How Gillian Epp Went from Yoga Teacher to High-Stakes Poker Pro

Gillian Epp3
Who knew watching Gandhi could lead to a career as a poker pro?

Ever wonder how successful poker pros get to the point where they can actually make a living playing poker?

Our latest video explores that journey with Canadian cash-game specialist Gillian Epp.

Epp has had sponsorship deals with IveyPoker and Bet24 and she mainly splits her time between Vancouver and Las Vegas where she plays live cash games.

Epp came to the PokerListings video studio in Vancouver to tell us her story, and it's one that starts on a long trip studying yoga in India.

Epp Learned Poker at Height of Boom

It was the movie Gandhi that inspired Gillian to travel to India. Once there, Epp would finish her yoga sessions in the early morning and have the entire day to kill with other students. They started playing poker.

This was in 2006, the pinnacle of the pre-UIGEA, pre-Black Friday explosion in poker's popularity. Around the same time Epp was playing her first hands, Jamie Gold was winning $12 million at the biggest-ever WSOP Main Event.

Gillian Epp
Gillian Epp at the World Series of Poker.

“I love games so I was totally into it,” said Epp.

“Even though I was so terrible. I always got confused about whether a straight beat a flush,” she joked.

But she learned quickly and managed to make some money playing cards during her travels through China and Southeast Asia.

Epp returned to her hometown of Cranbrook, British Columbia with the intention of playing more poker and she quickly got a job dealing at the local casino.

“We had two poker tables and we ran poker three days a week and they were the same people who always came. It was a lot of fun. I loved dealing there.

“I still didn't really understand that poker could be a profession. I just saw it as a fun thing to do on the side.”

Family Trip for First Casino Poker Session

Gillian wasn't allowed to play poker at the casino where she worked so her parents volunteered to drive her to Calgary.

Her first taste of casino poker was a $1/$2 No-Limit Hold'em game at the seedy Cash Casino. On one of her first hands Gillian picked up A-K suited, flopped a king with the nut flush draw and tripled up.

Later that night she used her winnings to buy her parents dinner.

Gillian Epp
"I never sat down and decided to quit my job and play poker."

She was hooked and made the drive back to Calgary the following weekend with a few other dealers to play more poker.

Poker in Vancouver and Las Vegas

Gillian moved to Vancouver to go to school at Simon Fraser University and teach yoga but poker started taking up more and more of her time.

She began moving up stakes as her game improved and got her first introduction to professional poker players.

“I still wasn't sure if it was actually legit, like you could make a living at it or if they were just BS'ing. But I continued playing poker.

“I was traveling to Vegas, a lot, and I was unable to keep my job as a yoga teacher because I was away so much.

“I never sat down and decided to quit my job and become a poker player. I just kept taking more and more time off from work to the point where I ended up just staying in Vegas for months at a time.”

Watch Gillian Epp's Poker Story

Check out the full video interview below.

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acesacesaces 2015-04-30 10:33:59

You can obviously make a living playing poker but it's def not an easy one. Gillian says it pretty well right in the beginning of this video. "If you can do anything else other than poker, do it, but if poker is the only thing that makes you happy, you have to play poker".

Colin 2015-04-30 10:29:07

Interesting story. I'm still at the stage Gillian was when she came to Vancouver, not 100% convinced you can make a living as a poker pro. A lot of people I know have been riding like one big tournament score and calling themselves pros, so a lot more impressive for a story like this where someone just grinded up a bankroll big enough to play bigger games, and can make a consistent profit playing cash games. Either way big props to anyone trying to make a living playing poker!

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