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Female Poker Personalities

NANI DOLLISON

PokerBet: Nani Dollison

Nani Dollison was born in Korea in 1953 and moved to the United States when she was 19 years old with her new American husband. They separated a year later and Dollison worked in restaurants to support herself until she got a job as a chip runner at a Gardena, California club in 1977. She found the job overwhelming, but the owner of the Eldorado Club offered her a job soon after as a poker dealer. Dollison and her boyfriend at the time were regulars at the Eldorado and it is there that she honed her craft.

Dollison started playing tournaments in 1998 and has three bracelets to show for her effort: she won the 2000 and 2001 WSOP $1000 Women’s Seven-Card Stud and the 2001 Limit Hold’em tournaments. At the time, she was the all-time women’s money leader at the WSOP. Today, she still enters tournaments (where she has a reputation for being a personable, but aggressive player) and works part-time as a dealer at the Horseshoe Casino in Tunica, Mississippi.

ANNIE DUKE

PokerBet: Anne Duke

Annie Duke is one of the most famous female poker players today and is arguably one of the brightest male or female. She was born in Concord, New Hampshire in 1965 to liberal, teacher parents who had a strong influence on Duke’s initial career ambitions to also be an educator. She went to Columbia University right out of high school and quickly earned a degree in English and psychology (which is a definite asset today in helping her read her opponents).

She was working on her PhD in cognitive psychology at the University of Pennsylvania when she proposed to an old friend, Ben Duke, in 1991. He said ‘yes’ and she abandoned her graduate degree and the two got married and moved to Colorado where she played in local poker games to pay the mortgage.

Poker prowess runs in the family: Duke’s brother, Howard ‘The Professor’ Lederer, taught her how to play and encouraged her to enter tournaments. She took his advice and in 1994 she entered her first WSOP where they both made history by being the first brother and sister to make it to the final table. Duke finished ahead of her brother (13th). She won her first bracelet in 2004 in a $2000 buy-in Omaha Hi-Lo Split, knocking out 234 to claim first prize. Later that year, she smoked eight of the best players in the world to win $2 million in a No-Limit Texas Hold’em winner-take-all, invitation-only WSOP Tournament of Champions.

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Besides playing a mean game of poker, she has penned a book on her experience as a top female poker player in an industry traditionally dominated by males and how she juggles her wild job and the demands of marriage while raising four young children. And as if her life isn’t exciting enough, she has coached Ben Affleck and Matt Damon among others on how to play winning poker.

AIDILY ‘LILY’ ELVIRO

PokerBet: Adily 'Lily' Elviro

Frequently showing up on the hottest female players lists, Lily Elviro is not only gorgeous, but is proving to be a poker force with enormous potential. She came in second to actress Jennifer Tilly at the WPT’s Ladies Night Out III tournament in 2005. That same year, she came in 27th at the World Poker Challenge’s $5100 buy-in No-Limit Texas Hold’em Championship (earning a third of her prize money for the entire year), 12th in the Mirage Poker Showdown’s No-Limit Hold’em and 5th at the WSOP No-Limit circuit event at Lake Tahoe.

Elviro was born and raised in Miami to a family that loved to gamble she was going to casinos with them as soon as she was legal to enter. It would seem fitting, then, that she met her future husband, Michael “The Grinder” Mizrachi, at a casino. He’s a gifted player in his own right and helped Elviro take her game up a notch.

BARBARA ENRIGHT

PokerBet: Barbara Enright

Barbara Enright started playing poker when she was just four years old against her older brother. This early experience with playing against men would help Enright with her poker career because when she started, there were very few women playing the game professionally. She was a trail blazer for women in the sport and through determination and skilled play, she’s earned tremendous respect from her peers. She also has bragging rights for being the first female to win numerous tournaments, among other accomplishments. She has won three WSOP bracelets and was the first woman to win two ladies’ tournaments in said organization. To date, she’s placed higher than any other female in the WSOP main event (she was fifth in 1995) and she’s the only woman to have been conferred an all around player award, which she did at the Legends of Poker tournament in 2000.

Enright is not only courageous at the poker table, but in her personal life as well. In 1976, she was diagnosed with lupus, a long-lasting disease where the body’s immune system attacks its own healthy cells, which can result in a great deal of pain. But Enright’s positive attitude and abundant energy belies her medical condition to the point where most people aren’t aware she has a serious medical condition.

