Katja Thater on traveling with the pros

teampro-thumb.JPGBy Rebekah Mercer

Traveling to some of the world's most exotic and luxurious destinations for PokerStars is just part of the job for Katja Thater. For about three months out of the year, she is on the road (or in the air). That's a lot of miles to rack up in airplanes and taxis, and a lot of missed connections. It's also a lot of airport security and overpriced coffees. To get an idea of what it's like to travel the PokerStars tournament circuit, I asked Katja a few questions about her travel experiences. She was kind enough to spend some time answering my questions, and in the process, she shed some light on what traveling the world for tournaments is like. From Katja's perspective, the travel itself can be very challenging--even if it is to the best and most luxurious tournament circuit in the world.

But before we get to the travel questions, you really need to know a few things about this PokerStars Team Pro member. It's always a good idea to know a bit about your travel companions. Especially if they are likely to be taking your money--at the tables that is!


Katja Thater has been involved in the world of high stakes poker since 1999, when her husband, poker pro, Jan von Halle, asked her to sit in on a hand for him in the 7-Card Stud European Championship in Austria. (What a way to cut your teeth on playing live poker--sitting in for someone in a championship tournament!) She won that hand, and by doing so, opened the door to what has become a very successful poker career. According to her blog, after that hand she decided "then and there" that she wanted to take up the game and start playing regularly. She did exactly that, and jumped right into playing high-stakes cash games at local casinos. She played cash games for several years before becoming involved in the tournament scene. Since then she has enjoyed tremendous success, and the highlights below are just a few of those on her poker resume.

• Katja joined PokerStars Team Pro in 2006, and has since become one of the most recognizable members of the elite team.
• She made a final table appearance at the EPT Warsaw Event in 2007 where she finished fifth and cashed for $85,024.
• She made two final table appearances that same year at the World Series of Poker,* finishing fifth in the Ladies Event.
• She won the 2007 WSOP* championship bracelet in the $1,500 7-Card Razz Event, and cashed for $132,653.

In addition to "the bracelet," as it's called by envious fellow poker players, she has been the recipient of several other prestigious awards in the last several years for her dedication to the sport. In 2007, she became "Europe's Leading Lady," at the European Poker Awards. And in 2010, Katja won the EPT Season 6 Mixed Games Player of the Year title. Katja is extremely well known in Germany, not only as a player, but as a poker commentator and TV announcer. As a result, she is often called "Germany's biggest poker export."

So now that you know a bit about her poker life, let's get back to those travel questions. All that travel sounds glamorous and fun, and she says that the destinations themselves are. But the travel itself . . . that's a different matter altogether. She loves the EPT venue and event in Tallin (Estonia), and says the party in Barcelona that she attended in 2007 was the best of the PokerStars parties that she's attended. But the traveling itself can be trying.

Her feelings about travel are summed up by saying, "Traveling is wasted time. While you're sitting in a plane you're cut off from everything." This is understandable from a woman who is used to being constantly on the go. If she's not playing tournaments, she's involved in her other personal and business interests--breeding horses and training them for dressage tournaments, or working on media events.

She goes on to say that airline service is declining and that contributes to making the travel experience "worse and worse." Lost luggage and delays also make the constant travel challenging. "The other day my luggage made it home--without me. I was stranded without any luggage in a foreign country for days." Then on her last trip home from Las Vegas to Germany, she had a total of "25 hours of delays."

Her best travel tip is to take "small luggage," and "enough money." But it's not all trials and tribulations. When she arrives at her destination, she enjoys "sightseeing, relaxing, going to the spa, and meeting with friends"--with a little media work thrown in!

She is straightforward in her approach to traveling and doesn't claim to have any special rituals, requests, or obsessions about travel. And the best travel destination overall for her? Home. If she had the choice between staying home and relaxing or going somewhere exotic for a vacation, she says she would choose home every time.

So traveling for a living makes your own home the best possible location to savor. Something to think about the next time you're envying those poker pros. Just remember that you get to stay home instead of hassling with lost luggage and airport security. And those millions of dollars up for grabs in those poker tournaments? Now that's a different story . . .

Brad Willis
@BradWillis in PS Women