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Jennifer Harman the railbird
She's one of the most feared cash game players in the world, but perched on a chair watching her husband attempt to make the final table of the $10,000 Pot-Limit Omaha championship Monday night, Jennifer Harman looks like any other nervous wife.
The petite card shark joined the crowd circling the final two tables of the tournament and watched as the field was whittled to one felt of nine where her husband, Marco Traniello, earned a spot among poker superstars such as Doyle Brunson and Patrik Antonius.
On Monday, the only sign of her fierce reputation in the poker rooms comes in the message emblazoned on her t-shirt: Don't piss me off.
It's doubtful anyone would try in a room packed with adoring fans who line up to pose for snapshots with the Full Tilt Poker pro once the tournament has wrapped up - Traniello has final tabled and Harman's stomach has stopped doing flip flops.
After all her years playing poker and two World Series of Poker gold bracelets, Harman says she's now gunning for Traniello to pick up a win.
"I'm more excited for him than I ever am for me," she tells PokerListings.com in an interview.
What's it like sweating your husband?
It's very - what's the word? It's very difficult because I'm so nervous for him that I want him to do well that I usually don't because my stomach hurts. I can't take it. I like to have him call me and say, 'I'm at the final table.'
Did you manage to get a seat? It's so crowded around here.
Well, I went inside. I have my ins and outs here. I paid my dues in this place, so they basically let me go anywhere. I'm little, so it's okay.
So what's it been like seeing him take off? He's been doing extremely well lately.
He's done really well. He's really determined, he's really focused and he's got a lot of talent. All those combined, he's going to be successful and he's proved himself that he is.
Obviously you've helped his game, but have you picked up anything from him - his fresh set of eyes?
I think so. Like I said, he's really talented. He sees a lot of things, and we discuss it, and I learn a lot from him.
How's your Series going so far?
Oh my God. (Harman shakes her head.) I get down here, and I lose focus, and I don't want to play. I haven't played very many tournaments. It's hard for me because we just had two babies, and I just want to be home with them. I feel I have to divide my time between tournaments and babies and cash games. So I'm kind of out of focus, but my goal is to stay focused for the Main Event. That's the most important one.
That's kind of the plight of the working mother, I guess - trying to balance everything. How do you do it?
I haven't figured it out yet. My babies are eight months old, and since before the World Series, I think I played poker six times in seven months. So I haven't figured out that balance. But I'm sure that will come. I'm not stressing about it; I love being home with my babies and there's nothing wrong with that.
Did you miss poker at all after being away from it for so long?
No, I didn't miss poker. But when I came back, I was really rusty. It took me about 20 hours to get back into the groove. You lose the feel for things and you really have to stay focused. You're not as able to read players as well as you did. But it's like riding a bicycle; you just kind of go back into the groove.
You're a high-stakes cash game player. Do you enjoy tournaments as a break from that?
I always say that I'm going to enjoy the World Series but I always still like to play cash games more. Even though there were some tournaments here that I really enjoyed - the $50,000 H.O.R.S.E., I really enjoyed the Mixed Omaha Eight-or-Better, Stud Eight-or-Better, all the H.O.R.S.E. events. So I really enjoyed those tournaments. I didn't play many No-Limit tournaments. I don't know why. No-Limit Hold'em, we play it all year, and I wanted to play different games, so I played most of the non-No-Limit games.
I've heard that you're very shy. How do you handle dealing with all the fans and doing media interviews?
I am shy, but I think poker's such great thing, and all these people are into it, and they really enjoy it. So it's easier for me knowing that they really enjoy it. If they want to take pictures and stuff like that, it's cool with me, because I'm happy to do it, because they're here and watching poker and enjoying it.
Jennifer Harman will no doubt be among the thousands of faces in the crowd at the 2007 WSOP Main Event starting this week. And though she has the skills, aggression and experience to earn her a win at any tournament if she busts out, it's safe to say she'll still go home happy at the end of the day.