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Hangin' at home with Ms. Poker
Las Vegas can be glitz and glamour, bright lights and the constant sound of slot machines and poker chips. On Sunday I experienced a completely different side of Sin City and its people when Susie Isaacs invited me into her home and her life for an evening.
Her poker club was meeting Sunday evening, so she invited me over to do my interview with her and hang out with the club and have dinner. My outing began with Ms. Poker herself picking me up at the hotel to take me to her home.
When we arrived, she parked in the garage, but I had to go through the front door, because, as she said, "All first-time guests have to go through the front door."
I could see why as I stepped up to a front door framed by stained glass with a poker theme. Once you step through the front door, you enter an elegant home with poker themed decorations just about everywhere.
From the stained glass at the front to poker decorations, the wall of poker trophies and the card suits in the cement on the patio by the pool, poker is everywhere, but what really strikes you is how inviting Isaacs and her home are.
The poker club was already in full swing working on snacks and stuff for dinner when we arrived, and everyone just makes themselves at home. They're obviously a close bunch and you'd never guess the seriousness they put into their poker game.
And a serious game it is. This club wasn't just about getting together on Sundays to play, it was about competing for the buy-in to a World Series of Poker event.
Isaacs actually has two different clubs she helped host and play in this year. The first was the $10k club, which played for points to win a buy-in to the 2007 World Series of Poker Main Event.
That one wrapped up already, with Isaacs disappointed she didn't win the buy-in, but the pride in her voice as she talks about the woman that did win the seats overshadows her own disappointment.
The club I was getting to observe is the $1k times two, which awards two seats to the Ladies No-Limit Hold'em event of the WSOP. Isaacs was already way out in the lead as the first place winner of the club, with her $1,000 buy-in guaranteed.
They were playing to determine second place on Sunday, with only one other player in range to catch the current second-place holder.
The way the club works is that the players pay the buy-in each week, with half going to the prize pool for the night and the other half put toward the seat in the Ladies Event.
All the players in the game then have a stake in the person who goes on to compete in the World Series of Poker event. If that player cashes, she gets to keep half and the other half is split between the rest of the club members.
Isaacs actually gives advice in her new book coming out in a week, Queens Can Beat Kings, Broad-Minded Poker, about how to set up similar clubs in your own homes as well.
It's an easy way to get together and play poker with friends while at the same time helps to send one of them to a major event.
Even with a WSOP seat on the line, there's joking and laughter as they poke fun at each other during the game. Isaacs wouldn't have it any other way either.
The structure is serious, they play true No-Limit Texas Hold'em and adhere to blind levels and dinner breaks, but the game should still be fun to play.
"If you sit down at a table and the people aren't any fun," she said, "find a different table to play at. This should be something fun to do."
As I'm allowed to sit and observe the game and get to know the players, I find they're all enjoying the game but at the same time they're all very serious players. They play in the cash games, the tournaments and even online.
This is no easy field of players.
Isaacs didn't make it too deep in the game yesterday, but the rest of the table admitted that was pretty unusual for her. The critical hand taking her out was a player with pocket kings.
"I can't believe she slow played me with pocket kings!" Isaacs said. "Just like I taught her to do, and I can't believe she slow played me, and I didn't catch it."
Again, the pride in one of her club members overrides her indignation. Isaacs may be a competitive person, but she also has a drive to pass the game on to other women, and her club is turning these women into serious contenders.
Don't be surprised if during WSOP events this year you see a group of women sporting matching shirts representing the club and taking home a lot of cash to show for their hard work in the home games.