Jennifer Harman

The road is long from kitchen table poker in Reno to the Big Game in Las Vegas to face of the poker boom to the Poker Hall of Fame.

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

Jennifer Harman made it. And it definitely wasn't easy.

Kidney Transplant, Fake ID

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.

Jennifer Harman

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.

Jennifer Harman Live at the Bike

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.

Jennifer Harman

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.

Redemption in 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.

WSOP, WPT, Bobby's Room

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.

Jennifer Harman

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 was a regular at the game which famously includes greats such as Doyle BrunsonChip ReesePhil Ivey and Daniel Negreanucompeting 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 said she cleared $1 million from playing four nights a week at the Bellagio. "I'm probably the poorest person at the table," Harman says.

Essential Member of The Corporation

On her best nights though, Harman has seen staggering wins. Her biggest triumph in one day? $9 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.

Jennifer Harman

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.

Poker Hall of Fame

Harman has always been more of a cash game than tournament player although her career earnings of $2.7m are still more than respectable. She was a long-time pro for Full Tilt Poker until the end came for FTP in the US with Black Friday.

In recent years her presence at the WSOP has been relatively small with two small cashes in 2016 her most recent.

Harman is still a regular at the Vegas Big Games, though, and has appeared on Friday Night Poker on PokerCentral. She also runs an annual charity poker tournament to raise money for the Nevada SPCA.

In 2015 she was inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame alongside her friend, John Juanda.

Long-time friend Daniel Negreanu spoke in honor of Harman at her induction and her twin boys, Giancarlo and Francesco, from her relationship with Marco Traniello, were at the ceremony.

In her spare time Harman plays with her four dogs, spends time with friends, enjoys skiing, music, movies and doing Pilates. Here's her take on getting motivated for playing tournaments at the 2010 WSOP:

Barry Greenstein on Jen Harman:

The road is long from kitchen table poker in Reno to the Big Game in Las Vegas to face of the poker boom to the Poker Hall of Fame.

Jennifer Harman made it. And it definitely wasn't easy.

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


Jennifer Harman
PLAYER INFO
Current ResidenceLas Vegas, NV, USA
BornNovember 29, 1964
Birth PlaceReno, NV, USA
Total Winnings$2.765.348
PLAYER SCORE
7/10
Aggressiveness7
Looseness6
Limit8
No-limit6
Side Games7
Steam Control6
Against Strong Players6
Against Weak Players7
Tournaments8
Short-Handed7
PLAYER TRIVIA
  • First woman to win two gold bracelets in open-field WSOP events
  • Won $9 million for The Corporation going heads-up with Andy Beal
  • The recipient of two kidney transplants

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