About Jennifer Harman

Jennifer Harman
Name Jennifer Harman
Current Residence Las Vegas Nev. Las Vegas
Born Nov. 29, 1964
Birth Place Reno Nev., US

The road is long from kitchen table poker in Reno to the Big Game in Las Vegas.

In the story of Jennifer Harman's life, the journey takes several years, a suitcase of cocktail waitress uniforms, years strategizing at cash games, near-bankruptcy, a health crisis and thousands of poker chips both clawed toward her and raked away.

Her life began in Reno, Nev., the biggest little city in the world for a girl who would become the biggest little poker player in town.

Harman got in on her first hand when she was just 8 years old. After sidling up to the table to catch the action at her father's regular home games, she eventually learned so much her father started putting her in the game when he was down. Quite often, she says, she would win him back enough money to break even.

A burgeoning career as a childhood poker pro, however, was plagued by chronic health problems. Eventually Harman required a kidney transplant, which allowed her to continue attending school and playing cards. By the age of 16, Harman had scored a fake ID and used it to get into the poker rooms. The introduction to casino play was a reality check for Harman as she found herself facing tougher opponents and, quite often, losing.

After graduation from high school, the 5'2", 100 lb. teenager headed to the local University of Nevada to study biology. While there she worked part-time at the first of a handful of cocktail waitressing jobs. The work allowed Harman to keep an eye on the poker room and, when her shift ended, gave her a place to ante up her tip money.

But poker was more than a hobby. Harman loved the game and was a promising player who complimented her thousands of hours of card play by reading up on strategy and observing her competition.

So, despite having earned a degree, she decided to skip the traditional nine-to-five route; she moved to L.A. to get out of Reno and started bartending at a hotel. After three days of mixing drinks, a friend told Harman to check out the Bicycle Casino to get in on some amazing poker. Harman liked what she saw so much, she quit work after only five days to play full-time. In the beginning, Harman says, poker just seemed like a fun thing to do, not a career choice. Still, the decision didn't sit well with her father, who for years after didn't speak to his daughter because of her profession.

After two years in L.A., Harman decided to quit poker for a year and gamble on starting up her own business. She headed for Maryland, Wash., and put her entrepreneurial acumen to the test. It would be a losing bet, seeing Harman go broke within a year. To pull herself out of debt, Harman knew she would have to start playing poker again. She borrowed money from a friend and followed the well-worn trail of gamblers in search of redemption to Las Vegas.

Harman would later say she feels great players get their learning experience in Vegas, where the toughest competition thrives.

Nonetheless, for years Harman hovered at middle-limit games, occasionally promoting herself to higher-stakes $50/$100 games. With the confidence of a veteran and a fat bankroll, she moved up in stakes to $75/$150 and to $200/$400 games. Her game was volatile; Harman fluctuated between levels of play, intermittently losing and dropping stakes.

When 1993 hit, Harman's bankroll was on its deathbed. She neared flat broke after a losing year of playing $50/$100 games at the Mirage and was forced to take a $50,000 loan from a friend to get back in the action. The loan helped and before long she was up and running, never to worry over her bankroll again.

Though almost strictly a cash game player, Harman started making her rounds in tournaments in the mid-90s. She had an impressive sixth-place finish at the $2,500 Pot-Limit Hold'em event at the World Series of Poker in 1995 and placed 13th in 1999's $1,500 Limit Hold'em event. In between, she won the Commerce Casino No-Limit Hold'em championship and the Limit Hold'em event at the Orleans Open.

Her big coup, however, was at the 2000 World Series when Harman, who had never played No-Limit 2-7 Draw, finished first in the event to nab a gold bracelet and $146,250. Bigger money and a second bracelet were to be found at the 2002 WSOP, where she took down the $5,000 Limit Hold'em event for $212,440.

Harman has also found success with the World Poker Tour, her best result being fourth place in the 2004 Championship for nearly $300,000. Her biggest money tournament win, however, was at a 2005 WSOP Circuit main event in 2005, where she pulled in $384,000.

That, however, doesn't top her best nights in "Bobby's Room," the poker room at the Bellagio in Las Vegas, where the biggest cash-game players come out to play for some of the highest stakes in the world. Harman is a regular at the game, which famously includes greats such as Doyle Brunson, Chip Reese, Phil Ivey and Daniel Negreanu competing at $3,000/$6,000 limits. During Harman's years in the Big Game she has seen swings of a half a million dollars, both in her favor and against it.

In a good year, she clears $1 million from playing four nights a week at the Bellagio. "I'm probably the poorest person at the table," Harman says.

On her best nights though, Harman has seen staggering wins. Her biggest triumph in one day? Nine million dollars from billionaire Andy Beal, while playing as a part of The Corporation. Harman was one of the original members of the group of top poker pros who pooled their resources to compete in heads-up Hold'em against the Texas banker.

Her experiences with Brunson in Bobby's Room and with The Corporation eventually led Texas Dolly to choose Harman to pen a Super/System 2 chapter on Limit Hold'em - one of her favorite forms of poker and a game at which she consistently wins. In his intro to the book, Brunson writes, "I'm convinced that she's not only the best all-around female player alive, but also ranks among the elite poker players in the world."

Harman wrote the chapter in 2004 - the year a second kidney transplant forced her to sit out of the World Series. After taking time off to recuperate, she was back to her usual place at the table. But the experience had spurred her into promoting organ donation. She has since founded CODA - Creating Organ Donation Awareness - and is working to raise money for the cause.

Today, as if making victims of cash-game and tournament players with her aggressive style wasn't enough, Harman also plays casually online. She is also coaching her husband, former hairstylist Marco Traniello, now an up-and-coming poker player.

In her spare time Harman plays with her four dogs, spends time with friends, enjoys skiing, music, movies and doing Pilates.

Trivia


  • Holds two gold bracelets in No-Limit 2-7 Draw and Limit Hold'em
  • Plays four nights a week in the Big Game
  • Won $9 million for The Corporation going heads-up with Andy Beal
  • The recipient of two kidney transplants

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Player analysis

6.8/10

Aggressiveness
7
Looseness
6
Limit
8
No-Limit
6
Side Games
7
Steam Control
6
Against Strong Players
6
Against Weak Players
7
Tournaments
8
Short-Handed
7

Player analysis

Jennifer is the best all-around woman player in the world. She is the only woman to regularly play $1,000-$2,000 Limit and higher. She is the only woman who has won two WSOP bracelets in open events.

Amusing Anecdote

Jennifer was one of the leading money winners in the high-stakes heads-up matches against the wealthy banker Andy Beal. Andy wrote a letter challenging our coalition to play higher stakes than we could afford.

In a reply for the group that was never sent, I mentioned why Jennifer didn't play during one of Andy's extended visits: "Jennifer didn't play because she was in the hospital recovering from a kidney transplant. Jennifer is such an aggressive raiser that we thought the connections to the IV and the heart monitor might loosen if she brought them with her."

Analysis brought to you by Barry Greenstein

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