Saying goodbye--and thank you--to Rachel Kranz
The last time I was in Las Vegas was the summer of 2013 for the World Series of Poker. It was my first time playing and, while it was 'just' a $1,000 event, I was excited and nervous in equal parts. After a few hours of playing, it quickly became one of the most enjoyable days of poker that I can remember.
It wasn't because I was crushing the field or playing particularly well. It was because the table was all laughing, talking and joking - the way poker is meant to be played. And all of this enjoyment was single-handedly orchestrated by one lady: Rachel Kranz.
Ms. Kranz, from the moment she sat at the table, made a conscious effort to talk to everyone, asking questions about poker, people's families, politics, Vegas restaurants, and everything in between. Now, I know what you're thinking - she was doing it to get reads, to try and get an edge, and we were all suckers for talking back. Not this time. It wasn't like that. She just had a genuine thirst for knowledge and was interested in people and what compelled them to play this game that we all loved.
At one point, there was an incident at the table where an overbearing oaf from England started to berate a player at the table for taking too long with his actions. It was clear in this instance that the hesitation was justified - this was a player clearly new to poker with only a slim grasp of the English language - and there was no ill harm intended. As the rest of the table, sadly including myself, stood back and did nothing, Rachel Kranz, all five-feet two-inches of her, calmly instructed the man that he was out of order and needed to show more respect to the other players at the table. That shut him up.
Kranz and I busted out of the tournament that day and met up for breakfast outside of The Venetian the next morning to discuss our similar lives in poker and poker journalism on separate sides of the Atlantic. I've never met anyone since who was so passionate about the game - she loved playing, loved meeting new people and was also far more successful than the vast majority of players will ever be. Since her first cash in 2008, Kranz racked up over $358k in live tournament winnings, including a career-best score of $113k in a Vegas tournament the next summer.
Sadly, news of Rachel Kranz passing away due to cancer came through earlier today. Judging by the reaction on social media, I was just one of many countless hundreds of poker players she left a lasting impression on. Many notable figures from the poker world including, Allen Kessler, Kara Scott, Victor Ramdin, Jennifer Shahade, Fatima de Melo Moreira, Patrick Leonard, and many more left their condolences and memories on Twitter, all remarking on what a kind person and talented poker player Kranz was.
It goes without saying that the thoughts of everyone at PokerStars Blog are with Rachel Kranz's friends and family. We're all going to miss her.
Ross Jarvis is the PokerStars Digital Services Project Manager and a contributor to the PokerStars Blog