Enright’s other contribution to poker is through her prolific body of writing on the subject. She’s currently the editor-in-chief of Woman Poker Player magazine and is known for both her wit and her campaign to encourage more women to not only play the game, but to play it assertively.

WENDEEN EOLIS

PokerBet: Wendeen Eolis

Wendeen Eolis is another female poker legend and is the first woman to finish in the money (she came in 25th in the 1986 WSOP). So great was her contribution to women in poker that Binion’s casino issued a commemorative chip in her honor.

When Eolis isn’t playing poker, she busies herself with New York politics and international business. Using her degree in psychology, she opened the first head-hunting company dealing exclusively with American lawyers. Her business later shifted to law management consulting, which is her main focus today. As if she isn’t busy enough already, Eolis is also a motivational speaker, a writer and the mother of two 30-somethings and six grandchildren. Eolis credits her ‘three D philosophy’ for her success in poker and life: discipline, desire and determination.

CYCLONA ‘CLONIE’ GOWEN

PokerBet: Cyclona 'Clonie' Gowen

Cycalone ‘Clonie’ Gowen has been a winner her whole life: in high school, she was ranked seventh in the high jump in her home State of Oklahoma and she played basketball on a team that was ranked number one in that state. When she was fifteen, she was crowned Miss Teen McAlester, Oklahoma.

Gowen’s poker career started when she was living in Dallas and driving to Shreveport, Louisiana on the weekends, where she would make several hundred dollars each week. She eventually started playing tournaments and made a name for herself by placing tenth at the WPT Costa Rica Classic, followed by a surprising win at the inaugural 2003 WPT Ladies’ Night event in 2003 (where she beat poker heavyweights Annie Duke and Jennifer Harman).

Today, Gowen can be found around the world either playing in tournaments or hosting them. She’s also co-owner of a poker teaching school for women (and men) and a mother of two young children.

JENNIFER HARMAN

PokerBet: Jennifer Harman

Jennifer Harman is one of the most famous female poker players, and like many before her, she got her start playing with her family when she was young (only eight years old). Harman grew up in Reno, Nevada first watching her parents play poker against their friends, where she immediately learned which hands would win and which would lose, and later joining in on the games whenever she could. She was only 13 years old when her father asked her to take over his losing hand during a home game. Harman went on to win the game, prompting her father to get a gambling friend of his to tutor his young protégé. When she was 16, she snuck into casinos to play against unsuspecting adults and by the time she was 21, she was a professional poker player. Since then, she has won two WSOP bracelets one in Texas Hold ‘em (her favorite game) and another in Deuce-to-Seven Lowball, which she won after never having played the game before in her life!

Her petite frame and cute features are in stark contrast to how she plays the game: aggressively and with a ‘take no prisoners’ attitude. For this reason alone, many elite players are nervous to play against her. However, she is good friends with Daniel Negreanu, Doyle Brunson, Todd Brunson, Chip Reese and Ted Forrest and plays against them whenever she can. She also wrote a section on Texas Hold ‘em for the senior Doyle’s book, Super/System 2.

Kidney problems have plagued Harman’s life since childhood, and in 2004, she underwent a kidney transplant (her niece was the donor) during the WSOP. Her experience with organ transplant surgery lead her to found ‘Creating Organ Donation Awareness’ (CODA).

CATHY ‘CAT’ HULBERT

PokerBet: Cathy 'Cat' Hulbert

Cathy ‘Cat’ Hulbert was one of the first female professional poker players in the 1960s and 1970s. When she was 24 years old, and without any prior knowledge of the game, Hulbert moved from New York to Las Vegas to play professionally. She started out as a Blackjack dealer, where she met the infamous group of card players called ‘The Czechs.’ When she was dealing to one of the men in the group, she noticed he had a particular system of betting in place and asked him what it was. “I came to Vegas to be a poker player and I stumbled on to something I didn’t even know existed,” she has said.

She quit her job as a dealer and began touring casinos around the world with The Czechs, first occupying seats for the group, and then moving on to counting cards. She started making hundreds of thousands of dollars a week and was the world’s first female card-counting professional poker player.

