Kellyann Heffernan: "I Can Certainly Hold My Own at Any Poker Table"

Kelly Photo 5
(Photo: Danny Maxwell, PokerStars)

In the world of poker at-large it's pretty hard for a platinum blonde, former gymnast/beauty contest winner to stay under the radar for too long.

In the small, cutthroat world of heads-up No-Limit Hold'em, it's even harder.

Enter Glasgow, Scotland's Kellyann Heffernan.

Making a few waves earlier this year when she asked Dan Bilzerian for some advice and via some public confusion this summer over an unrequited heads-up match with Dong Kim - the self-professed HU specialist known as @platinum_kell on Twitter has seen her public poker profile soar lately.

Rising up through the stakes over the past few years while at times fighting a debilitating illness, Heffernan's poker story is certainly one people have been curious to learn more about. So here it is.

Lee Davy: Who is Kellyann Heffernan?

KH: I have an old soul. I believe I was born in the wrong generation. I wouldn't have it any other way though as I am blessed to have the family and friends that I have and I wouldn't change them for a time machine.

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Old soul (Photo: Full Tilt Poker)

Growing up I was always a little bit, em, different shall we put it. When most four-year old girls were into Barbie dolls and girly things I was absolutely fascinated by sharks, the universe and building toy train tracks.

I also had a strange fascination with ancient Egypt to the point my mother thought I must have been Cleopatra in a previous life. I grew out of the train-track fascination but sharks, ancient Egypt and astronomy remain huge interests in my life to this day.

Growing up I was sure I wanted to be either a shark biologist or an archaeologist, though after finishing school I decided to study psychology and left when an amazing job offer came up doing business-to-business sales.

I was only 19 years old and the money was insane so that was to be my life for the next seven years. It was an amazing job with amazing people selling telecommunications to corporate businesses. The commission was unbelievable and I soon found myself becoming the top sales person in Britain for a very large company.

It was a lot of pressure but the money was more than worth it. It gave me a huge start in life as well as a bankroll to start playing poker. So I left the daily grind to become my own boss, as I've always been a free spirit.

I also made some sensible investments with my money and the rest I keep in a savings account and another account for poker. 

LD: What games are you involved in?

KH: I started off playing low-stakes online tournaments when I was still in my day job, then started to go to local casinos and play tournaments. Back then I was hellish at the game but it fascinated me.

I switched to playing cash games online and it's taken me a long time, and a lot of practicing and experience, to evolve into the player I am today. 

LD: Why did you choose to play heads-up?

KH: After moving through the stakes multi-tabling 6-max cash I decided to switch to HU cash a couple of years ago. It's most definitely the most fun yet toughest form of NLH.

Kelly Photo 3
Hard to top meeting Aaron Paul.

I was doing very well, moving up the stakes and made great profit. I've never used a HUD and don't play Game Theory Optimal (GTO), to me that's just number crunching and robot like, it takes the fun and thrill away from poker.

The only way to beat a GTO player, over a large sample, is to also play GTO and that to me is just extremely boring. I much prefer playing exploitative and the higher up I moved in stakes the more 'robots' I'd encounter.

I was still a winning player; overall it just became tougher to find decent action and I had to adjust to playing a more balanced style against 'robots.' Bum hunting is not my thing either.

So when I say I'm a HU specialist I mean it's the game I've made most profit from overall and the game that I am personally best at. It’s not a statement that I've bankrupt Victor Blom, as some people seem to take it!

After becoming very ill after EPT Barcelona last year I spent a lot of time moving up the stakes and made a lot of profit. Then I took a break because of my health.

I want to concentrate on playing more live tournaments now that I’m allowed to travel again. My sample size of live events is very small but I just missed the cash in the latest EPT in Barcelona and I've had a few deep runs so I have no doubt I'll get where I want to be live tournament wise.

I’ve been to Vegas twice, for the Main Event, and didn’t get a flag, but got to meet Aaron Paul, who was really cool. Every big event I have played pocket kings have been the death of my game. I think they are my curse.

My psychology background certainly gives me a great edge in live games and my style of play has evolved to a much higher standard than previous years. In poker one is always learning and evolving.

LD: Who are the nicest players you have encountered in the live game?

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"Plays like a maniac"

KH: At the recent EPT in Barcelona my table got broken six times! I got to play with Patrik Antonius. He was a lovely guy and a gentleman, but plays like a maniac.

