I STARTED PLAYING POKER when I was about fifteen years old. I dated a boy in high school, and we would go to his house and play Texas hold ’em and seven-card stud with his parents. We played every weekend, and his parents expected us to make good on our bets. I improved by playing at friends’ houses, and five years later I was making a profit at poker, supplementing my work as a travel agent in Dallas. It wasn’t until I went through a divorce that I started going to casinos in Shreveport to play on the weekends.

Now I’m playing on the World Poker Tour, plus I’m a spokesperson for an online poker site. I have an agent, a publicist—you name it, I’ve got it. I’m on TV a lot, but that doesn’t mean I’m comfortable on television; it’s hard to get used to the cameras. I worry about how I’m going to be perceived. When the World Poker Tour Ladies Night aired, I taped it and watched it fifteen times. Even though I ended up winning that night, I kept saying, “Oh, look! Oh, look!” I picked myself apart. It was the first time I had played all women, and it was the toughest game of my life, because they were the best in the world. Normally, if you are lucky enough to get to the final table, the players have different experience levels. But at Ladies Night there were no soft spots.

When I was younger, I thought I would play better if someone tested my patience. But ego and poker don’t go well together. I believe that. If your mind-set is “I’m so much better,” you rush situations. Or if you don’t like somebody, you just keep thinking, “I want to beat that one person,” and you rush it. Now when I sit at the table, I give others the benefit of the doubt. I start out with the belief that they’re all great players, and then slowly I reevaluate them as they play. I think if you look at it any other way, you’re setting yourself up for failure.

What I would like to see is more women come into poker. I think they are as capable of being great at the game as men. What tends to be different—why women don’t finish as often—is that women are outnumbered. They also tend to be a little more frugal. A man may have his last $10,000 in the world and he’ll enter it. A woman won’t do that. She’ll be a little more cautious.

There’s a writer—and I don’t want to give him publicity, so I won’t even say his name—who says in one of his books about poker that there are specific types of people you want to play with. He gives a top-ten list, which includes, for instance, men with tattoos. He says you want to play with them because they’re stupid. He also writes that you want to play with beautiful women because they’re not smart enough to learn the game, plus they distract the other players. Anybody who reads this guy’s baloney is at such a disadvantage. Who’s to say they’re not great players? That’s the problem with a lot of men: They underestimate us. They think they can bet us out of the pot and instead end up making bad decisions. It happens more in younger men than older men; they raise you when they should be folding. Even when you’re aggressive, they raise again, like, “What are you doing, lady?” That’s what gives women players a huge advantage, because men don’t give us the respect we deserve.

Still, I’ll occasionally do things that make me look less experienced on purpose, because it’s better for me when other players think I don’t play very well. I don’t try to change their mind about that. It’s much more profitable if they think they can run over me at the table. If you’re an attractive woman in business, you’d better have high integrity and you’d better be good at your job, and the same thing goes in the poker world. If you’re not winning, you’re not going to get respect.