who infiltrated the Event #22 of the World Series. A woman, who I later found out was Joy Miller representing Bluff Magazine, also announced soon after the tournament started that online poker legend Shaun Deeb was playing (in drag) because he lost a prop bet.

Women’s poker tournaments have a great atmosphere. Daniel Negreanu called it “electric!” We compliment each other’s clothes and handbags, offer each other gum and lip-balm, and spend the first three levels set-mining and waiting for aces. Except of course if Shaun Deeb is on our right in which case we three-bet him until his mascara, applied by none other than Liv Boeree, drips and he changes his mind, decides that drag is uncool and women’s poker tournaments are just wrong.

Some more salient points from my reportage:

1. I was eliminated from the Ladies WSOP shoving A3o from the Cutoff in an unenviable but inevitable spot. My opponent called with AQo and I was busto minutes before the dinner break.
2. I cashed in my private lesson with pokerstars pro Vanessa Rousso of Big Slick Bootcamp. Vanessa is really passionate about poker and teaching, and I will write a full article on my lesson with her. One tidbit: she is not a big fan of three-bet shoving, which was comforting cause there were a few such spots in the WSOP that I wisely chickened out on. Rousso is currently in the Elite Eight of the 10K Heads-Up competition, which started with 256 players. Good luck!!
3. Phil Ivey is better looking in person than on TV poker tables because a. he is much taller than you’d expect (often obscured by slumping over the poker table), and b. he dresses well (often obscured by full tilt gear).
4. Of the dozen men who crashed the Ladies WSOP, one used a tampon as a card-protector. While this may be a rude, I don’t think it merits a penalty. The same sort of male tournament director who gives a penalty to someone for that is the type of boyfriend who would think it’s “gross” to run out to the CVS and buy a pack of Tampax for his girlfriend. It’s a tampon, not an illicit device!
5. Two more stories coming on my aforementioned lesson with Rousso and a pokerchess match that I contested against a chessplayer turned poker pro.

Atlantic City Christmas with Snow December 27, 2009

Posted by Jennifer in : poker,travel , 1 comment so far

For the third year in a row, I spent a beautiful Jewish Christmas in Atlantic City. Piles of snow iced the beach and by the time we left, it was washed away by the rain. Every morning we ate greasy breakfasts at the hotel diner and on Christmas morning, 9 Queens was featured in the New York Times. I played just one poker tournament, a $40+12 at the Tropicana, where I lost AK to AT. The next night, I was trying to see how many free drinks I could acquire while placing just one minimum bet at Pai Gow. Somehow, this charade lasted long enough to distract me from entering the $10,000 guarantee at the Trop, which turned out to be a real EV bonanza with less than $7,000 (55 players, 125+25) in entry fees.

My dad was smart enough to play in the tournament and he got to the final table, at which point it seemed everyone wanted to chop based on their stacks. I pulled out my trusty G1 and did the math for the table(each chip was worth .0121212.) Nine players were ready to chop, but the final player, a medium stack refused the deal. I can’t really blame him as I probably wouldn’t have accepted such a deal. Play resumed, dad couldn’t get his chips in in a good spot, and so it goes.

Among the photos below are a shot of a snowman at the Atlantic City train station, and me reading Jokes for All Occasions (1921/22) by the fireplace of the Chelsea Hotel lobby. Most of the jokes were more interesting insights into the time than lol funny. The racist jokes were vicious. On the other hand, most of the jokes related to gender, money, adultery, jealousy or sex were so tame by modern standards that they would never register as jokes to us. Here’s one on poker which resonates since Americans are still the butt of many jokes on our inability to absorb certain worldwide standards of measurement:

Tommy Atkins and a doughboy sat in a poker game together somewhere in France. The Britisher held a full house, the American four of a kind. I’ll raise you 2 pounds, quoth the Yankee. Tommy didn’t hesitate, “I aint exactly onto your currency but I’ll bump it up 4 tons.”

From Vegas to AQ in AC June 16, 2009

Posted by Jennifer in : poker,travel , add a comment

At the Ladies World Series of Poker this year in Las Vegas, I had almost no interesting hands. I won a race AKs vs. a shortstack with ATo,  which got me through about four hours with approximately the same stack as I started with. About five hours in, with 17x the BB I pushed from the SB with 33 and lost a race to AJo in the BB. My two-time "in the money streak" broken, but I had few regrets about the way I played.

On an unrelated note, I was impressed by the size and number of breast implants in the tournament. Somebody called it the cleavage vs. the grandmothers– It’s not typical that I feel like I have one of the smallest bras at the table!

This year, I’m playing in the Main Event on July 4th weekend, which is exciting but scary cause it’s a way deeper tournament than anything I’ve ever played. I was too busy with the chess tournament at the South Point to get much poker practice in June in Vegas, so yesterday I went to Atlantic City for the Ladies Event at the Borgata Summer Open. 174 players entered including one lady-man, with a blonde wig and muscles larger than any dude in the casino. According to the floorman, there’s nothing they can do to stop a man from entering.  On break, he told me he played for the "great action", which made me suspicious. I support anyone who identifies as a women to play in a Ladies’ Event, but I don’t want to see an entire fraternity showing up for the "action."

