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In a book of practical wisdom distilled from a lifetime as one of the world's top female poker players, Cat Hulbert shows women how to hone analytical skills, improve intuition, and create a stategy for success every time they play poker, whether in a casino, home game, or online. Project a winning image (no headphones, no short stacks). Strive to make all your motions the same, whether folding, calling, or raising. Don't waste your time trying to trick the dummies. And know that every time you sit down at a table full of men, most of them are going to type-cast you as too passive to be competitive. Congratulations! You've got them right where you want them.
|Publisher:||Workman Publishing Company, Inc.|
|Product dimensions:||5.44(w) x 7.98(h) x 0.85(d)|
About the Author
Cat Hulbert, a professional gambler for 30 years, was one of the first women to break into the ranks of professional card players. Card Player magazine named her one of the top seven-card stud players in the world, and the Game Show Network called her “the best female gambler on earth.” She divides her time among playing high-stakes games, teaching poker to women at the Hollywood Park Casino, and writing. She lives in Torrance, California.
Table of Contents
Getting to First Base on the First Date: What you need to know and think about before you start to play.
How to Wear Basic Black to Stay out of the Red: Laying an indispensable foundation for safeguarding your bankroll.
Mirror, Mirror, on the Wall, Why Aren't I the Fairest of Them All?: How to avoid self-delusions.
Be All You Can Be Without Joining the Army: Basic book camp advice.
Only Your Hairdresser (and Shrink) Knows for Sure: The importance of maintaining your privacy.
Anything He Can Do, She Can Do Better! (Except Lift a Piano): Understanding the strengths and weaknesses of being a female poker player.
Every Face Tells a Story (or How Botox Can Save You Money): Tells—the body language of poker.
If All Is Not Lost, Where Is It?: A closer look at why your win rate may be below par.
Do Not Mix Stripes and Plaids on a Blind Date (Not Even With Stevie Wonder): How to avoid thinking or acting like an amateur.
As Phony as a Back-Alley Prada Handbag: The art of bluffing—and how to avoid being bluffed.
How to Keep All Your Balls in the Air Without Getting Hit on the Head: Staying balanced when things go wrong.
The Right Shoes Can Make All the Difference (Just Ask Cinderella): Advanced techniques to increase your win rate.
Pssst, Do You Want to Know a Secret? Promise Not to Tell?: Insights the pros keep under their hats.
Barefoot and Big-Busted in Cyberspace: Online Poker Considerations.
Honey, I Blew Up the Chips!: Tips for a smooth home poker game.
Please, Thank You, and, By the Way, Your Fly is Unzipped: Rules of etiquette.
Nuggets You Won't Find for Sale on eBay: A few valuable miscellaneous thoughts.
The Yellow Brick Road Doesn't End at Oz: Keeping the big picture in mind.
If I were a contestant on Jeopardy! and Alex Trebek announced the categories in the order of Blackjack,
Poker, Potent Potables, Big Dogs, and Chauvinistic
Men, you could bet your plasma television I’d win the first round. Of course, I’d never get to buzz in once if the categories were English Monarchs, Cooking, Foreign Films,
Economics, and Golf Legends.
I know what I know, and as Thoreau said, that is true knowledge. Trust me, in the world of competitive poker, I
started at the top, toppled to the bottom, and climbed back to the peak and planted my flag permanently. Because of my hard-won experience, I can show you how to stay away from both opponent and self-made traps, how to avoid belly-flop embarrassment, and how to employ trickery to win the chips. I understand the pitfalls because I’ve broken free of every trap imaginable, short of gnawing off my foot.
I’ve learned how to overcome disaster and become a successful professional by self-honesty; by determination,
resilience, and drive; by soaking up knowledge like a greedy sponge; and, last but not least, by pure luck. (No one will tell you it’s against the law to get lucky.)
My gambling career started at the age of 24 when I left my press job at the New York State Senate, packed up my Honda nicknamed Blue, withdrew all my savings ($1,600), and drove head-on into Ohio’s biggest snowstorm in 30 years. That’s not necessarily the luckiest start, but I did meet a Lay’s Potato Chips trucker while snowbound, who helpfully gave me the advice that I’d never make it in Vegas because my legs were too chunky.
But I wasn’t on my pilgrimage to
Vegas to be a showgirl; my quest was to be a professional card player.
What were my chances in 1976? In a well-read blackjack book of the time,
the author flatly stated that a woman doesn’t have the emotional fortitude to become a winning gambler. I had so many emotions in my youth that I could have built Fort Ticonderoga with them. And emotions aren’t necessarily a bonus when monetary fluctuations can make you feel like you’re going over Niagara Falls in a wooden barrel. (By the way, the first person brave enough for that daredevil stunt was a 63-year-old schoolteacher named Annie Taylor.)
