Just a few of the natural obstacles in the way of love on the poker-room floor:
- 95% male demographic
- Brutally long, late hours - either grinding away at dual monitors or slugging along at a glacial pace in a casino, 12-24 hour sessions are standard.
- Wild swings in success/income/emotional and financial stability
- Sedentary lifestyle not conducive to good health and/or frequent sun exposure
- Increasingly competitive field requiring more and more study to maintain a shrinking edge
There are more, but that covers the main ones. Makes a 9-5 office job look like a dirty weekend at a Sandals Hedonism Resort, really.
Still, love and relationships surprisingly can flourish in poker. Perhaps even more so, as it’s such a specialized and insular world it almost requires a better half that understands just how painful or exhilarating the whims of variance can be.
If you’re a woman in poker, chances are also pretty good you won’t have to try very hard to find a willing partner.
In honor of the ever-looming Valentine’s Day, here are 20 very impressive poker couples who’ve bucked the odds and literally flopped the nuts in life - finding both love and success at the tables.
1. Jennifer Harman/Marco Traniello
Two of the first names that usually come up when talking about poker couples -- and also one of the few pairs where the female half of the equation is the poker groundbreaker.
Harman is one of the greatest players in the game’s history, male or female. The only woman to play regularly in the highest-stakes cash games in Vegas, Harman has been a consistent winner for two decades.
She also has 2 WSOP bracelets and $2.6 million in career tournament earnings. As a result of that success, Harman recently starred in a (quickly canceled) reality show called Sin City Rules about Las Vegas “power women.”
Despite $700k in career tournament cashes of his own, Traniello plays second fiddle to Harman in the poker department.
Originally a hairdresser from Italy, the two met in the parking garage of the Bellagio where their cars were parked next to each other. They have two twin boys together.
2. Erick Lindgren/Erica Schoenberg
Lindgren was once one of poker’s golden boys as a fully sponsored pro and shareholder in Full Tilt Poker.
Extremely well liked in the poker community, thanks to his frequent TV appearances and charming personality, Lindgren won his first WSOP bracelet to much fanfare in 2008.
With 2 WPT titles and $8.5 million in career tournament earnings, he’s still one of the most successful poker pros in history.
After the events of Black Friday and the end of his massive monthly FTP dividends, though, things went south for Lindgren as a series of large, unpaid gambling debts surfaced.
Schoenberg, dubbed “TheHitWoman” at one point, had her own successful career in poker with live tourney earnings over $750k.
A former professional model, Blackjack pro, volleyball player and personal trainer, she also made a much-shared appearance in Carmen Electra’s Strip Poker DVD.
The two now have returned to Las Vegas while Lindgren tries to rebuild his poker career. They have a one-year old son, Jake.
3. Phil Laak/Jennifer Tilly
Laak, dubbed “The Unabomber” in the early days of the poker boom for wearing a hoodie at the tables, is a long-time pro who won his first and only WSOP bracelet in London in 2010.
A fixture in the televised high-stakes cash games and best pal of Antonio Esfandiari, Laak met Tilly at the WPT Invitational in Los Angeles in 2004.
Tilly, naturally nicknamed the "Unabombshell,” is a well known Hollywood actress praised for her roles in Bound, Bride of Chucky and her Best Supporting Actress-nomination for Woody Allen’s Bullets over Broadway.
Also the owner of a WSOP bracelet (2004 Ladies event), Tilly has virtually converted to a full-time poker pro and is a regular on the poker circuit when not acting.
She has over $700,000 in career tournament cashes and has made several appearances on televised high-stakes cash games, including a famous turn on Poker After Dark where she checked a full house on the river to Patrik Antonius.
Tilly was previously married to Sam Simon, developer and producer of the Simpsons and also an avid poker player.
4. Bertrand "ElkY" Grospellier/Cathy Hong
The #1 French player in the world, ElkY was a champion Starcraft player and superstar in Korea before moving into poker at the age of 23.
A Triple Crown winner with EPT and WPT wins in 2008 and a WSOP bracelet in 2011, Grospellier now has over $10 million in career earnings.
Hong met Grospellier on a blind date in South Korea during ElkY’s Starcraft days but at the time had no idea who he was.