I also got to play at Ike Haxton’s table. He was very chatty and is a great ambassador for PokerStars. He chats to everyone and I saw his stack go from over 200k to just over 30k within a few hands and he was happy and unfazed.

He's a really cool guy. My Day 2 table draw was pretty sick as well with the likes of Craig McCorkell, Ben Pollak, Manig Loeser and Brian Roberts at my table. It was a fun table with a lot of action. 

LD: What one person was most prominent in you becoming a professional poker player and why?

KH: My mum: she has always told me to follow my dreams and supported every decision I've made. When she saw I could make more money from poker than my current job back then she was 100% behind me. 

LD: Tell me about your recent illness.

KH: I became very ill shortly after EPT Barcelona last year. I had been feeling run down for a few months beforehand. I was then diagnosed with a rare blood disorder (chronic neutropenia).

The doctors had no idea what was causing it. After a bone marrow extraction and biopsy (the most painful experience of my life) they found another blood disorder. I've since had a blood infusion and I am starting to feel so much better.

My neutropenia is out of the severe bracket and I am allowed to travel again, though I still have regular check ups and need some more tests. For almost a full year I could barely do anything.

Your health is your wealth for sure! I think that's something a lot of people take for granted. 

LD: I read this on your Twitter account: “I’ve got big boobs and blonde hair there is no way that I could be intelligent.” What is your experience in the poker world in terms of misogyny?

Dan Bilzerian Photo
Standard Bilzerian.

KH: I do get some funny looks because of the way I look. It's just our luck what body we are born into and I believe it has no reflection on your soul and certainly not intelligence.

So anyone who believes it does is just narrow-minded and moronic. Life is all about perception and some people have tainted interpretations.

It honestly doesn't bother me, I like to get to know people on the inside and would never judge someone on the way they look. As cliché as it sounds it's like judging a book by its cover.

My mind is very open and much deeper than the average person. I am by no means a 'bimbo' and I can certainly hold my own at any poker table. There are always going to be judgmental guys and that is their problem, certainly not mine.

LD: Talking about misogyny I believe you once sent a message to Dan Bilzerian to ask for advice and he asked for a naked picture in return. How did that turn out?

KH: Oh goodness! That man honestly riles me! He has so much money and ability to make a difference in the world, for the better, and decides to blow it all on hookers and guns!

I truly believe God put me on this planet to make a difference and if I had his money that's exactly what I'd be doing! As soon as I make enough from poker that’s my goal.

LD: What’s your view on men in general?

KH: The men in my family are absolutely amazing people. My brother is extremely talented, and influential, with wisdom, and my nephew is the most adorable and intelligent little boy I know. I also have a few good friends that are men, they aren't all male chauvinistic pigs like Dan Bilzerian and a few other men I know. There are good guys out there.

Kelly Photo 1
Health is your wealth.

LD: When I mention the word successful who immediately springs to mind and why?

KH: My Mother, for bringing up three kids on her own and giving us a magical and happy life. We wanted for nothing and always had a beautiful and happy home.

She is the most selfless and amazing woman I know. We just adore her, as do her grandchildren. She really is my hero and also my best friend. 

LD: What are your aspirations for the future?

To get my health back on track and to live a happy life. What would make me the happiest is to make as much difference as I can during my time here on earth to people who need it the most.

One random act of human kindness at a time. I never close my eyes to people in need.

What is the thing that gives you the most joy in the world?

Watching my nephew and niece grow up. They are my world, family is everything to me. 

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Frazmac 2015-10-06 18:11:30

Great interview Kellyann, and Lee!
Good news that you're feeling better. Now you can get back to travelling to events again. Stay healthy, be lucky, and enjoy!!!

PS. You still owe me for letting you know that Aaron Paul was in the Rio that day!!! :)

Cheri Beatty 2015-10-05 20:34:06

This girl rocks! I don't even know her but after reading this article I feel like I found my sister soul!! She loves everything I'm interested in which is so cool. She seems to have a good head on her shoulders and I hope to play with her heads up one day! :) ;)

Drew Dwyer 2015-10-03 09:29:54

Played with Kellyann in UKIPT Galway, over 850 players in a tough field which contained Isildur and Gus Hansen, she came to my table late in day 2 with almost double average and won more than her share of hands, my only time playing with her, we went to war in huge pot near the bubble which fortunately I came out the right side of, she was very unfortunate not to cash in that one, but definitely held her own and used her image well to exploit her opponents

Tony Smith 2015-10-02 23:41:03

LOL who am i is it deanky or supremeo im talking to?