Any man would have laughed his toupee off at the prospect of me becoming a player and suggested I become a blackjack dealer or a cocktail waitress in a long skirt. But being a blackjack dealer is not being a player, which I quickly discovered when I got a job at the Rainbow Club in Henderson, Nevada,
a suburb of Las Vegas. Bad luck befell me on the second day.
The Rainbow Club changed its policy from the standard unisex dealer attire of black pants and a white shirt to cheekhigh hot pants for the women. I resisted on feminist grounds,
but the real reason for my protestation was my linebacker gams. Twenty-four hours later I quit my first casino job on“ moral grounds.”
My next job was spinning the Big Six Wheel at the Union
Plaza Casino in downtown Vegas, and two months later I
moved up to dealing blackjack. It wasn’t long before I began to discern that there were some true pros at the game. I
wanted—no, I needed—to know their secrets.
One day a pro who looked like Sonny Bono wearing a fake Versace shirt came in, and I finally asked, “What’s your system?” He looked startled and whispered back, “Shhh,
meet me after work for coffee and I’ll tell you.”
At the time, I didn’t even know such a thing as “card counting” existed, but I was about to get an up-close-andpersonal education in it. Sonny Bono and I began dating, and he concocted a plan to teach me. He thought a woman card counter would be the greatest camouflage of all—simply because no one would ever suspect she’d be intelligent enough to use a system. What was wrong with the plan was that his team members thought having a female team member was as enticing as a skunk in a perfume shop. But Sonny persisted, and because he was the cash man and the team leader, the rest of the players begrudgingly fell in line. I kept practicing and practicing counting,
sizing up how many cards were left in the deck, and dividing the remaining cards into the count.
At first, card counting seemed tough, owing to dividing fractions quickly, although now I think I could teach Koko the gorilla how to do it. It doesn’t require mathematical genius,
but rather the discipline to always follow the formula, to bear up under casino scrutiny, and to socialize and look like a tourist while simultaneously keeping rows of rapidly changing numbers in your brain. Maybe I am overestimating Koko, but the point is that you don’t have to be a member of Mensa to count cards.
Because, as a woman, my abilities were still under suspicion,
I was never allowed to bet the money, so my main function was as a spotter. A spotter acts anonymously, betting small and signaling the Big Player into the game when the deck becomes rich in high cards. She or he then passes the Big
Player the count and disappears into the sea of faces. Was I
frustrated because the team members wouldn’t give me a chance to play solo due to my gender? Frustrated isn’t the word; piping-hot mad is more apt. All I wanted was the chance to prove myself competent to play under pressure. But no one had ever heard of a female card counter. Plus Vegas in the ’70s wasn’t exactly the equal-rights capital of the world. So without seeming self-congratulatory, I think for overcoming these chauvinistic attitudes and pioneering the way for other female players that I deserve a Benny Goodman toot or two.
As a member of Sonny’s team, I traveled all over Europe,
Asia, and Australia counting cards and slowly accumulating a bankroll. I was sharp and tough, and gradually gained the respect of my teammates because I could shove the money out without fear when the count called for it. Often people believe that’s what divides the girls from the boys in gambling—how they handle fear. And although men think they
are the braver of the two genders, it’s not necessarily true.
Woman guts and man guts look the same during an autopsy,
and I would die trying to prove myself as a competitive equal. Well, maybe not on all fronts—I’m still happy I never got a draft lottery number.
FROM BLACKJACK TO POKER
Even though I became an infamous player, barred on sight from casinos in such exotic places as Macau and Katmandu,
my main desire was still to become a poker player. After 12
years on the blackjack circuit, I quit. I was tired of being backroomed by casinos, of facing hostility from dealers and pit bosses, of sitting in holding cells on trespassing charges,
of always being on the road, and of living in constant fear of getting robbed. So I took a stab at making my first dream a reality.
How hard could it be to make the transition from blackjack to poker? They are both card games, right? Wrong! In poker, you can teach someone how to play a particular hand,
but it’s like chess—there are countless variations of the same situation that can occur and numerous levels of judgment that need to be plugged in. But even more than the complexities of the game, my main stumbling blocks were my confrontations with other players. Blackjack was just me against the house, but poker came with personalities that ranged from racist scumbag to snake-like vermin.
And if I thought I’d faced chauvinism in the blackjack world, I discovered that I hadn’t scraped the surface of how threatened a competitive man can be by an aggressive and strong-willed woman.
Instead of just thinking their thoughts or expressing grumbles of dissatisfaction,
some male poker players try to verbally pick you apart like vultures.
