Get your game on with Susie Isaacs

Susie Isacs

More than 1,200 women ponied up the $1,000 buy-in of the 2007 World Series of Poker Ladies No-Limit Hold'em event Sunday. One of the players was Susie Isaacs who is determined to become the first, three-time winner of the event.

That completive spirit is serving her well as she's made the money in the event already and will return for another day of play today. She's also playing for her poker club and for the Queen of Hearts to give a little back to charity.

Isaacs chatted with a couple times over the past week to talk about her history in poker, women in poker and more.

Tell me a little bit about your own experience with poker.

At first I was just playing around. I mean, my husband gave me $50 a week. When I lost it, it was gone 'til the next Monday. If I broke even I won, because I had more for the next week, and if I just lost half of it, I won because I still had more for the next week.

My husband retired out here to become a poker player. He was older than me, and that was our dream, and we got the kids in college and we came to Las Vegas.

Well, he played poker, but he had some other bad habits. After 18 wonderful years, I started achieving totally by accident, success in poker. For one thing, I had been writing all of my life. I just kept getting rejection slip after rejection slip, but I was never going to give up.

When I won my first poker tournament out here at the Landmark in 1986, I wrote a story about it called "A Lady Is Not Supposed to Sweat," and I sent it to the only poker publication anywhere at the time. And I got a letter from them and said "Oh here's another rejection."

But it was not only an acceptance, but a $60 check. I was thrilled to death. So that led to more involvement in the poker world because they wanted more stories and didn't have a female writer. So I played more actually looking for story material.

And then I noticed - I started out playing in ladies tournaments, because they did have them in Vegas back then - that some of those ladies I was playing with were winning consistently. I thought, there's more to this than luck. I mean, I'm not stupid. So some of them that I'd really become friends with started talking to me and they told me how terrible I played.

And so I was taking little bits from all of them and incorporating it into my game. It put a band-aid on a gaping wound. So I thought, now what am I going to do?

I got Tom McEvoy's first book he ever wrote, and there's not that many out there. That was my first primer and I got George Percy's Seven-Card Stud the Waiting Game, and I read those books and I studied 'em. I realized I played so bad, and then I started winning a little bit.

I went from stopping the pouring of the bankroll to winning a little bit, and the more I won the more I wanted to win.

I had never been able to really be competitive in anything, except poker. I've got a birth defect in my right arm, so I don't have much strength at all. So I couldn't throw a baseball or anything and do anything the others were doing, and yet I have a competitive nature.

And so, I went to my first poker seminar, back in 1989 at the Las Vegas Hilton. Tom McEvoy was having this seminar. There were six people in his class - in his last seminar there were 600.

He really loved it that I was in there because I kept asking him questions and asking him questions. Tom and I have become real good friends since then.

When I finally ventured from the ladies arena, which was very closed and confined and safe, I also got a poker coach. That's what really turned things around for me. You couldn't help but notice, you'd go in a poker room and you'd have to look for the women.

That's changed today. You go in a poker room and it can be as much as 40% women. There are many more women playing all over everywhere. Where you don't see a huge increase is the $5 and $10,000 buy-ins. That's still a 4 to 5% female.

Tom did calculations for me - say a dozen $10,000 buy-ins looking at how many women started versus where they landed. They play better than the guys. In other words, if the field were 50-50, we would play rings around them according to these statistics.

Look at last year at the Main Event. It was 3% women and six of us made the money. It's phenomenal the calculations on the number of women. That's what I'd like to see is more women getting more confidence and getting in those events.

I think it'll happen as we grow in this game and, of course, after my new book gets out there. People like Kathy Liebert, she is knocking her brains out trying to win one of those World Poker Tour events and be the first woman to do so.

Do you think having more women in the tournaments will change the feel of the tournaments?

At one time it was such a men's club and they were so snobby about the women playing. Those guys are dying out, because that is the old school. The younger guys, a lot of them are still chauvinistic, but they're smart enough to know that a woman can play poker.

My opinion is if a woman really, really gets into the poker, then they can be hellacious players, because we have an intuition about us that men don't have. We also have a patience about us that men don't have because we have to put up with the kids and the men, so we have the patience that they don't have.

I used to get pretty upset about bad beats and all - and I'm going way back for that - and I've graduated from that now. Nothing upsets me at the poker table now. It's harder at a big, big event like the World Series to take a terrible beat, but just the local stuff that I play weekly doesn't get to me.
I get so tickled when these guys have something happen and they're like "Unbelievable!" and throw a little fit at the table.

This stuff happens all the time. Unbelievable - please.

Are you planning to play many events at the World Series this year?

I want to be careful how I say this, because I love the World Series. Right now I'm just waiting for them to get settled down. I will definitely play the ladies and seniors and probably the Main Event. As for the other ones, if I win satellites I'll absolutely play them. I'll have lots of horses in the race because of my poker clubs.

It'll depend on if the Rio can get settled down where I don't have to wait two hours to play a satellite, I'll play satellites there. I also am using Binion's as my satellite arena. They're paralleling the World Series.

The Venetian is also running some real good tournaments right here and you don't have to wait two hours to get into them.

I noticed last year that there were quite a few prominent female poker players who chose not to play in the Ladies Event.

That's changing. The perfect example, at one time Linda Johnson thumbed her nose at ladies events, and today she's a big proponent of ladies of events and she encourages and gets involved. Which I've always done.

Annie Duke still won't play them. Although, she does encourage women to get involved and play the open field. She just doesn't think there should be any segregation at all.

But I think there should be because I've seen - I've lived - what it can be like. You get in there, you start having fun and you make new friends, and then you very gradually take that terrifying step into playing with those big old hairy legged men.

It's much less intimidating to play with other women first?

Absolutely, and it's fun and it's jovial and it's a party. Then you ease yourself into that other. Some women, if they started in an open field and have one bad experience and we've lost them forever.

That's one thing that I teach. If you're just playing and you're not at a friendly table that's having fun, move. You don't have to put up with any of that crap.




Isaac's is a big proponent of getting more women in poker. It's a game where strength and size doesn't matter and women are on an even playing field with the men.

Her latest book Queens Can Beat Kings: Broad-Minded Poker for Winning Women, comes out this month and gathers information from several successful women players to help women be more confident about getting in the game.

Right now though, she's concentrating on trying to win another tournament and winning some money for charity with the Queen of Hearts poker team. She's pledging 5% to charity, but you better believe that will increase if she wins the event.

She's got a big heart, a big smile and a great big drive to be the best in the world of poker. Good luck to you Susie, we hope to see you take home another bracelet this year.

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