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Let There be Katja: The First Lady of Poker
Tonight Katja Thater became the first woman in three years to take a bracelet in an event that wasn't ladies-only - but she's more interested in her husband's opinion of her play than in the bracelet she calls "ugly."
The surrounding media throng bombarded Katja with questions on her historic win as a woman. Katja replied that gender meant nothing to her and she couldn't hear any more about gender in poker, then moved from ceremony to photo shoot to interview to autograph.
She ended up doing an aromatic German video spot beside the temporary outdoor restrooms; when she finished, PokerListings invited her to more refreshing surroundings. Too excited, Katja launched immediately into her thoughts on her husband, her play and Sesame Street.
I hear from your husband Jan von Halle that every day you said, "This is my tournament," and every night you told him, "I will win."
When I decided to play this Razz tournament, I said to myself: "I'm going to win this thing," because I was so upset with the final table of the ladies' event. I played there for seven-and-a-half hours - for five hours pretty good, and then for damn $@&%ing two hours I misplayed some things.
So I said, okay, my next tournament I'm going to win. If it's Razz or it's Omaha or if it's Chinese Poker I'm going to win - the next tournament, I'm going to win it.
And this was it.
Yeah, this was it. It was Razz, it could have been something else, but it was Razz, so okay.
You said of the victory: "It's nice," and you called the bracelet ugly - what is important to you?
What's important is that I'm satisfied with my play, and that my husband is satisfied with me. Really, absolutely - when he said to me, "Okay Baby, you played pretty damn good today," then I believed him. That's important to me. Not this bracelet.
I noticed not just your husband, but a huge German crowd around you tonight.
We are a group of 20 or 25 people from Germany here, and we are all doing good. We have a lot of cash, a lot of final tables. We're supporting each other and rooting for each other and it's great.
Could you compare this final table with the ladies' event?
I don't like to play "ladies only" events. But PokerStars brought me in so I said, okay, let's rock it. Really, we played the first 10 hours, and I had no idea what we had done. It must have been something to do with poker, but I had no idea what. The second day we started playing poker.
Then I made it to the final table and I played pretty good. Really, pretty good. I gathered more than $1,000,000 in chips, and then every time another woman went all-in - or I pushed all-in - they doubled up.
Then I misplayed one hand. I had these $@&%ing pocket tens and the lady re-raised me. This is a borderline decision. Maybe I have a 50-50 chance, when she's holding ace-king - or I'm a little bit in front. I'm pot-committed - after seven hours of playing the final table the pots are huge.
So it's a borderline decision, and I decided to call. Well, she was holding kings and she won. Then I lost the next hand. I hated this - I got all pissed. I was so upset I didn't want to give an interview; I didn't want to cash my check. I said, I'm $@&%ing damn pissed; but, you know - it's life.
But today was a little different.
Today is a little different because I'm very satisfied with my playing. In the final table I played pretty well in every decision. I folded good hands, and I raised. Heads-up I cooled down, totally, and I let him play. I let him run into my cards. So my play today was pretty good.
So in the heads-up you were playing as tight as it looked?
You called Razz "the sickest game." Could you explain that?
I grew up with Seven-Card Stud; but Razz - holding the worst hand? (Laughing.) That's sick, that's really sick.
So do you feel like the biggest loser or the biggest winner?
(Laughs.) That's a good question! You have to handle this worst hand, so I think I'm a winner.
I think so too. You talked a little bit about playing homegames with old Persian men in your home town - could you tell me about that?
Yeah, I started with cash games: Pot-Limit Seven-Card Stud. The whole table was full of old Persian guys, so I know the play of these old rocks, you know? How they try to trap me and all these things. So I'm experienced with this.
I was wondering about one dealer you were calling "the Ladykiller." Who was that?
Yeah - he killed me. He dealt me the pocket tens at the ladies' final table, so I call him my undertaker - my lovely undertaker.
But you were hugging him, so it seems like you're over it.
Yeah, absolutely - he's a great dealer. I like him very much, really. It's a joke, a running gag between us.
I was also wondering about why you always like to be a little bit higher at the table, sitting on your legs and stacked chairs?
Yeah, especially with this final table and the regular chairs you feel like you're on Sesame Street. The chair is too little, the table is too high; and I don't like to just sit on my chair. I like to get up and run around - it's my playing style.
Your style certainly worked today - congratulations.
Thank you very much.
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Whether or not she is interested, Katja's win is an historic one for women, Germany and poker itself. We continue to be impressed by her and invite every one of you to watch her progress with us. You know we'll be watching her every step. Even if it takes us to the port-o-johns again.