They kept up a long-distance relationship while Hong was in school and ElkY pursued his poker career before he convinced her to join him on the poker circuit in 2008.
Hong now regularly plays EPT Ladies events and has $146,000 in live cashes.
5. Kara Scott/Giovanni Rizzo
Another couple where the female half is the more famous name, Scott is a very popular poker personality most known these days as the tableside host for ESPN’s World Series of Poker broadcast.
Also the host for the PokerListings.com Battle of Malta last year, Scott came into the game of poker via producing and hosting a TV show about kickboxing on British TV.
Spotted on the martial arts show Scott became the host of two Backgammon programs before moving on to Poker Night Live, Sky Poker and eventually GSN’s High Stakes Poker.
Scott also has some poker chops of her own as she finished second at the 2009 Irish Open for €312,600.
Her boyfriend Rizzo, a law school grad and sponsored pro for GD Poker in Italy, is a rising star in the game in his own right.
With just $100k in career live earnings, Rizzo still spends much of his time on projects outside of poker but when he plays, he’s a contender to go deep as he did in both the 2010 and 2011 WSOP Main Events.
The two now live and play poker together in Italy.
6. David Sands/Erika Moutinho
David "Doc" Sands and Erika Moutinho are most known to the average poker fan for their side-by-side deep runs in the 2011 WSOP Main Event.
Getting plenty of feature coverage on ESPN, Sands and Moutinho went further than any couple had before, eventually busting in 30th and 29th, respectively.
Their total combined cash was just short of half a million dollars.
Sands has since gone on to become a staple on the high-stakes live tournament scene, going deep in several big-buy-in tournaments and compiling over $2.5 million in cashes.
Moutinho, possibly even more popular than Sands during that WSOP run, was the last woman standing in the Main Event for that year, joining an illustrious group of "Last Women" that includes Leo Margets, Maria Ho, Tiffany Michelle and Gaëlle Baumann.
The two have been together for over eight years and are still going strong with a wedding planned for this year.
7. Liv Boeree/Kevin MacPhee
An astrophysics grad and heavy metal guitarist, Boeree had her breakthrough win on the poker circuit at EPT San Remo in 2010, taking home $1.7 million.
With her good looks and tomboy hobbies, Boeree turned that win into a PokerStars sponsorship and is now one of the most popular pros, male or female, in the world.
Boeree was introduced to poker via the reality TV show Ultimatepoker.com Showdown on British TV, where she was coached by Phil Hellmuth, Annie Duke and Dave “Devilfish” Ulliott.
She’s since gone on to dozens of notable cashes but her win at San Remo makes up the bulk of her $2.2 million in career earnings.
MacPhee has his own major EPT title as he won the EPT Berlin main event in 2010 – the one where the casino was robbed – for a life-changing €1m score.
An American from Idaho, MacPhee has over $2.3 million in live cashes and an even more impressive $4 million online, where he’s known as “ImaLuckSac.”
Recently the two were featured in a one-off travel show called I Bet My Life that chronicled their trip to Monaco for the EPT Grand Final.
8. Lex Veldhuis/Evelyn Ng
Another of the more famous poker couples, Veldhuis and Ng are two of the most high-profile and successful pros in the world.
Veldhuis is a Team PokerStars pro from the Netherlands who found his way to poker via Starcraft and his friend ElkY.
Now a regular in the highest-stakes games online, Veldhuis has also made appearances on High Stakes Poker.
Ng is a Canadian now based in Las Vegas who has been a sponsored pro with Bodog since 2007.
Ng was one of the first major, high-profile female poker pros on the scene in the mid-2000s and a familiar face to anyone who has watched ESPN’s WSOP coverage over the years.
Originally a pool player, Ng found her way into poker through dealing in Toronto poker clubs and through dating Daniel Negreanu.
9. Tatjana Pasalic/McLean Karr
Pasalic might be the higher profile of the two in terms of fans but both have experienced tremendous success in the poker industry over the last few years.
Croatian-born Pasalic is a Bodog rep and one of the most popular hosts in poker, getting her start hosting the Unibet Open in 2009.
