Adrienne Rowsome: "Women are Made to Feel Like This Isn't Your Place"

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Being a certified Occupational Therapist and a mother of a two-year-old aren't exactly the most compatible side gigs with being a poker pro.

But PokerStars Team Online member Adrienne “Talonchick” Rowsome is not your conventional poker pro.

She's far more talented than that. 

A 10-year veteran of the poker grind and a member of Team Online since 2011, Rowsome is a Mixed-Games specialist with a very impressive record both online and live.

We met up with her just a few hours before she sat down in the $2,200 PLO Hi-Lo event at the 2016 PCA - which, of course, she went on to win for $22,240.

PokerListings: PokerStars has made a lot of changes to the pro team and everyone seems to fulfill a specific position. What’s your role as a member of Team Online?

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She won, of course.

Adrienne Rowsome: On the one hand I represent the long-time player, having been on PokerStars for a decade now.

On the other hand I stand for the more non-conventional player, as I play a lot of Mixed Games like 8-Game, and Limit Games with a preference for Omaha Hi-Lo Split.

Also, my background is unusual as I’ve had an education and a career in Occupational Therapy. Working a certain amount of hours a week gives me a really good balance between poker and my job.

PL: You’re also a working mum. How do you even have time for all this?

AR: I have a wonderful husband. He and his parents are often taking care of our son. For me, it’s all about balance.

I guess I’m lucky in the sense that poker has always been fun for me. It never felt like a chore, like something I had to do.

At the PCA I started out playing two of the $300 buy-in events. These tournaments bring back some of the original poker experience.

The competition is still there but they are a little more social, and although you want to win everyone just likes to be part of that community and play a game of cards.

PL: Your whole mind-set is a lot different from that of other players. Does that translate into your game?

AR: Yes, it does. Poker is tough. Nobody likes to lose money and nobody like to lose pots. I’ve been working a lot on my mental game in the last couple of years.

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Bad beats in isolation are manageable.

For example, I did a lot of guided meditation and I realized that all I can control is my input. The output, I just have to deal with and cope with it.

I recently played in a $1,100 PLO split event. I made a big check-raise and my opponent tanked for over five minutes. That’s a long waiting time but I felt very peaceful – or maybe neutral.

I was happy with my play and I knew that whatever the outcome of the hand would be, I’d be fine with it. I had done the best I could in that moment.

PL: So you don’t get upset anymore when you suffer from a bad beat?

AR: Let’s say I’m not entirely there. I can take one bad beat in isolation. But sometimes they come in rows, and every one can put a dent into how you handle things.

So no, I’m definitely not immune to becoming upset. But then I ask myself if I’m only upset about myself, and if it is, I can handle that and deal with it.

PL: What do players actually mean when they talk about the “mental game”?

AR: The mental game in poker and in life means to be able to deal with every kind of stressful situation.

For example, we traveled almost 20 hours to go to the Bahamas with a 19-month-old. But we were well-prepared, and although we couldn’t anticipate all the situations that arose we arrived relatively relaxed.

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Can't jump in without a plan.

Poker is just the same. You can’t just jump into a tournament without giving thoughts to how to handle situations.

You need to ask yourself in advance, ‘what am I going to do at the table?' Am I just going to sit there and look at my tablet and check Facebook, or am I going to talk to the players and try to figure out their stories?

If you’re not doing that you’re taking away your chance of being mentally well-prepared.

PL: So the mental game has more to do with your own state of mind than with actually playing cards?

AR: Absolutely, yes. Poker is a fairly repetitive game and certain situations occur every time you play. But you also have to be prepared for the ones that you didn’t expect.

PL: Considering your background, you should probably be at the forefront of any initiative to bring more women into poker. Are you taking any steps in that direction?

AR: I definitely do. Online, I play the women’s Sunday tournament and other Ladies events whenever I can. I’m also active away from the poker table.

For example, I’m in a lot of mothers groups and often they ask me about poker. Their idea often is that they also would like to have the luxury and stay at home while still making maybe a couple of hundred dollars per week.

Of course, they also want to know what it feels like to play; if I was scared, for example. I think it’s very reassuring for them to hear that yes, I was scared in the beginning, every poker player is, but I’m now much more comfortable in every possible poker situation.

Maybe the worries that everyone has who first walks into a poker room are a little bit heightened for women because as a woman you’re an outsider.

If you sit down at a poker table, everybody notices you and if you make a mistake it's noticed maybe a little faster and a little more obviously.

Anais Lerouge2013 WSOP EuropeEV011K LadiesGiron8JG8432
Not risk averse but environment averse.

PL: Do women approach the game in a different way?

AR: I know that the general public, and even players, like to say that women are more risk-adverse and thus play a different game.

I understand that viewpoint but I think that this is a very good reason for women to be in poker.

Because if they are so risk-adverse, why is it that so many women play slot machines more than men?

That’s taking a risk. So, I don’t believe it’s about risk-adversity.

I believe that the environment is very important, and if you don’t have a positive experience on your first or second time in a poker room, there will be very little intent to come back.

PL: But don’t they call poker “the big equalizer” for a reason? Isn’t everyone the same at the table?

AR: Women are raised culturally differently. I was really good at math when I grew up but the other people in my course were all guys.

Rowsome Stoddart
Brushing off the bad experiences. (Photo: Neil Stoddart)

Women are not culturally encouraged to develop their math skills and that definitely has an effect.

But when it comes to intellectual or physical abilities, no. I don’t think that being a woman is a barrier in poker.

But there are environmental barriers. A couple of years ago I had a terrible experience in a poker room and it was at the hands of the dealer.

He basically indicated to me that it must be nice to play with my husband’s money. By the way, at the time, I was single.

I promise you that every female poker player has a story like this to tell, and it makes many women think that it’s just not worth it.

PL: Male players get intimidated and ridiculed as well. Do you see a difference there?

AR: When women are attacked, without a doubt, it’s much more on a personal level. Men are criticized for lack of playing abilities; women get attacked for their physical appearance.

Women are made to feel like you don’t belong here, like this isn’t your place.

I know that different forms of intimidation happen to many, many players, but between my husband and me there is much more prevalence towards me.

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