But the money didn’t come without its drawbacks: she was arrested more than fifty times when playing with Ken Uston’s group in Atlantic City for trespassing in casinos after they had thrown her out for being caught card counting. She was so well-known that she was also banned from many casinos in Asia before she had even step one foot inside. She was so annoyed at being thrown out by the Hilton Hotel in Las Vegas that she went to a disguise specialist in New York for a new look. She also took acting lessons to perfect male mannerisms. She managed to play a few hands as a man while wearing a wig and beard before staff recognized her. She opted to escape instead of being put through the humiliation of being kicked off the property yet again.

In the early eighties, she had a group of seniors working the slots for her whenever she noticed they were getting close to a rich payout. “Slot machines were the grimiest, dirtiest, hardest work I’ve ever done,” she said, “It’s the lowest form of gambling you can do.” She did make several hundred thousands of dollars for her efforts, at least.

By 1986, she decided to get back to what she had originally intended to do: play poker professionally. That year, she met David Heyden and Rick Greider, two of the world’s top-ranked Seven-Card Stud players, and asked them to tutor her in the game. She learned the game well and in 1996, Card Player magazine named her one of the seven best Seven-Card Stud players in the world (she was the only woman to make the list).

Today, Hulbert still makes a living off poker. She plays $40-$80 Texas Hold ‘em at Hollywood Casino, teaches women how to play poker and writes fiction.

SUSIE ISAACS

PokerBet: Susie Isaacs

Susie Isaacs was born and raised in Nashville, Tennessee and her first experience with poker was at the age of four when her older male cousins had her on the lookout for parents when they gambled. A few years later, as soon as she could count, she was playing the game. Initially, she played for fun, but after she sold her comic book collection for $2.35 and had a serious bankroll to play with, her perspective on poker changed forever.

She moved to Las Vegas in 1986 after divorcing and discovered a whole new world of poker. She didn’t have much disposable income to play on ‘fun poker’ and she knew that she had much to learn about poker, so she went about teaching herself everything she could. She read books, hired tutors, and started implementing the strategies she was learning about until she built the confidence needed to play competitively.

Her vast knowledge and skill in poker were critical to her success as a poker writer: she has published over 300 articles and has written a book, MsPoker: Up Close and Personal. The book covers hers and others’ personal poker stories, as well as her poker strategy. Her writing is so insightful and well-written, that she has had her own regular column in Card Player magazine, which she helped get off the ground by selling advertising in their inaugural year.

Isaacs has won two WSOP bracelets, in 1996 and 1997, and is the first woman to win them back-to-back. She placed 10th in 1998 at the WSOP main event the highest a woman had achieved up to that year. She’s currently ranked as the 17th woman in the world with the most money winnings.

KATHY LIEBERT

PokerBet: Kathy Liebert

Kathy Liebert was born in Tennessee and was raised on Long Island, New York. She has a degree in business and finance from Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York and worked in the corporate world as a business analyst for Dun & Bradstreet. After having lost interest in that job, she took her mother’s advice to seek out a career she loved and the money would eventually start rolling in. She did just that and made the switch to professional poker, initially living off the money she made playing the stock market while still at Dun & Bradstreet.

She first went to the West Coast, stopping in Las Vegas en route, and played in a casino for the first time in her life. She learned the basics of gambling off her parents when they hosted nickel-dime games in their home with friends. Liebert finally settled in Colorado, lured by the picturesque skiing in the Rockies, and played $5 Limit Hold ‘em in Central City and Blackhawk, which had recently legalized gambling. She was a quick study and played weekly, and the casinos took notice of her talent and hired her to be a paid player to sit at tables and keep the action going. She also read many books written by top professional poker players to improve her game.

A friend suggested Liebert put her skills to use by playing in a tournament, which she did: she came in second in her first tournament, Omaha Hi-Lo at a Las Vegas casino. The following week, she entered a Texas Hold ‘em tournament and came in second again! In those two games, she won $34,000. She continued entering tournaments and her bankroll grew so big that she was able to buy homes in Las Vegas and California.

Liebert has some impressive victories to her credit: she was the first woman to win a tournament with a buy-in of $5,000 or more and in 2002, she won a million dollars at the first-ever PartyPoker.com Million tournament. Liebert had placed second at the WSOP twice, but finally won a bracelet at the $1,500 Hold ‘em Shoot Out Event in 2004, winning $110,180. She is currently in third place for the most money won by any woman in history, with more than $2 million to her name.

