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Copyright 2005 EXPRESS NEWSPAPERS
April 12, 2005
REVOLUTION; THE WOMEN WHO GAVE UP THEIR JOBS TO JOIN ONLINE HIGH
ROLLERS FOR THE...
BYLINE: SOPHIE TWEEDALE
Poker is no longer
the preserve of the casino high rollers. Hundreds of thousands
of people who fancy themselves as card sharps are taking up the
game - thanks largely to its huge popularity on the internet -
and the fastest-growing group of players is women.
Ladbrokes reports that females make up around 20 per cent of
the 350,000 people who play the game online every hour; an increase
of 100 per cent in the past year. And on the internet, 888. com
has even launched the first female-only online
poker tables to keep up with demand.
SOPHIE TWEEDALE meets two women who are so hooked on the high-risk
thrill of the game that they have given up their careers to pursue
it full time
ALONA HASSIDOF, 28, a former store manager, lives in Hendon,
TWO years ago I was living a stereotypical normal life; doing
the nine to five daily commute and juggling a job as the manager
of a hair and beauty chain. I'd been to university and got a good
degree in psychotherapy and always thought I'd be in a stable,
normal career until I retired.
But 18 months ago that changed. I had moved in with my boyfriend
Daniel and we became friendly with his next door neighbour who
played poker professionally. Before long we were regular guests
at poker parties at his house. Before I knew it I was really wrapped
up in the game. It shocked me how much I enjoyed it because I'd
never really played properly. I always thought poker was an old
man's game or played by the rich in casinos but I couldn't have
been more wrong.
I started to stay up playing until 3-4am on sites like 888. com;
it became an addiction, the thrill of seeing all those zeros pouring
into your bank account just by sitting at your computer. To play,
all you have to do is register as a member on an internet poker
site. Many of them will allow you to start playing just for fun
but if you want to gamble
real money, you have to set up an account with them. You pay
in a deposit from your credit card and you'll then get credited
when you win and debited when you lose.
The site, like any normal casino, also takes a small percentage
of each hand that you win. To withdraw your winnings, you notify
the site and they credit it back to your card.
Seven months ago, I gave up a stable £20k plus benefits
salary to play full time. I had no regrets as I walked out of
the office for the last time. I just felt liberated and happy.
After about six months I began earning up to £3,000 a month
when I played well; that's £36,000 a year, way above the
"average" London salary. You can earn £100,000
upwards if you're good. .
It's so easy to get hooked. All you need is a debit card. I usually
play with anything from £2 to £250.
My biggest win has been around £900 so far.
My circle of friends has changed.
They're now all poker
lovers. But being a player can be very isolating too. My boyfriend,
29, a property developer, is a real poker widower.
In fact, we broke up over my constant playing 18 months ago and
only got back together last month.
At the time he wanted me to go to counselling but I never saw
the need. After all, I enjoy it and it is highly lucrative. But
he has become more tolerant of it since then and accepts it as
part of my life.
At one point, I was taking sums of £250 off his credit
card at a time to play with when I ran out of money, which I never
do now. The worst I ever got into debt was about £500 but
I paid it all back.
The money is certainly addictive; some sites have $ 2million
Playing poker is
the ultimate in anonymity. I look young for my age but people
can't judge me online.
It's also appealing to be able to earn vast sums in your own
I feel happy and the perks outweigh any negatives. I went out
last weekend and I thought nothing of spending £140 on one
belt from designer Jesire in Brent Cross.
Poker has given me that freedom and I love my new profession.
JENNIFER MASON, 24, an Oxford graduate, lives in Hampstead, North
London. She has played poker full time for four years.
WHEN I was at Balliol College in Oxford studying classics I never
dreamt in a million years that I'd end up playing
poker full time. My dad's a lecturer so it was assumed I'd
become a teacher or something. It's been quite hard kicking against
that tide of expectation but I really enjoy poker and can't see
It started at university. I joined the poker
society and played regularly. When I finished in July 2001 I went
back to living at home and there was a real pressure to get on
with my career. But after six months I had started to think of
online poker as a lifestyle. I was playing every morning and night.
I decided I had to move out when my mum got really fed up with
me and was constantly asking why I didn't get a proper job. So
in July 2002 I got a house share with my boyfriend John, who's
26 and a musician, and two friends. It meant my rent was very
cheap, about £100 a month, so I could put money into my
poker. I haven't looked back since.
Being a poker player
can be very unglamorous. I spend far too much time on my own in
the bedroom playing on forums but it hooks you.
I now play between four to seven hours a day, seven days a week.
My boyfriend has to put with my unsociable hours which can be
hard. I often set my alarm clock for 2am and play straight through
until 7am, then go to bed. Luckily, he is very understanding about
it but it's not ideal for a relationship.
A year ago I got a job two days a week as a poker dealer in a
casino to pick up some tips but I gave it up because I couldn't
play enough and was hardly seeing John.
I've got my friends into poker now and each Friday night we take
turns to host a poker night.
I regularly earn between £500 and £1,000 a month
but my biggest win so far was a $ 15,000 holiday package which
included entry to the world poker tournament in Paris last year.
It was incredible, staying at a top luxury hotel, first class
flights and entrance to the tournament which costs £6,000
alone. I was the youngest person there so it was quite intimidating
My mum and dad have accepted it now and are quite resigned to
I love the anonymity of it; as a woman I never feel intimidated
behind a screen and the fact I can go on with £2 and come
away with £200 within minutes is thrilling.
I would love to play more than I do and in five years' time I
would like to be a big player on the international tournament
circuit or own my own site. I really don't know what else I would
do now. The more I play the more a steady nine to five job loses
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