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888poker pro Jessica Dawley has quite a background. She grew up without a ton of opportunity, put herself through school by joining the Air Force and saw combat overseas before moving to Las Vegas and becoming a poker pro. That was seven years ago and now she's got a sponsorship deal with 888poker and she's traveling the world playing live tournaments. We get to know her better in this PokerListings.com video feature.
Hi, my name is Jessica Dawley, and I'm originally from Louisville, Kentucky. I ended up growing up most of my life in southern Indiana on a small little farm town. We don't even have a stoplight there, so it's still that way. I got into poker, my uncle taught me when I was about six years old. I was a huge tomboy growing up, and I loved to go fishing so he would take me fishing two or three days a week. He had a lake and then just one day, he had a poker game every Thursday so he was like, "Yeah, I'll teach you how to play." And so he taught me. He had this little, it looked like an urn and it was full of pennies. It was a little brass urn. I remember it like it was yesterday. And it was full of pennies, and he taught me five card draw, five card stud, and I got started playing just like that. I've always loved poker my whole life.
In high school, I used to play two days a week to supplement my income as a waitress at Pizza Hut. So I would make like maybe $30 or $40 a night waitressing and then I'd go play in these home games. We were playing like a quarter or 50 cents but, when you're in high school, that was a ton of money for me. And so I supplemented my income doing that. I was the only girl that they would let in the game, obviously, because no one else, for the most part, women especially like back then, they really didn't have a clue about poker or whatever.
Went from high school and I went to the Air force and there was a lot of downtime in the military surprisingly, so we didn't have a lot to do. A deck of cards was pretty easy to come by, so we played a lot of poker. And that was awesome. I remember one night, I had so many. . . we would take ziploc bags with us and that's how we would use to carry money out. I would had so many, I had to have my friends help me carry ziploc bags full of money, of coins, but I thought I was rich. When I had joined, my commander was like, "You have nothing to worry about. We haven't been activated since the Korean war. You'll be fine." And then September 11th happened. Yeah, the beginning of June of 2003, I got deployed. I was only 20 so it was pretty scary for me. We were stationed in the United Emirates and we lived in tents and it was pretty weird and crappy, but I'm definitely happy that I did it. Most people can't say they had an experience like that, and it definitely made me grow a lot because I saw how other people lived and, at 20, learning that definitely made me appreciate things a lot more when I got back home.
Because of they way that I was raised, I never really changed. Everyone said, "Oh, my gosh, you're going to live in Vegas. You're going to get into all these bad things." But I think if you're a strong enough person, nothing like that will affect you. I don't do drugs. I'm not a big partier. I don't drink, so I think that's totally different than a lot of other poker players that drink a lot and love to party. They love that lifestyle, but I think they don't appreciate money as much as I do and understand the value of money. They think that they might be, let's say, they're on November Nine or whatever, they make the mile table at the main event. They think that it's so easy for that to happen over and over again, and they don't realize that you can go years and maybe never again have a big cash like that. So you have to really save your money as best you can along the way and that's how you stay afloat. And that's how you don't go busto.