Interview with Team PokerStars Pro Ana Marquez

Thumbnail image for PS Women logo.jpgThe first time I met the newest member of Team PokerStars Pro, Ana Marquez, was at the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure. The charming Spaniard was coming off the best performance of her career, 10th place at the Main Event, good for over $150,000. That was also a turning point for Ana. Just before the PCA, she had been wavering between her passion for history and poker but she'd recently made a choice to go full force ahead as a poker professional.

I got a chance to speak with Ana at the European Poker Tour stop in London. Marquez had a strong showing at the £5250 Main Event in London, finishing 42nd out of 691 players for £13,000 cash. In London, Ana sat down with PokerStars Women to talk about her passion for cards and history and her views of how women can dominate the world of poker.

PokerStars Women-(PSW) How did you get started in poker?
Ana Marquez--(AM)
I started in college (at the American University in Washington D.C.) In the States, it was very common for guys to play poker as a hobby. One day my friends were playing and I saw them and asked, "Shat is this", "why are you betting and putting money for no reason?" They explained to me that there was strategy to it. So I decided to study the strategy. I started with 1-2 and 2-5 games in Atlantic City. In the beginning, I was all day playing, all day watching, all day: poker, poker, poker.

PSW: What were you studying in college at the time?
History and a minor in economics. I wrote my thesis on the history of poker. It was about the sociological path of poker from the 1970s when poker players were seen as criminals till now, when they are considered superstars.

PSW: How did you choose between poker and continuing studies in history?
My life is much more interesting as a poker player. But history is my passion. I'm always watching the History Channel and all my books are about history. I don't read anything else.

PSW: What is your favorite story from history of poker?
I think the story of Stu Unger is amazing. He was probably the best poker player in history but also such a crazy gambler. That story made me question if to really be one of the best, do you have to have that gamble in you? Then there were the stories about cash game players who went from city to city...

PSW: Did you see Doyle Brunson here? So exciting that he's playing here at EPT London.
: No, I haven't met him here but that's great. I'm a super-big fan.

PSW: This is just your second EPT on the roster for PokerStars Pro. What do you think of these events?
I love it because I come from playing small live tourneys where the structures are so shallow and it's such a gamble. It's awesome to play with a deep stack with such large prize pools. It's my favorite thing in the world.

PSW: The Main Event at the PCA in Bahamas was a breakthrough tournament for you. Can you give us an example of something that you grasped at that tournament that you didn't realize before?
Bahamas was a breakpoint in my life because I was deciding whether to do a masters degree or to keep playing poker. Doing both was taking a lot from me. I decided I had to choose one. That Christmas, I decided I was going to play poker. I did very well online that month and then in Bahamas, I played super-good.

PSW: What about your play itself?
In the Bahamas, I was so sure I wanted to be a poker player I wasn't even thinking about winning. I was saying to myself, you have to show yourself you can be better. I started paying attention to things I'd taken for granted. For example, I would be too comfortable in smaller tourneys, and not always play opponents according to their stack sizes. Or I wouldn't pay enough attention and wouldn't get the best reads. My focus changed. It went from, "Oh, am I going to go to school or play poker?" to "I have to play my best."

PSW: What is the best thing about being a member of Team PokerStars Pro?
I have a lot of people coming to me saying "congratulations" and "good luck." It feels so good to know there are people following you and supporting you. For instance, when I won a 100K pot to knock out a player on Day 1, he came up to me afterwards and said, "I'm going to be railing you and I hope you win this." That kind of thing is my favorite part.

PSW: Who are some of your favorite poker players or players you have learned the most from?
I'd have to start with Bryn Kenney, who is also my boyfriend. He is the person who really changed my game. I consider him among the best poker players in the world. He plays every type of game. He is always the person I go to ask about hands. But there are so many people I've learned from. I also love how Vanessa Selbst plays.

PSW: What do you like about the way Vanessa plays?
She's fearless. Controlling aggression is the key to playing perfect poker and I think Vanessa is way ahead with that. You can be aggressive and dumping your chips. But when you know what the good spots are to play aggressive, you are playing perfect because you can represent a tight image while being aggressive. That's when you're picking up the most chips.

PSW: And is that how you play?
That's how I try to play. It's hard though. It's hard to pay attention to all the details to find the best spots. You also have to have the heart to do it. Sometimes it's hard to pull those moves. Especially live.