She is known as a ruthless, yet calm, player something she no doubt learned in the cut-throat, male-dominated world of business. She continues to play the stock market to ensure an income during down-swings in her poker winnings, but they’re few and far between as Liebert is a major force in both WSOP and WPT tournaments (she came in third at the 2005 WPT Borgata Poker Open the highest a woman has achieved at the WPT).

LIZ LIEU

PokerBet: Liz Lieu

Liz Lieu is a newcomer to the poker tournament scene, but she has already proven herself to be an excellent player worthy of her opponents’ fear. In her inaugural tournament, she placed fifth at the 2005 WSOP and took home $169,500.

She was born in Vietnam, raised in Colorado, but now makes Los Angeles home. She’s a regular player at the $400-$800 tables at her two preferred casinos: LA Commerce and the Bellagio in Las Vegas. Keep your eyes on this player as she is likely to continue to dominate at the table.

ISABELLE MERCIER

PokerBet: Isabelle Mercier

Like many other female poker professionals, Isabelle ‘No Mercy’ Mercier had an illustrious career before making a living playing poker. She was born in Quebec, Canada in 1975 and obtained a degree in law from the Université de Montréal, where she practiced commercial law for a year before moving to Paris to get a master’s degree in international law from the Sorbonne. (This is one smart cookie!)

Mercier worked as a Blackjack dealer in Montreal while obtaining her first degree, and as a poker dealer and poker room manager at the Aviation Club de France (ACF) in Paris, where she would take care of the foreign players (she’s bilingual in French and English), publicity, communications, and other duties associated with managing a poker room. She was a commentator for three WPT Championships that were held at her Paris club and has twice been nominated for the European Poker Awards for the ‘Casino Staff Person of the Year.’

Mercier is a big player on both sides of the Atlantic: she made a huge name for herself while still working at the ACF when she placed second in a European tournament. After that, she has made it to the final table in more than a dozen tournaments and won the No-Limit event at the European Poker Tour Grand Final in Monte Carlo and first place at the 2004 WPT No-Limit Hold ‘em Ladies Night Out II event in Los Angeles.

ERIN NESS

PokerBet: Erin Ness

Erin Ness is new to the professional poker scene, but she has many years of experience already playing the game as a child with her family. She grew up in Ocean Beach, New Jersey and obtained a degree from Georgetown University, where her fellow students recall Ness playing an average of three games per week. After graduation, she got a job as a photo assistant at Maxim magazine, which held a poker tournament for their employees in 2004. The top prize was an all-expense paid trip to Las Vegas and the $10,000 buy-in for the WSOP. Ness beat out her colleagues and went on to place in the money (207th), and was the third-highest placed female in the tournament (Rose Richie was 98th). Since then, she has placed second in the Game Show Network’s Poker Royale: Young Bloods.

Ness’ cute looks and charming personality caught the attention of the poker world and she has been a crowd favorite ever since. She’ll need to compete in and finish high in several more tournaments, however, if she is to gain lasting recognition for her talents. She was recently promoted to photo editor at Maxim, which will take up more of her time, so it remains to be seen if Ness will take her game to the next level.

EVELYN NG

PokerBet: Evelyn NG

Evelyn ‘Evybabee’ Ng was born in Toronto, Canada in 1975 and currently lives in Las Vegas. Ng started gambling when she was 14 years old playing pool and at 17, she got a job as a Blackjack dealer in Toronto. During this time she befriended poker star (and fellow Canadian) Daniel Negreanu, who tutored her and gave her insight on how to play against aggressive players.

Although she has yet to win a major tournament, she has finished in the money five times at the WSOP and three times at the WPT. She came in second at the 2003 Fall WPT Ladies Night (Clonie Gowen came in first). Her most recent claim to fame is an 11th place finish at the Fall 2005 WPT Borgata Poker Open $10,000 No-Limit Hold'em Championship and an appearance as a poker player in Negreanu’s Xbox game, Stacked. At a towering 5’ 11” and prone to wearing revealing outfits, Ng often makes it onto the hottest poker player lists.

