The scenario seems quite familiar - endless clicking of buttons on the virtual online poker tables or sitting at the live tables until the early morning hours. The sun already goes up when the action dies down and we cover our eyes with the hand, wondering what that glistening round thing in the sky is. No, we don't refer to Vampires but rather poker players that grind the felt day in day out to earn a living.
A testosterone driven competition, where the vast majority of players end up losing in the long run and solely depend on the mercy of Lady Luck and the right read at the right time. Only very few are lucky enough to have a sponsoring deal and can participate in the biggest tournaments on the circuit without risking a significant portion of their bankroll, but what about all the other fortune hunters?
Now on top of all that, imagine how difficult it is for women to get the same respect and recognition at the tables during the daily grind. Most definitely female players become a force to be reckoned with excellent results, but the average Joe these days still has the very same prejudices when playing against a woman or is simply ignorant enough to be "better by default". But it isn't about the gender, race or age but rather the ability to use your knowledge and skill to gain an advantage over your opponent if you want to win at poker.
Even though it may appear to be a dream job for all beginners based on what they see, it is a tough endurance challenge to be a "Poker Pro" when you know you have to make profit and cannot just play for fun. We have caught up with Kristine Zakaite from Latvia for the below interview to take a closer look behind the scenes of the glamorous world of poker.
WPP: Hello Kristine, can you tell us something about yourself and how you fell in love with poker?
First of all, I am a dreamer… I live in my own world of 2Q12 (to those who have read Haruki Murakami). During my university years in London, I met my boyfriend who is a pro poker player, and that is how I got introduced to poker. Stubborn as always, I thought I could do the same and even better! So I read a poker book, then started playing online, but mostly practiced in live cash games all over our lovely planet. Now full 24 years old, I have given up the idea of 9-5 job, and playing live cash games for living in Madrid, Spain.
WPP: Is Poker becoming more popular in your home country?
Most definitely it is. Latvia already has numerous great poker players who have had very impressive results, both in tournaments and cash games. We also now have poker events, like the Latvian Poker Championship and the Latvian Poker Series, which every time attract an even bigger field.
WPP: How does a typical poker day for you look like?
I wake up usually around 2 pm or later, do some errands or go to the gym. Have breakfast, read some news and just relax. If I feel good I go to the casino and play a session on average for about 6 hours. That way for about 4 times a week. The rest of the days are my 'weekend', and I try to 'recharge my batteries' as much as possible, by going out, having fun, experiencing new things or anything that I feel up to. That is the advantage of a poker player. You control your time 100%. But be careful, you must do it very well in order to succeed in this profession.
WPP: Do you prefer to play cash game or tournaments?
Cash games are where my biggest success and experience comes from. I enjoy them better in the long term, because they make me calmer, I don't have to stress about blinds going up or occasionally making a fancy play and fail !Financially, for me, cash games provide for faster and less-variance profit, and money is always needed to pay the rent.
However, I am very competitive and love tournaments because they can give you that sense of greatness and immortality when you win one. It is such a hard job to play for endless hours or various days, and you know, that there is only one winner! Currently, I am working on my MTT game and hopefully can have some decent results soon.
WPP: The poker circuit never sleeps, do you travel a lot and if so, what is your favorite location so far?
I have travelled a lot for poker, but my destinations not always have been dictated by poker circuit. My poker experience starts in London and Madrid, stretches all over Europe from Norway to Portugal and extends to Canada, the USA and Macau.
My favorite locations are Spain or Las Vegas so far. I love how passionately Spanish people play poker; they give you all their energy at the table, whereas in Las Vegas it is just that one opportunity to meet the craziest people in the world!!!
WPP: What was the best and worst thing that happened to you while playing poker?
Poker has given me bigger sense of freedom, confidence and independence like never before. However, the biggest setback has been my relationships with my mother who doesn't like poker and "gambling". I am hopeful that this will change with time though.
WPP: In your opinion, is it more difficult for women to get respect at the tables?
In a way, yes. Men always underestimate your 'aggression factor', and are confident we (women) always take the defensive side. But at the end of the day, once you prove them wrong, then you get as much respect (maybe even more) as everyone else. Sometimes it feels like I get pushed around much more than if I were a guy, but it is important not to get frustrated and follow your 'execution' plan as devised.
WPP: The women have shown excellent results at the WSOP this year so far, but as usual we also have the debate whether or not there should be a Ladies Only tournament. What do you personally think about it?
I am a big fan of Ladies Events! I do not understand why there is even a debate about it! Should we cancel the senior event then too? When I play any Ladies Event, I look forward to seeing all these women, showing off their fashion accessories and passion for the game. All that talk, laugh and friendly atmosphere. It is pure fun. It also gives me a chance to get to know more women-playing poker players and become friends/colleagues with them. Always nice to be able to have someone to go out for lunch or drinks, or shopping for what matter, when you are away from home!
WPP: Besides poker, are there any other casino games that you are interested in?
I am strictly a poker-girl only. I have tried playing blackjack once before I even knew poker, and have never played or been interested in any other casino games since. I try to avoid gambling as much as possible.
WPP: Where are you heading next?
Right now I am vacationing back home in Riga, Latvia. However, I plan to go to Macau for a month, be a super grinder and invest lots of hours and hard work into the game. Then probably will move to London in September. Agh, what big plans!!!
WPP: Thanks a lot for your time and we wish you best of luck at the tables