Considered one of the "sexiest women in poker," Pasalic has posed for numerous photo shoots for magazines including FHM Croatia, WPT Magazine and CalvinAyre.com.
Karr is a high-stakes tourney regular with several big cashes over the last few years including a WPT Bay 101 title and EPT London High Roller title.
A former member of the US Air Force, Karr also has over $2 million in online cashes to his credit.
The two are based in Zagreb, Croatia but as avid travelers are seen frequently all over Europe at poker tournaments.
10. Sofia Lovgren/Luca Moschitta
Known (and feared) online under the nickname "Wellbet," Lovgren became the first female PKR pro in 2010 at just 20 years old.
She’s yet to break through with a huge live score but has been a consistent winner online since the get-go.
She earned her spot on the PKR pro team by playing an insane volume of games and being one of the biggest and most consistent winners on the site.
Moschitta is a SuperNova Elite and PokerStars Team Online pro from Italy.
Moschitta’s major claim to fame was cashing in his FPPs for two Porsches. He also had a runner-up finish at the 2011 IPT Nova Gorica main event.
11. Ivan Demidov/Lika Gerasimova
Considered the “Russian Chris Moneymaker” for the impact his runner-up finish in the 2008 WSOP Main Event had on poker in Russia, Demidov was also the first poker player to make the final tables of the WSOP and WSOPE Main Events in the same year.
Demidov's career earnings of $6.7 million are mostly form those two WSOP final-table appearances but he's still a steady casher in poker tournaments around the globe.
The understated Gerasimova, with $400k in live earnings herself, has built her own very successful poker career with a WSOP final table in 2009 to her credit.
12. Lacey Jones/Keith Gipson
A former poker presenter and occasional pro, Jones now enjoys a lucrative modeling career based in Hong Kong.
Hired on as a sponsored pro by Absolute Poker in 2005, Jones later moved on to become the official host and bracelet presenter for the World Series of Poker.
Freqeuntly dubbed "the hottest girl on poker," Jones also has $23,920 in career live cashes.
Gipson began his career as a professional blackjack player before moving on to poker and quickly up to the highest-stakes cash games in Bobby’s Room at the Bellagio in Vegas.
A former Victory Poker pro, Gipson is friends with well known high-stakes pros Dan Bilzerian, Andrew Robl, Brian Rast and Antonio Esfandiari.
Much more a cash game than tournament player, Gipson picked up his biggest career tourney score with a fifth-place finish in last year’s Manila Millions for over $350k.
13. Ana Marquez/Bryn Kenney
A pro for about three years now, Marquez is the #2 female player in the history of Spain with over $365k in career cashes.
Among her impressive results are a runner-up finish in a PLO event at the WSOPE, a second in the Sunday 500 and a 10th-place finish in the 2011 PCA Main Event.
A Spanish national, Marquez's introduction to the game came in America where she grew up in the same hometown as 2012 WSOP champ Greg Merson – who actually transferred her her first $20 online.
Her current boyfriend, Bryn Kenney, is who she credits for taking her game to the next level.
Playing online as “OneUponaStar,” Kenney is a long-time online pro who plays regularly in the highest-stakes cash games and tournaments and has appeared on the PokerStars Big Game.
Kenney has $2.7 million in live earnings including a final table in a PCA High Roller and a 28th in the 2010 WSOP Main Event.
14. Katja Thater/Jan von Halle
Before becoming a professional poker player, Thater was the director of an Event/Marketing company in Hamburg, Germany.
Thater first stepped into a poker game in 1999 when she had to sit in on a high-stakes limit poker game for her husband, von Halle.
She'd never played before but after taking down a pot before he came back quickly got the poker bug and turned pro as a cash-game player in 2000.
Thater went on to become a PokerStars pro, earn her first WSOP bracelet in 2007 in Razz and to date has over $430k in live tournament earnings.
Von Halle is a true poker original with listed tournament cashes dating back to 2001 and an extensive cash-game history in Germany.
He’s played poker since 1992 and has made three WSOP final tables so far.
Known as 50outs online, von Halle was also one of the first poker bloggers and in 2006 created the German PokerStars blog.
