Thanks to a surprise score earlier in the World Series of Poker, Mikiyo Aoki is living her ultimate poker dream a little sooner than expected.
The Bozeman, Montana, native finished 2nd in the Ladies Event for $96,909 and decided to set aside part of her winnings to play in the $10,000 WSOP Main Event.
“I took a week for vacation to play the Ladies Event,” she said. “That went so well I decided to play the Main Event.
"It’s been on my bucket list since I started playing. I think for everyone that plays poker this is the ultimate dream.”
Aoki is not only playing the Main Event, she’s crushing it.
Aoki Tops One Million Chips in Main Event
By dinner break on Day 4 Aoki was the first woman to crack one million chips and found herself in the top 50 chip counts out of the 400 remaining players.
Aoki’s already guaranteed a $30k payout in the Main Event but first-place pays $10 million.
Despite hanging tough with some of the best poker pros in the world, Aoki is not a professional. She has a job at Oracle doing sales enablement and has no plans to leave any time soon.
“I actually really love my job,” she said. “I’d have to do really well to even consider that. I do love poker though. It’s super fun. Especially at these stakes.”
While this is the first year Aoki has played the WSOP she’s actually followed it for years.
“Around when [Greg] Raymer won I started following it,” she said.
“Shortly after that my brother and his friends started running little $5 tournaments and encouraged me to play with them.”
“It’s Pretty Stressful, Exciting”
Aoki and her brother had very different interests but poker was one thing that brought them together to battle it out.
“When I first started playing poker he was kicking my butt so it definitely provided some motivation to get better.”
While Aoki has been keeping pace with the rest of the field just fine she admits the pressure is enormous at this stage of the tournament.
“It’s been pretty stressful,” she said. “Obviously it’s very exciting. I’m not sleeping well [laughs]. I don’t know how people do it every day.”
After years of watching the WSOP, Aoki is literally playing her way right onto the broadcast.
With only a handful of female players left she has a legitimate shot at being the last woman standing.
“I always remember that segment from the WSOP broadcast. It would be awesome if I had a shot at that.”
Whatever happens in the Main Event Aoki has already made a name for herself with one hell of a breakout WSOP.