Charlotte Van Brabander: First Trip to Las Vegas Highlights a Blossoming Poker Career

PS Women logo.jpgShe has been a competitive gamer for much of her life. That translated into a career as a poker player, one that garnered a contract with the largest online poker website in the world and that allows her to travel across Europe and to the United States. In preparation of graduation from a university with a degree in criminology, law school is next on the list.

This sounds like the résumé of an accomplished woman, and one whose eventual life story will be an interesting biography. But it may surprise many to know that Charlotte Van Brabander is only 21 years old.

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Born and raised in Ghent, Belgium, Charlotte discovered a love of gaming at a young age, and her teenage years were filled with Counter-Strike, which she played while completing her high school education. The game pits terrorists versus counter-terrorists in an elimination-based game that grew into a culture of its own, with leagues and a professional circuit. Charlotte played with a team of five girls, all of whom loved the challenge. "I had good precision," she said. "My aim was good."

Counter-Strike led to poker. She started an account on PokerStars as "sjlot" when a friend from the gaming community sent her money to play, and her skills were immediately apparent. It didn't take long for the Marketing Manager, at PokerStars to contact her, which led to her status as a "Friend of PokerStars."

Improvements to Charlotte's game were a result of friends and associates. She began to learn the importance of position, and Kenny "SpaceyFCB" Hallaert taught her the importance of math in the game. And friend (and Team PokerStars Pro) Christophe de Meulder helped with the emotional swings of the game. "He taught me to chill when you lose a large amount of money," she mentioned. "I think that's the hardest thing to deal with as a poker player."

While online poker remains Charlotte's game of choice, she has ventured into the live arena on occasion. At the European Poker Tour London stop in 2010, she played the PokerStars Women Live ladies tournament, admitting to, "I have a lot of fun with ladies' events because we're chatting a lot and sharing experiences." She also added, "It's hard for a woman to live in a man's world, and I think poker is still a man's world, but we're going to change that."

By the time the 2011 WSOP rolled around, Charlotte was 21 and ready to play. When asked why she traveled to Las Vegas to play the WSOP Ladies NLHE World Championship, she replied with a playful, "C'mon! It was the world's biggest ladies event! I couldn't miss that. And it was a great way to see Vegas for the first time - the city of poker players."

Her trip was short - only four days - but she managed to experience a lot of the city. The shopping was her favorite part, especially at stores not available in Belgium like Victoria's Secret and Abercrombie & Fitch.

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Charlotte wasn't fond of some of the older hotels on the Strip, like the Flamingo. "Most of them had a strange smell!" she recalled. But she did enjoy some time at the pool at her hotel, the Palazzo, which she said was the greatest thing she saw in Vegas.

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Some of her time was spent with a Belgian reporter and fellow Belgian poker players, and that led to her time to play the WSOP. She was excited to play in the Series for the first time, as evidenced by her photo with her buy-in ticket.

Charlotte Van Brabander - WSOP ticket.JPG

Unfortunately, there was no cash in the works for her in that particular tournament. And she admitted, "I was a bit disappointed about the ladies' structure. I didn't have a lot of space to make plays. I lost a small pot, and before I knew it, I was sitting there with 20 BBs. It felt like a turbo tournament."

But that doesn't mean Charlotte is giving up on live tournaments. Though online poker remains her primary focus, she plans to compete in live events on the Estrellas Poker Tour in Spain and the Belgian Poker Series.

On top of that, she will be finishing her studies at the university in Ghent, and upon graduation next year, she intends to study law.

For Charlotte, it's all about the challenges, and she looks to be accepting all that come her way.

Jen Newell
@PokerStars in PS Women