15. Cherish Andrews/Orson Young
The 23-year-old Andrews became a major rising star in poker in 2012 with six cashes, a final table and several deep runs at the World Series of Poker.
Most notably she finished 4th in Event 43 for $210,083 – by far her biggest career score to date.
Born and raised in small-town Pennsylvania, Andrews started playing poker at 14 and learned from her brothers. She’s also good friends with poker pro Christian Harder and credits him for a lot of her early development.
Another person she credits for dramatically improving her game is her boyfriend Young – a predominantly online pro who’s still picked up $161k in live earnings in his career.
16. Adrienne Rowsome/Ryan Carter
Known as “talonchick” online, Rowsome is a mixed-game and Omaha specialist who signed on with Team PokerStars Online in 2011.
One of the most active PokerStars Team Online pros when it comes to blogging and social media, Rowsome is also an occupational therapist in her day-to-day life.
On the felt Rowsome has a multitude of Omaha wins and cashes online and recently took down the $1k Triple Stud event at the 2013 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure.
Carter, who met Rowsome through friend and fellow pro Eric Crain at the 2011 WSOP, recently had his biggest career score when he chopped the PokerStars WCOOP main event.
Carter ultimately finished second after a six-way deal and banked $662,000.
The two now live together and grind online from Peachland, British Columbia.
17. Collin Moshman/Katie Dozier
Moshman is a professional online sit-and-go player and one of the premier SNG coaches in the world. He’s the author of several best-selling poker strategy books and is the lead SNG coach for online training site CardRunners.com
His wife Dozier is also an online grinder, co-author and a member of the “Grindettes” team that includes fellow female pros Jamie Kerstetter, Katie Stone and Jennifer Shahade.
Like her husband, Dozier also delves into coaching and training videos and has produced sought-after videos for several training sites.
The two now live in Mexico full-time so they can continue playing online poker.
18. Claudia Crawford/Gabe Costner
Crawford was a virtual unknown in the wider poker world until a deep run in the 2011 WSOP thrust her into the spotlight.
A Gulfport, Missisppi-based pro with several nice cashes in her career, Crawford hit her biggest at that WSOP when she finished 85th for $76,146.
She returned in 2012 and made another deep run, this time finishing 290th for $38,453.
Crawford also recently won a $300 tourney at the Million Dollar Heater series in Biloxi for $38,925 to bump her career earnings to a very respectable $234k.
Costner is also a Gulfport-based pro with $1.1 million in live tournament earnings. He's most known for a deep run in the 2010 WSOP main event along with another WSOP final table and a WPT final table.
19. Christina Lindley/David Randall
One of the 30 or so new members of Team IveyPoker, Lindley is a former model who was "discovered" at a mall in Georgia and went on to appear in several major magazines.
Online she plays under the name lindleyloo22 and has just under $1 million in career cashes including a runner-up finish in an FTOPS event for $106,000.
She now spends part of her time in Vancouver to continue playing online and grinds regularly at the Venetian in Las Vegas.
Boyfriend Randall is a poker pro and coach from Ohio with over $400k in live earnings and over $2.6 million online.
The two were the last couple standing in the 2012 WSOP main event and met grinding $2/$5 at the Venetian.
20. Annette Obrestad/Scott Montgomery
Technically these two are no longer a couple but we’d be remiss not to mention the notable union of Obrestad and Montgomery.
Obrestad is simply one of the most influential and successful young players in the game over the last decade.
Her screen name, “Annette_15,” is hallowed among online circles for her groundbreaking aggressive play and creative exploits, including winning a tournament without looking at her hole cards.
Claiming to have never made a deposit online, Obrestad racked up hundreds of thousands in online cashes before ever being able to set foot in a casino. She then burst on to the live scene in 2007 by winning the WSOPE Main Event in London at just 18 years of age for $2 million USD.
Now a Lock Poker pro, Obrestad has gone on to tally up $3.7 million in career live earnings to go along with the hundreds of thousands she won online in her youth.
A member of the first November Nine in 2008, Montgomery eventually busted in fifth to eventual champ Peter Eastgate. He took home over $3 million then and followed up in 2010 by winning his first bracelet for another $481,760.
Montgomery is another in a long line of very successful poker players from the University of Waterloo math program.