The structure was nice- we started with 10,000 chips and 25/50 blinds with 35 minute levels.

I had two annoying AQ situations on the first level that I’d like to share: 

#1- Second to Act limps, I raise to 200 in MP with AQo, the Small Blind calls, original limper folds. Flop is Q54 with two hearts and a diamond, but I have the ace of hearts. SB checks, I bet 300, she reraises me to 1000. Already I’m unhappy, but I make the call. The turn is a 7 of spades and she overbets the pot to 3000. After a long think, I folded.  My logic was that since I had the Ace of Hearts, that cuts out a lot of draws that I can beat, and it felt more likely to me that she had one of the hands that busted me, like 44 or 55 than a hand that I busted, like KQ. Later she told me she had Kings.

#2- Folded to me in the cutoff. I raise to 200 with AQo. Button and SB call. Flop KQ4 rainbow. SB checks, I decide to take a stab and bet out 400. Both opponents call! Turn is a 5. Checked around. River is an Ace, no flush possibilities on board. SB checks. I bet 1000, which I’m not sure about- what hands can I beat that she’ll call me with? Maybe AT or KJ?  Anyway, when I bet 1000 the Button thinks for a while and re-raises me to 2000. SB folds and I call. The button has Jc Tc for a straight, so I lost a bunch of chips on this hand.

Later I rebounded by showing down a straight, winning one race and then stealing blinds. Then, I busted about 20 players before the money with TT vs. AK.

Let me know if you have any tips on prepping for the Main Event except for winning races.


I wish I was in Iceland March 6, 2009

Posted by Jennifer in : art,chess,travel , 8 comments

I have been to Iceland two times, and on the second visit, I was floored by both the beauty of the landscape—and how expensive everything was ($40 pizza anyone?). So, the bright side of the economic crisis in Iceland is that it would now be reasonable to eat, drink and shop there.  When I even think about visiting Iceland, I hear the music of Bjork and Sigur Ros in my head, and I calm down. My new relaxation therapy is to just say Iceland over and over again until any anger and stress melts away. I’ll let you know how it goes.

I’d also love to visit right now to see the exhibit at the Reykjavik Art Museum, 32 Pieces: The Art of Chess in person. My friend Larry List is a co-curator of the show, and the sets look amazing. I probably won’t make it to Iceland in time to see the show live, but this has me thinking about what kind of chess set I’d create if given the task.

Pumpkin Chess, 2003

 I am totally in love with the first set by the Japanese artist, Yayoi Kusama.   It’s my fantasy of form and function and I actually believe that I would use it.   Kusama broke the record for the highest sale for a female artist in history: 5.1 million dollars, so I guess I won’t be affording the Pumpkin set anytime soon. Check out a close up of the pieces:

Amorphous Organic by Alastair Mackie, 2008

This brings out some hidden phobias in me. How about Fear Factor Chess?

Kitchen Set by Paul McCarthy, 2003

This set by Paul McCarthy was in Moscow for a while, and Garry Kasparov played with it!

Chess Set by Jake and Dinos Chapman, 2003

This is my least favorite in some ways, and my favorite in another way. Most of the other sets in the exhibit make me smile, while this makes me feel sort of sick and angry, like I just lost a chess game.

Over There in the Bushes by Matthew Ronay, 2005

Can you figure out which piece is which in the set above? I will post the answer as a comment to this blog.

Read more about the show on CLO and the Reykjavik Art Museum website.


China Photography Quiz October 23, 2008

Posted by Jennifer in : travel , 9 comments

I took literally thousands of photographs on my trip to China, (which I blogged on extensively for uschess.org). I wasn’t happy with my ratio of great to forgettable photos. In the digital age, taking hundreds of photos may not batter my wallet, the environment or take up space in dusty boxes. But snapping away costs time and energy, plus I had  to delete or store hundreds of crappy pictures. China has inspired me to get my lens checked out and commit  to being a better photographer so perhaps I can get 5 good photos out of 100 shots, rather than 5 out of 1000.

Here’s a quiz for photo geeks: I took two cameras with me to China, my trusty and lunky Nikon D70, valued at about $1000 and my tiny $150 Casio. Can you guess which of the following photos were taken by which camera? Four were by the Nikon, four by the Canon. I will post the answers in a comment to this blog.


A card game in Beijing


An artsy bar in Beijing's Financial District


The American Chess Team plays dress up by the Ming Tombs


A photoshoot in 798, Beijing's contemporary art district


A solider by the Ming Tombs


Kung-Fu at the market


Me and Shirley Ben-Dak in a chess pose by the Great Wall



A hug by the hutong