Dean Dean 2015-10-02 23:19:52

so obvious who this is

Dean Dean 2015-10-02 23:06:29

this can only be two people

Dean Dean 2015-10-02 23:02:41

mmmm wonder who this is

Tony Smith 2015-10-02 21:24:26

I agree with some of your points Wullie as i've already said your a smart guy but not everything you have written is correct in my opinion so as you said we shall agree to disagree. I may be morally wrong to hide behind a alias to say what i'm saying but i'm certainly not nice to her face that just not me. But is it morally correct to tell players lies to there face and tell them they are good at the game just so money is coming into our pockets when we know some people have a problem with poker/gambling and its actually tearing there life apart at the amount of money that they are losing. Where is the line who is the judge in what player can afford it and what player has a addiction? I don't think my opinion is going to hurt people mate its called freedom of speech thats like me saying your hurting my feelings by what your writing which your not as you are entitled to your opinion just like everyone else. As for common courtesy and politeness to those i don't get on with well in all honesty i'm not rude or nasty to anyone i dislike i just don't entertain them i don't see the point. As for KA running kings into aces she would have made the ft thats a cold deck and part of poker its all ifs and buts if you know what i mean. Poker is not just for men nor is it for any certain age group but if you are going to give someone a poker deal it should be for there poker ability not there marketability in the industry thats just my personal view good luck to KA let her prove me and the people mentioned in my previous post wrong i will eat humble pie for all of us till the day i die but one things for certain i could live another 70 years making me close to 100 by that time but i still will never have tasted humble pie i wont be posting again as i feel as if i have made my point in what im trying to say maximum respect for your replies and views regardless on what we agree and disagree on brother over and out.

William Elliot 2015-10-02 20:16:39

1. Using an alias to slag someone off without them knowing who it is, so you can be all smiles to their face, that isn't on. If you are someone I know and respect, I've lost a bit of respect for you for that.

2. Telling players you think are bad that they are bad players. It's a daft thing to do. The best thing you can do at a poker table is make it as pleasant an experience as possible for the losing players so they'll keep coming back. It's your duty as a winning player to do that. Anything else is just shitting in your own nest.

3. I've played with Kellyann a few times, and watched her play a few times. Edinburgh GPS last year, if she doesn't run KK into AA, she makes the final table. I've not seen her make any big mistakes, extracts value with good hands, not scared to hero call light and gets it right enough of the time, I've seen her hold her own against top players. And in my opinion the poker table's a nicer place when she's at it. Always pleasant, always cheery, and much better than looking at a bunch of ugly, farting, burping men moaning about how their aces got cracked.

4. Her assets mean she is going to get a bit of attention from the poker media, because poker needs more women playing. Women are the biggest untapped market. Kellyann is very marketable. You're not losing out on anything because she gets a good write up or if she was to land some kind of a deal. The more media attention, the more likely women will see poker as something they too can do and and the more money will flow into the poker economy for you to get a share of. But any woman reading past the article and in to the comments section is going to see her getting attacked and her play ripped apart. Suddenly poker looks like it's just for men, women aren't welcome.

We'll agree to disagree, but I'd like to ask you a favour, if you think your opinion is going to upset or offend people, it might be best to keep it to yourself. We've got a great bunch of players in Scotland, we look out for each other when we're away on trips, we're there for each other to celebrate a win, we're there for consolation pints when it all goes tits up. A wee bit common courtesy and politeness to those we don't get on with makes it a lot more pleasant for everyone else.

Good bye and good luck Tony Smith.

Tony Smith 2015-10-02 17:04:47

So she produced a miracle by making day 3 it can happen. She has never won anything in her life with two cashes to her name in all formats. Must be so tough being that good and having two cashes to your name. I don't have a grudge simply speaking my mind. You are a very smart guy Wullie i know you and Dodd very well just because i tell bad players the truth doesnt make me a bad player thats just my nature i speak the truth. I don't need poker to survive i have and make enough money to live the lifestyle i desire. If you are as smart as what i think you are you will clearly know who i am from Glasgow. My point is not to argue with you nor do i question your ability in the game but simply once again say that KA is not good at the game and just a attention seeker. As for what i have done in poker hendon mob wont show much unless you know my real name which like i said earlier if your as smart as i think you are then you will know who i am as i have spent enough time in you and your brothers company on and off the felt. I have won enough money and have the respect of the players around Glasgow and Edinburgh as a good player. Good luck to you sir hope to see you at a event soon as i know you don't play much these days.

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