Kristen Bicknell: From Supernova Elite to WSOP Ladies Event champion
Most online poker players know her as krissyb24 on PokerStars. She is no stranger to the tables there, as she has more than a few years of experience and several years in a row of achieving Supernova Elite status.
Kristen Bicknell is a professional poker player. Some call her a grinder, and a successful one who is not only respected for her accomplishments but for her dedication to the game. Now, everyone can also call her the 2013 WSOP Ladies No Limit Hold'em Championship winner. And she has a beautiful gold bracelet and $173,922 to prove it.
Her start in poker wasn't much different than many other young players today, as Kristen learned poker during her time attending the university in Ottawa. Her boyfriend and his roommates played poker one night, and she joined in. "I fell in love with it instantly," she recalled, "and we played heads-up all night until about 11 in the morning." It was that spark that encouraged her to study poker books, learn more about the game, and try her hand at some local card clubs.
Online poker entered the picture about six months later, after she spent her 2005 summer playing $1/$2 cash games at a casino.
The St. Catharine's, Ontario native settled in Ottowa after school, which she quit just several classes from graduation. She was making a solid living at poker at that point and focusing the majority of her time on grinding low stakes MTTs, sometimes heads-up SNGs as well. Her bankroll was growing, and she was happy.
By 2010, Kristen had her eyes on Supernova Elite. She started with $.50/$1.00 games and moved up to $1/$2 halfway through the year, eventually playing $2/$4 as well. She earned her first Supernova Elite status that year and has never missed a year since. Six-max games have become her favorite, and she enjoys Zoom sometimes.
"I am averaging at least six hours a day right now, so that's my full-time job," she said. I stopped going to school in 2007 or 2008, focusing mainly on poker for the last five years. My parents have a business, so I do some work for them, too."
As for tournaments, Kristen plays the occasional tournaments online, and her success was evident as far back as 2008 when she competed in the $1 Million Turbo Takedown and captured fourth place for $32,500. She did well in several tournaments she played, mainly ones in Las Vegas when she and boyfriend Adam "fishbones11" Fyshe traveled for the summer. She made the final table of two tournaments at the Venetian Deep Stack Extravaganza in 2010, finishing sixth in a $340 NLHE event and third in a $300 NLHE for a combined payout of nearly $25K. She also played in a number of WSOP - 15 or 20 to her recollection - but never cashed.
Until this year.
One of the events that Kristen decided to play was the $1,000 buy-in NLHE Ladies Championship, and her approach was different than in previous years. "I like playing ladies' events for various reasons, but in the past, I've come into the Ladies Championship with a bad attitude, sort of that I'm more experienced than everybody and I'll win every hand," she admitted. "This year, I realized that I busted out of ladies' events badly before, and I wasn't going to do that again. I decided to play pretty solid, pick my spots well when I do bluff, and not feel like I have to win every hand. And everything clicked."
Things particularly clicked on Day 3 of the tournament. She entered the final table with a solid chip stack but eventually doubled through chip leader Shana Matthews to take the lead herself.
"I had a feeling then that I had a good shot at winning. I felt that a couple players played some hands different than I expected because they were pretty good players. I think that emotions are high at final tables, though, and everyone doesn't make the best decisions, like Jared Tendler talks about in his 'The Mental Game of Poker' book. I don't know if it's because I multi-table online, but I never had that feeling of being paralyzed by emotions anymore."
That calm may have been the key to her success. She also noted that playing her best was the single most important goal for her at the table, and she feels that she did that. Kristen won her heads-up match in seven hands, and the bracelet and $173,922 were hers. She described the feelings at that point in her winner's interview:
Her advice to other women in gender-specific events? "You can't focus on the gender of your opponent. So many people have this perception that ladies' events are so weak, and that's not necessarily true. There are a lot of women who play professionally, and beyond that, you only have two cards, as do they. You have the play the hand and analyze it in the same way you would as a hand online without knowing who your opponent is."
Kristen stayed in Las Vegas to play the Main Event but then rushed back to Ottawa to return to the online grind. "I do want to get Supernova Elite again this year, and I'm a little behind pace," she said.
And that's where you can find krissyb24, back on PokerStars, where she prefers to be. There may just be a shiny white-gold bracelet near her computer setup now, though, a reminder of a successful summer.
Jennifer Newell is a PokerStars freelance contributor.