The air in the Amazon ballroom became noticeably thinner in January of 2011 as Ana Marquez continued her march toward the final table of the PCA Main Event. Onlookers at the Atlantis were holding their breath to see if she would be the first woman to make the final table. Unfortunately the cards turned against her at the end and she walked away in tenth place, just short of the final table, but with a massive cash of $155,000. It was an incredible payday for the then relative unknown who was playing her first 10K major event and the first time a woman had made it to the top ten in the PCA Main Event.
As we look forward to the 2013 event, it seems a good time to revisit Ana's deep run to see how it all happened. In the interview below we tried to wrest a few insider tips from her, and if you read carefully you will pick up a few, as well as some insight into what it feels like to find yourself that deep in a major tournament.
PokerStars Women (PSW): Ana, can you give us a little background leading up to your tenth place finish at the PCA and why you decided to play it?
Ana Marquez (Ana): This was my first 10k and my first main event in general. Before that, I played mostly 1-2 or 2-5 cash games and a few online tournaments, such as the big Sunday tournaments and super Tuesdays. I had also played live tournaments up to $1500. This was my second year going to the PCA but I had only played a couple of side events (the year before).
Right before I played the PCA I was at a very important point in my poker career. I was deciding whether to keep playing or quit. I started playing in 2007, taking it as seriously as I could with my bankroll limits. In 2009 I wrote my thesis and finished college while playing almost full time. However, I still had in mind doing my Master's degree, so I decided to keep playing and prepare myself for the GRE. That is what I did until the Christmas of 2010. I was doing okay in both poker and getting ready for my Master's, but I wasn't excelling in either and this was causing me a great deal of stress.
That Christmas I had a talk with my parents and they made me see that to do really well I had to focus on one. That night I won a small tournament online and I realized that even though I wanted to go to school and continue with my degree, poker was my passion and what made me happy. It was how I challenged myself. That December I was on a mission. No more studying. I bubbled two PCA satellites, but I made approximately $20,000 on small tournaments, so my boyfriend Bryn decided to give me the best Christmas present ever, he put me in the PCA.
PSW: Did the fact that only a few women played the Main Event at that time factor into your preparation for the tournament in any way?
Ana: The fact that I was a woman or how many other women were in the field didn't cross my mind for a second until they said I was the last woman standing. But I still didn't care that much. The reason for this was that even though I was ready to play, this tournament was so big that I was really overwhelmed. The size of the buy-in, the size of the field, the level of the players, the deep structure, everything was big. So I decided to go into a bubble and just play as if I was playing a long [high buy-in] cash game. I didn't want to think about how many players were left or if there were cameras around, or anything. I just wanted to play my A-game.
PSW: Once you got close to the final table, did the magnitude of it hit you? How did it feel to know you were making history?
Ana: It worked out until the last day. That was the first day that I felt the pressure. I went to my table at the beginning of the day being the last woman and the last Spaniard, and the chip leader. It was kind of hard to ignore the pressure at that moment. When I'm playing, I try not to think about what I can accomplish by winning the tournament, I just think about how I can play my best.
PSW: How do you see the future of women in the game?
Ana: I strongly believe that the percentages of women in poker are going to increase a lot in the next couple of years. I think it's very possible that the numbers will even up in the future. The best part about being a professional poker player is that you set your limits, your schedules, and the lifestyle you want to live. So I really don't see what could stop women from becoming professional players.
PSW: What would you say to young girls who see you as a role model and want to take up poker when they get older?
Ana: I would advise them to have passion for the game, because it's a very demanding profession physically and mentally. I think one of the keys for success has to be the personal interest. Therefore, only go for it if they are really in love with the game and dedicated to [putting in] the time and effort to get good at it. It's important that they . . . read books, observe other professionals, and practice at low stakes.
PSW: Advice for women who are just starting out?
Ana: I would also advise women who are starting out to make bankroll management their number one priority. This is a job and being organized and disciplined is the best way to make money and enjoy making it.
PSW: One last question! What did you do to celebrate your great finish and your huge cash for tenth place?
Ana: The first thing I did was to call my entire family. I hadn't told them I was deep in the tournament, so to my surprise, they were already well informed about everything. Afterwards, I went out to a nice dinner with my boyfriend, and we finally had a chance to talk about the tournament. A little relaxation and assimilation of what had happened was just what I needed.
To read more about Ana and other Team PokerStars Pros and all the other information about women in poker in one place, see the dedicated PokerStars Women homepage. And for more details about the upcoming festival check out the PCA homepage.