She played cards right, online poker biz booms

Jane has won a jackpot in the macho world of poker. Antigua.

It sounds like one of those pie-in-the-sky schemes pitched in spam e-mails.

But last year, Jack decided to quit her job as a financial controller with a Cambridge plastics company and play her hand in the booming business of online poker.

Jack started playing serious poker in the late 1990s in Ontario's charity casinos.

She said she's a good poker player because she understands the mathematics of the game and is underestimated by male opponents.

"The poker world is still seen as a man's world and when a woman sits down at the table, she's seen a pushover."

When poker sites started popping up on the Internet and televised poker tournaments featuring celebrities started to draw big ratings, Jack started thinking about setting up her own site.

Jack lined up private investors.

Jack also struck up a partnership to share a client base and technology with Party Poker, a huge Internet poker site based in India.

Before she launched PokerNow. com, there was one other detail. Jack, her husband and their five-year-old daughter moved to Antigua, where, unlike Ontario, running an Internet gaming site is legal.

The tiny Caribbean nation of 67,000 recently won a World Trade Organization ruling quashing an attempt by the United States to shut down its online gaming licensing system that brings in much-needed revenue.

Since last September, PokerNow has signed up 4,000 serious poker players and thousands more "play money" participants.

The serious players put up money, usually by credit cards, and play poker with each other.

Jack believes the NHL lockout dealt her a lucky break.

"With no Hockey Night in Canada, we came on the bandwagon at the right time. Saturday night is always a good night."

PokerNow makes money by taking a "rake" of $1 to $3 from the winning pot. Players can chat with each other online, but there are no web cams.

"If you really have a bad poker face you can't see that the Internet," Jack said.

Online poker is more comfortable and familiar than other forms of online gambling because players are competing with each other and betting with an anonymous "house," she said.

Jack is trying to boost credibility by becoming the persona behind PokerNow.

Her biography and photo are posted on the website. She answers about 100 e-mails a day and appears at trade shows across North America.

"If you go out and talk to people, they know you are for real," she said.

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