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Hana Soljan: New Face of Croatian Poker?
Hana Soljan is one of three new ambassadors signed to rep Full Tilt's Eureka Poker Tour and she says the sponsorship will do great things for poker in Croatia.
Soljan, along with Romania's Robert Cezarescu and Hungarian Andras Nemeth, will be representing the Eureka Poker Tour and Full Tilt Poker at events around Europe.
Soljan comes from a journalism background but has found quick success at the poker table with victories in an EPT ladies event in Prague in 2010, a small side event at the PCA in 2011 and another Ladies Event at the Eureka Poker Tour Zagreb later that year.
“I studied journalism because I loved writing since school,” Soljan told PokerListings Italy's Giovanni Angioni at Full Tilt Poker Galway.
“Now I write a lot about poker in Croatia and I host a local TV production about poker.”
Angioni sat down with the new Eureka Poker Tour ambassador and found out how she found poker, how she thinks her new sponsorship can help Croatia and why she has a pet eagle in her garden.
PokerListings.com: Many of our readers don't know you but we heard you come from a family of card-players. How's you get into poker?
Hana Soljan: I once played a big tournament in Zagreb and I liked it. Then, for like three or four months I just kept winning every tournament I played.
At that point some friends told me it could be time for me to try some bigger events.
I did that and things just started getting more and more serious.
PL: We don't hear too much about poker in Croatia. What's the scene like there?
Poker in Croatia is growing and getting a lot more popular one year after the other.
It still can get better but things changed a lot over the past few years.
PL: Is poker on the international circuit different than poker back home in Croatia?
Oh, it’s a lot different. Especially because in Croatia I know all the players.
There are around 100 regulars and now I know how they play – which does not happen when I go elsewhere.
I still remember when I played my first big tournament in Prague, everything was so different. It felt like I didn't even know how to play.
PL: I guess getting signed by Full Tilt Poker might have something to do with growing the game in Croatia?
PL: How is Full Tilt perceived in Croatia? Does Black Friday still have an effect?
I don’t think so. People now believe in Full Tilt, especially for the fact that it is together with PokerStars.
To be honest, people don’t talk much about Black Friday any more.
PL: When we were checking up on you online it struck us you're very passionate about the role women play in poker.
(Laughs) Yes, I am.
PL: Do you get upset when men think you are worse than them just because you are a woman?
Yes, a little bit. But then the best way to fix that is to play against them and to show them what you can do.
PL: How do people react when you sit at the table? Do you get people acting like complete idiots just because you are there?
Sure, it happens. I do get people saying “Come on girl! You have aces. We all know you have aces.”
I know men get very pissed when they are bluffed by a woman. That’s why I never show my bluffs. Never.
PL: The way I see it, when you sit at the table there can be two reactions: Either someone gets very intimidated by your presence or he turns into an idiot and simply tries to hit on you. Am I right?
That’s true - especially the last one (laughs). When I started playing against men I had some advantages. They were all smiley, asking things like “Oh, how are you? Where are you from?” and so on.
But then, when I started to play more and more, they just started to stay quiet. Now people just want to play, not to talk to me any more.
PL: What's your take on ladies-only poker events and men playing in them?
I don’t think ladies events are discriminating against anyone. But if some men want to play in them I’d just say, “Ok, go on. Play!”
But ladies events are important. Many women are afraid to play against lots of men when they first get into poker.
It's definitely easier for a woman like that to play against a table full of other women, compared to eight men. So, I think ladies tournaments are perfect for that.
PL: Good point. Who is Hana Soljan off the felt? What kind of person are you?
I have a lot of friends. I love staying with them, partying with them and cooking for them. Oh, and I love animals.
PL: Do you have any?
Yes, I have two dogs and an eagle.
PL: A… what!?
(laughs) Really, I do.
PL: You have an EAGLE!?
PL: And where in the world would you even keep an eagle?!
In my garden, where else? (laughs)
PL: Oh yeah, sure. I mean, who doesn't have an eagle in their garden? Okay, back to poker. What kinds of things are you doing as an ambassador for the Eureka Poker Tour?
I represent the brand around Europe. I play tournaments, give interviews and all that. Personally, I think it’s very good for Croatians to see that they have a chance to succeed in poker.
Even if the country is small, it is good for poker to show that everyone has a chance of getting a sponsorship. Even me.
PL: I don’t know if the info I have is outdated and I am going to hit a sensitive spot, but are you still together with poker player Dragan Galic?
No, please (laughs)! This is too personal, please. Don’t ask me.
PL: Sorry but I must. I can't imagine dating another journalist. I think I'd be competing with her all the time.
PL: So if you were dating another poker player ...
Ok, yes, we compete with each other every single day! (laughs) You got your answer now! But seriously, when we play online we always hate each other.
We shout at each other “What did you do!? Why did you do that?! You played wrong! No, YOU played it wrong." We always fight about poker.
Dragan is a very, very aggressive player while, for me, sometimes I play aggressive and other times I just need to take a rest and chill for a few minutes. He’s always playing.
PL: How about the village here in Galway? I know you just got here but what do you think?
I feel like once you're here you can forget that there’s even people playing poker. It’s all perfect.
I love Ireland and Irish people. Everything is so easy here; everyone is so kind.
PL: Is it maybe because you like Guinness as well?
What, Guinness? YES! (laughs)
After I went out yesterday night with the team, I can tell you that YES, I like Guinness (laughs).
PL: So, besides parties and Guinness, what’s your plan here in Galway?
For now I will play the charity event and the UKIPT Main Event, then we will see. Maybe something more as well.