Learning from the best: Victoria Coren

Since discovering Texas Hold'em 10 months ago, it has become an obsession, so much so that I set the mammoth goal of entering the 2015 EPT Barcelona Main Event. In an effort to make this dream a reality and improve my game as much as possible, I have been studying professional women poker players to see what I can learn from them.

Perhaps one of the most important of these women is Team PokerStars Pro Victoria Coren, mainly because she was the first woman to win an EPT Main Event. She was the one who broke the poker "glass ceiling" and paved the way for players like Selbst, Boeree and Rousso. For this reason, her influence, on me anyway, is the most important of all the pros. Her example makes my journey possible.

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Vicky appeals to me for many reasons. Apart from that particularly significant achievement, she is open about initially being a terrible player. She really took her time to learn the game, and she did so before there was a real online presence or support network - the old school way. She gradually built her way up to the big time, and Vicky's example shows me there is no harm in slowing down.

Another reason I find Vicky so inspiring is the successful balancing act she maintains between being a writer and a poker player. Her experience with trying to juggle deadlines around tournaments resonates in a special way, as, for me, poker and writing are interlinked. She talks about being so wired after playing a tournament that she would stay up for hours afterward writing about it. It reminds me of the first poker tournament I entered, how my mind was still so alive afterward that I banged out an article on it in record time.

The title of her novel, "For Richer For Poorer: A Love Affair with Poker," really emphasizes that the obsession with poker comes from the possibility of winning, and if you don't do this on occasion, it becomes easy to get de-motivated. I have to admit that after my catastrophic experience at the UKIPT Isle of Man, I had taken a small step back from poker, playing less and thinking more.

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Researching all the Team PokerStars Pros, looking at their background in science and law and their lists of high achievements, has, in itself, been a little intimidating, and I have found myself wanting on a number of occasions. Vicky's background is less science more arts and humanities, which shows that you don't have to have the mind of a calculator to win at poker.

Even after winning an EPT, she admitted that it's still mostly a hobby, and I think that this is Vicky's charm - she really enjoys playing the game. As simple as it may sound, she has made me realize that I should relax a little. Studying things like game theory, psychology and strategy have all been immensely helpful. I understand the game in an entirely different way; I have dissected it, broken it apart unit by unit to analyse it, but in doing so, I may have lost a fundamental idea - playing for the love of it.

So, thank you, Vicky Coren, for reminding me to enjoy myself; it is a game, after all.

Now I play a little more - and I don't know if its luck or this relaxed attitude - but I am on a hot streak at the moment. Perhaps enrolling in the 2015 Barcelona ETP Main Event is a tad too ambitious. Perhaps playing in the UKIPT Isle of Man side event was too much too soon and I should have concentrated on improving my skills online first. I may need to adjust my goals, but I am definitely back on the horse, and next year I will be better prepared.

So, how did Vicky Coren win an EPT Main Event? Perhaps it is as simple as doing the right thing at the right time. We can use many skills to achieve success at the poker table, but ultimately, this is what it comes down to.

For me, Vicky's legacy is not so much her game play but her example. I now realize that there is no rushing success; it will come in its own time, after doing the right thing at the right time.

Ann-Marie McCarthy
@PokerStars in PS Women