PSW: Yeah. It can be harder live because if you pull the trigger and you're wrong, there's not always another tournament to register in a few minutes later. How do you overcome that?
You have to do what's most profitable in the long run. If you run into a hand, you run into a hand. There's nothing you can do about it as long as you made the right play. You need to feel confident about it and once you get to that point you can pull the trigger without worrying. I think that has been what's been happening to me little by little since I started. When I first started cash games live at the Borgata in Atlantic City, I was scared to do anything. As you start gaining confidence, you realize "this is normal" and "that is normal" and that's when you're developing as a player.


Ana Marquez at EPT London

PSW: Tell me about your first day at the EPT London. What was your table like?
It was a hard day. My table was playing a lot of pots. There were three or four players that were running over the table. I was at the same table as Bryn; he was sitting to my left, right next to me. It was so funny. Johnny Lodden and Dennis Phillips were there too.

PSW: Did you get into any pots with Bryn?
No. Unfortunately, he got coolered pretty early. He had AQ against a guy who had AK and the flop came AA so they both had trips and it went down to the river. So he was pretty short and wasn't playing many pots.

PSW: Were you bummed out or excited when you found out you'd be at the same table as Byrn?
Bummed out. He's kind of like my teacher so having him look over my shoulder when I'm doing my thing makes it harder to be creative. I need to do what I think he would do, not my way. So if I mess up...I feel like the teacher is watching. That adds a bit of extra pressure, but then I got comfortable (as the day went on.)

PSW: Did you watch the deep World Series of Poker run that Erika Moutinho and David Sands went on together (finishing 29th and 30th respectively)? Great love and poker story, no?
Yeah that was amazing and they got engaged after!

PSW: Do you recommend dating a poker player?
Dating a poker player is very difficult. We are under a lot of pressure, we travel a lot, there's a lot of stress. A superficial relationship in poker won't last because you have to follow each other and you have to understand each other when somebody loses. At the same time, I wouldn't want someone else. This is what I love. I think if I was with someone who wasn't a poker player, he would go crazy. I'm always travelling around with a bunch of guys. What is he going to think? One of the things that attracts me most about my boyfriend is how good a poker player he is. That's very attractive because poker is one of my passions.

PSW: So you wouldn't be attracted to a terrible poker player?
Maybe I'd find it entertaining to teach him. You never know!

PSW: Are you going to play in the PokerStars Women Live Event here in London?
: I really wanted to. Well also I'm lucky--I can't play it because I'm still in the Main Event.

PSW: A good problem to have! Do you like playing women's tournaments?
I love them. I think playing with women on a poker table is the nicest things ever. Everyone is really relaxed. When you are a poker player, you are surrounded by men so much. So being around women and talking about girls' stuff is so nice.

PSW: Do you play the PokerStars Women's Sunday tourney? There's a double guarantee this coming Sunday, October 16th.
Yes, I really enjoyed playing it the last couple weeks. I had a huge stack once but no luck yet.

PSW: What kind of events do you play on PokerStars?
I mostly play tournaments online and some Sit & Gos (SNGs). I play cash to practice 8-Game and PLO. I'm trying to play a little bit of everything, because I think that's the way to become a really good player.

PSW: What advice would you give to women who recently joined PokerStars and are looking to improve?
: I would suggest to be patient. This is a process. I've been through the smallest levels and the smallest games to the highest. I suggest you play online first, SNGs are good to play at the beginning because they give you a good basis for tournaments. If you want to play cash, start with small stakes. The advice for everyone who plays poker is bankroll management. You have to feel comfortable in the limits you're playing.

PSW: Do you think there are any special challenges for women in getting into poker?
Not at the tables. Maybe in the poker community...

PSW: What do you mean?
There's no secret that this is a man's world. We are still the minority. We don't get the same respect even if we accomplish the same. It's harder for us to be respected outside the table. But once she's at a table, you better be afraid of a woman. She can play like a nutcase or supertight. You don't even know. You see more women now and I love that. We are growing, hopefully someday we will get close to 50/50.

PSW: What can women bring to the table that is an advantage?
Women tend to be smarter and conservative with their money. Of course this is a generalization, but women like stability. I am that way. I control my bankroll very well. I'm sure there will be more men broke players than women broke players. But you have to learn to be fearless and to separate what's real from what's poker. When you have your bankroll management, that's real money. When you are at the table you can't be thinking about being that conservative cause that's not how you win tournaments. If you understand that, it's a definite advantage, because we'll be richer at the end and just as aggressive at the table.

Jennifer Shahade
@PokerStars in PS Women