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Ronit Chamani: Future of South African Poker “Bright as Sunshine”
Last week Ronit Chamani took down her biggest score ever with a win on her home turf in Johannesburg as the poker scene in South Africa continues to grow.
Chamani beat out a small but talented field of 31 in the $7,500 High Roller event at the South Africa stop on the World Poker Tour and went on to final table the main event days later.
Chamani has been playing poker and traveling the world for the last five years. In fact she's the second-most successful female poker player from South Africa.
She's also a certified Raw Food Gourmet Chef and works with the organization Food Gardens Foundation to teach sustainable gardening techniques to struggling people in South Africa.
Recently Chamani has been on the road with her boyfriend, three-time WCOOP winner Ryan “g0lfa” D'Angelo and PokerListings.com spoke to her via email just after she returned from safari in South Africa's famous Kruger National Park.
Chamani recaps her recent WPT success, talks about gaining the respect of her poker peers in Johannesburg as well as the potential she sees in poker's future in South Africa.
PokerListings.com: You've been playing events on the circuit for a few years so what was it like taking down a WPT High Roller tournament?
Ronit Chamani: Well, for someone whose passwords for Facebook have been WPTWINNER for the last five years I would say it feels pretty darn amazing.
To have all the chips at the end, carry home a trophy home and know that you outplayed all your opponents and got lucky when you needed to feels fantastic.
I remember watching numerous WPT final tables at home in South Africa and saying to all who would listen that winning one of these is a dream of mine. So the password choice was a daily reminder of what I wanted. I guess I'll have to change it now though.
PL: How cool was it putting on such a great performance on your home turf with the High Roller win and then a final table in the main event?
RC: It's always great to be playing in South Africa. After so many years of time, tears and commitment, to win something on my home turf is incredible.
I also feel I now have the respect of my South African poker playing friends.
Unfortunately the High Roller final table was late at night and most of my friends are mommies. For the main event some friends were planning on coming after work but I was out in the first level of the final table.
But Ryan was with me and that is always enough
PL: Can you tell us a bit about your lifestyle these days as far as balance between poker, travel and work?
RC: Life has been one colourful experience after another. I have been traveling for over five years now but lately I have been enjoying a variety of things with my partner Ryan D'angelo.
After the WSOP we did a two-week Cali road trip ending in the redwoods forests followed by family visits in Ryan's home town. Then some city time in NYC and Woodstock fruit festival in upstate New York.
We try go to every farmers market and juice bar while on the road. Then it was a stop in Florida to visit some friends followed by a month in Costa Rica to play the WCOOP.
Since leaving the US we have been to London to play the EPT and visit some friends, followed by a trip to Israel where Ryan met most of my family and finally back to South Africa where we will be traveling and playing online until mid January.
So as you can see there is true balance between poker and life enjoyment.
I have also recently qualified as a Raw Food Gourmet Chef and have plans to put my newfound skills into practice very soon.
I also work with a charity called the Food Garden Foundation. This amazing organization goes to people with no food and at times hardly much of a home and teaches them how to grow their own food with the organic seeds provided.
It lets these families become self sustaining so they don't have to beg for their next meal. You simply cannot beat that.
PL: Has anything changed for you as far as poker or lifestyle since being with Ryan D'Angelo? He's a very accomplished poker player.
RC: There is no doubt that my game has improved immensely since dating Ryan. I mean how could it not, he's the nuts!
The only main change in my lifestyle since we met is that I now get to share all my passions with someone who independently of me had the same passions: Poker, healthy vegan food, juicing (the veggie and fruit kind) and traveling.
PL: Poker in South Africa isn't exactly a new fad but is the poker culture there still growing or changing?
RC: I believe that it is. With the help of great names like WPT and WSOP having events in South Africa it's hard to believe that the future of poker here will be anything but pure sunshine.