Although I believed I would be oblivious to the attacks because I was a hotshot blackjack player, I turned into a vulnerable woman. At a time when I should have been concentrating on my game, I was perfecting my bantering techniques.
I turned into a sucker, avoiding the truth, playing in the highest games with guys who could play rings around me. And instead of being focused on making money, I was concerned with winning the battle of the sexes. I lost badly, and the pain of crying into my pillow each night took its toll on my psyche,
bankroll, and—even worse—my great-looking face. Safe to say, Benny put his clarinet down and took a long break.
CHANGING MY TUNE
How did I turn things around? Well, I swallowed my pride,
dropped down to the small games, found a great poker teacher who forced me to face my weaknesses, and mastered the secrets of the founding principles of poker.
Now, I love poker—85 percent of the time I’d rather be playing than shopping at Nordstrom (and I’m a shopaholic!).
If you are a woman who’s been nibbled by the gambling bug,
whether it’s a pastime or a professional pursuit, I can turn your curiosity into knowledge. But there will still be those days Mama didn’t tell you about, and that’s why I’m here to guide you past your ego and any personal weakness that may hinder your growth as a player. Poker is exhilarating when you win, and you can handle that side of it standing on your head. But when you lose, it’s a test of character.
I have taught poker to women for several years, and through my own roller-coaster ride and through my interactions with my students, I understand where the traps lie for the novice. I can show you how to navigate around them and not get lost in the sea of wannabe players.
One dangerous pitfall is not being prepared to play against men who cannot stand losing to the weaker sex.
Those men believe that because their muscular development is superior to ours, so is their psychological advantage.
(Of course, it’s more than muscle; it’s also societal and cultural indoctrination.) I know how to demolish that archaic belief by introducing you to ways that will strengthen your advantages and diminish your weaknesses.
The truth is our gender does tend to suffer particular weaknesses,
but if we acknowledge them, we can implode them.
It’s my firm belief that if you build a sturdy foundation of what you need to know to become a winner, you can then use your natural advantage of being female to finish the race miles ahead of your male opponents. (And it’s no coincidence that the finish line is at the door of your local bank.)
Poker for me is a way to strengthen the areas that I am weak in, develop my analytical abilities, improve my memory,
and compete against men in a way I never can when physical strength is an issue. I’ve written 117 essential tips with accompanying explanations and life anecdotes that will build the necessary springboard for the beginner and increase the skill level of the experienced player.
The poker novice is not expected to understand every lesson,
but eventually her knowledge will catch up with her experience and that 40-watt light bulb will start beaming like a lighthouse in the fog.
One of the downfalls of the experienced player is that she becomes satisfied with her game. She stops trying to learn and expand her capabilities. When you are a beginner,
everything seems new and you’re open to new tactics, but a player who becomes complacent will not notice the gradual decay of her game as bad habits become ingrained and opportunities go by unseen. This book is equally valuable for players of all levels.
THE POKER GAME OF LIFE
It’s my hope that these poker tips will improve your game and have applications beyond the green felt table. My ideas on how to handle a wide spectrum of men—from the chauvinist to the pussycat—may apply to women in any maledominated workplace or setting, from the corporate boardroom to the tennis court. You can operate—“act like a man”—but still think like a woman without being seen as a witch-on-wheels (or worse). Using my techniques, you can reframe the picture of feeling like the odd woman out because you’ll discover there are secret advantages to being female in almost every venue—well, at least those that don’t involve one-armed pull-ups.
Poker is the hottest game in the country, and everyone from trendy celebrities to suburban moms is after the thrills of a winning hand, whether they’re playing at home, in a casino, or on the Internet. This quick-moving game of skill has long been a “boy’s night” staple, but here’s the truth: The fastest-growing segment of poker players today is women.
Some are taking up the game seriously with the goal of
becoming a professional player, and other girls are Cyndi
Lauper fans—they play just to have fun. I attend regular friendly home games—some gender-mixed, some all-women—because they are social outlets where I can laugh, relax, gossip, and interact without any underlying motivation but enjoyment.
Whatever our purpose for playing, let’s all celebrate together when the first woman wins the World Series of
Poker. The celebration may be followed by a funeral,
because old-timer Thomas “Amarillo Slim” Preston said he’d kill himself if that ever happened. Slim, what’s your pleasure—pistol or poison?—because you can bet a woman will capture the title. The only question is, will she do it before or after a female lands in the Oval Office?
I plan on sharing two of my other areas of Jeopardy! expertise by finishing my book on big dogs and L.A. bartenders in time for a Christmas 2005 release, so keep an eye out for it.
If you fell for that bluff, you definitely need to keep reading
Outplaying the Boys!
— Cat Hulbert