SHIRLEY ROSARIO

PokerBet: Shirley Rosario

Shirley Rosario is a ‘prop player’ at the Bicycle casino in Los Angeles. Her job is to sit at tables that are experiencing a lull in the action and get the table jumping. Although she has yet to win a bracelet, this is an excellent occupation for her to practice on a daily basis and still get paid (prop players are paid an hourly wage). Her efforts have finally started to pay off: she has made it to numerous tournaments’ final tables and came in first at the 2004 Grand Slam of Poker No-Limit Shootout and the 2005 Legends of Poker Omaha Hi-Lo.

Rosario’s vast exposure to the poker world has enabled her to write insightful articles about players, tournaments and all things poker.

VANESSA ROUSSO

PokerBet: Vanessa Rousso

Vanessa Rousso was born in the State of New York and raised in Florida, where she was the valedictorian from her high school in 2001. She went to Duke University on a scholarship and obtained her bachelor’s degree with honors two and a half years later with a major in economics and a minor in political science. She focused her studies in economics on game theory and claims it has helped her be a successful player. She is currently working on a law degree at the University of Miami.

In the one year that Rousso started playing poker professionally, she has had unprecedented success at the table: she became the fifth top-ranked female that year and one of the top twenty female money makers of all time, plus she made it to four final tables on the circuit and at the age of twenty-two, she became the youngest female player to make it to a WSOP final table. In 2006, she placed 7th place (out of over 600 players) in the WPT’s Five Star World Poker Classic, bringing home over a quarter of a million dollars.

Keep your eyes on this player: even though she has a busy schedule outside of the casinos, she’s an aggressive player with tremendous intelligence, skill, and mathematical prowess to make her a major threat to her opponents.

JENNIFER TILLY

PokerBet: Jennifer Tilly

Jennifer Tilly was famous for her acting long before she surprised everyone with winning two bracelets in one year (a feat no other woman has been able to duplicate). In 2005, she won the WSOP No-Limit Hold ‘em tournament and the WPT Ladies Night III. Certainly her experience as an actress helped her to control her mannerisms and successfully bluff, but it’s most likely her boyfriend’s coaching that has benefited her the most. He’s a top poker player in his own right, Phil ‘The Unabomber’ Laak, and has been beaten on several occasions by his girlfriend and student.

Tilly was the first non-poker celebrity male or female to have won a major event. Expect to see her make more appearances at a final table than on the red carpet the ‘Unabombshell’ has said that she’d like to focus on her poker career right now rather than acting.

CYNDY VIOLETTE

PokerBet: Cyndy Violette

Cyndy Violette was born in Queens, New York and started playing cards with her family at twelve when they moved to Las Vegas. In the 1980s, she worked as a Blackjack and poker dealer in Las Vegas, but it wasn’t until 1984 when she entered a tournament in Lake Tahoe that she discovered she had a real talent for the game. She used that money to build her bankroll and soon after she won $74,000 at the Golden Nugget’s Seven-Card Stud tournament, which was the most a woman had won at the time. This saw an increase in her celebrity with appearances on television and articles written about her in even non-poker publications, such as Playboy magazine. She met her second husband during this wild time in her life and subsequently took a two year hiatus from poker to enjoy the married life.

But she couldn’t stay away from the game forever: in 1990, she entered a tournament on a whim while on a trip to Caesar’s Palace. She won and walked away with the $62,000 prize! The media went crazy with her glorious return to poker and Violette knew that she loved the game too much to stay away. She then split her time between her home in Washington State and the casinos in Las Vegas and Los Angeles.

Once her marriage dissolved in 1993, Violette moved to Atlantic City after she found out they had legalized gambling. She stayed at the Taj Mahal Hotel and Casino for the summer and by the time spring arrived in 1994, she decided to make the East Coast her base again and she bought a house in Atlantic City.

Even though Violette had been playing poker for over a decade, she didn’t win her first bracelet until 2005 when she sent the opposition packing at the WSOP Seven-Card Stud Hi-Lo tournament. To date, she’s finished 21 times in the money at the WSOP and once at the WPT with winnings in excess of $950,000.

Violette is currently single and raising a young daughter and they split their time between Las Vegas and Los Angeles. She’s interested in metaphysics, spirituality and healthy living and is working on a line of poker-related clothing and inspirational products.

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