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Online Poker News Archives - April 12, 2005

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The Express

April 12, 2005



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, north London.

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 jackpots.

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 home.

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 things changing.

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 but thrilling.

My mum and dad have accepted it now and are quite resigned to it.

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 its appeal.

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