Lauren Roberts: “Men Think I’m a Fish, I Hope They Keep Doing It”

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Lauren Roberts is the only woman in the $300,000 buy-in Super High Roller Bowl.

It’s not a position that makes her uncomfortable.

Roberts’ day job is finance and she’s used to being the only woman in the boardroom.

Over the last few years she’s been focused heavily on poker, primarily cash games, but she’s also had some success in major tournaments like the WSOP Main Event and the WPT Five Diamond.

We caught up with Roberts on the first break of Day 2 of the 2017 SHRB to get her thoughts on being the only woman in the field, how she got started in the game and the similarities between hedge funds and poker.

PokerListings: Why did you decide to play the 2017 Super High Roller Bowl?

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Lauren Roberts

Lauren Roberts: Well, it’s an expensive event and tournaments have a lot more variance. I don’t play this high when it comes to tournaments normally.

You have to look at it like a private equity portfolio — you don’t have just one company.

My dad called me and basically said, “You know, statistically you’re an idiot for playing this.”

Then I started thinking about all the things I could do with $300,000 and I started to wonder if I was an idiot.

Cary [Katz] really didn’t want to lose having a female player though. So I decided to sell some action. Somehow I was able to live with spending $150,000 on it.

I’m so glad I decided to play it though. I love tournaments. Every year I say I’m going to play more of them.

I’m really working on being a really good poker player. It’s just kinda how I am. It drives me. And I love the game. I love it.

PL: How did you get into poker in the first place?

LR: My father has a PhD in physics but I grew up in a gambling family. I’ve been to every track on the east coast. My grandfather actually taught me how to play Five-Card Stud and Seven-Card Stud when I was a little girl.

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"I come from a gambling family."

My grandfather spent time in Las Vegas and when Atlantic City opened my Dad went down and counted cards so well that he was barred from every casino in A.C.

He retired from HP and started playing poker and tried to get me to become a professional poker player. I was managing a hedge fund at the time. He said there were no women in it and I would do well with my analytical skills.

He also told me he’d teach me, which killed the appeal for me. [Laughs] At the time I was like, “I’d rather stick needles in my eyes.”

It wasn’t until I got cancer nine years ago than I got into the game. I ended up having 16 surgeries in three years so it was like one surgery every other month.

I was a little depressed and there were many times I didn’t even want to leave the house so I ended up playing online. I started at $.01/$02.

That’s all it took. I fell in love with the game. I was immediately hooked. My dad brought me to Commerce Casino. I was so nervous at first.

Coming from online I didn’t know anything about string-betting or anything like that. I was the only girl and I thought they’d think I was dumb.

Guys thinking you’re dumb is an advantage but at that point I really was dumb [Laughs].

PL: What did you like about it?

LR: What I love about poker is that it’s a strategic game where there are multiple facets.

I’m in the financial markets. I used to run a hedge fund and it’s very similar. I’ve been working in finance for over 30 years and the longer I do it, the less I think I know. With poker it’s the same thing.

I have a list of stuff that I want to work on. There’s psychology, tells, mathematics and so much more. The other thing is that, for the most part, I love the community. I really do. I look forward to the WSOP every year.

I know people from all over the world that I see at the WSOP. It’s so exciting. Loni Harwood just Tweeted about how she’s excited for summer camp and I am too. It’s just a great thing.

PL: It seems like there is a strong sense of camaraderie amongst female poker pros these days. Is that fair to say?

LR: It is. I think it depends on the female player and the circumstances. I had an issue with a female player several years ago where I was at a final table and she didn’t talk to me.

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Liv Boeree

Finally I just went up to her at a table in Montreal. I didn’t know what happened but we had some mutual friends in Liv Boeree and Sam Abernathy.

I told her, “I don’t know what happened but I’m sorry if I did anything. I don’t like this.”

We ended up making amends and she said she was under a lot of stress at the time.

I’m very accepting of people. You have to kick me like five times before I get it.

As far as female poker players go you have to be confident to sit down at a table full of men. You have to be secure with yourself and smart.

Those are the kind of women I’m attracted to. Women and men like that. People that are comfortable in their own skin and secure with who they are.

Even if we disagree with Royal Flush Girls or female poker awards it’s good to see that at the end of the day we stick together.

I actually put together a tag-team of Lisa Hamilton and Haixia Zhang for the WSOP event on Wednesday.

I hope you will see me winning a tournament very soon.

PL: You mentioned female poker awards as an issue of contention. Where do you stand on them?

LR: So I’m old, which means I have a different perspective. I think the meaning of the poker award, in general, was a good thing because it’s meant to foster women in the game and encourage more women to to play.

Royal Flush Girls
The WPT's Royal Flush Girls.

I also think that maybe it’s not recognizing accomplishments but rather role models. That’s the way I perceive it anyways and for that I think it’s a good thing.

It’s women out there showing that it’s OK to be aggressive. It’s great. You can do this. You can quit your stellar career and pursue your passion.

There are so many lessons that can be learned from that, especially for girls, that I can’t think of it as a bad thing. But I am a glass half-full person.

It’s the same thing with the Royal Flush Girls. I mean it’s a business. 98% of the players are men. The Royal Flush Girls do more than look good. It’s really hard to find work. They’re so nice and sweet to everyone.

If you were gonna pay me $200,000 to pose at a poker tournament, I’d pose with anyone you want. That’s just from 30 years of being the only woman in a room full of men.

I think that I just accept that men are men and I accept that this is the way they think. In some ways I’m grateful for it because it helps me.

Every person that sits down at the poker table with me looks at me and thinks I’m a fish. I hope they keep doing it.

That’s kind of my perspective on it. You can’t change human nature and anything that encourages us and supports us in playing, I think it’s a good thing.

PL: How much will you play at the WSOP?

LR: I’m going to play the whole World Series. Every event that I can play. I can’t play all the mix games or dealer’s choice but the rest of it. I missed a lot of it last year because I was moving but this summer I’m doing it.

The biggest objective for me, even if I bust out of the SHRB, is that I’ve grown as a player. I’ve learned from playing with the best players in the world.

I look at it as $300,000 of coaching. It’s all good.

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