COVER STORY: Louisiana Poker: Back 2 Back on the Bayou

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By Christopher Cosenza

As a young girl, Trish Marks grew up with nine siblings in her New Orleans home. Is it any wonder she’s so comfortable at a poker table? Only back then, instead of poker chips, she was trying to get more jambalaya from the No. 3 seat at the dinner table.

Today, Marks still lives in Louisiana (she moved to the Northshore in Covington about 25 years ago) and she has no plans to leave.

“I love south Louisiana and the culture,” she said. “I plan on calling it home for a long time.”

That’s good news for Louisiana poker, but bad news for Louisiana poker players. Marks has a remarkable track record in tournament poker. Through five live events she’s notched three final tables and two victories. Those wins came courtesy of the Bayou Poker Challenge at Harrah’s New Orleans, capturing the ladies event in 2008 and again in 2009. With so much success it would seem Marks should be more surprised when she doesn’t win a tournament. 

“I don’t think that I am really surprised,” said Marks, who mixes it up at the $1-$2 no-limit hold’em cash tables occasionally. “I play because I enjoy it. I just continue to play, and winning is just a bonus. It’s great to see some of the same players.”

 Once you learn her schedule, you wonder how she managed to play any tournaments at all.

“I enjoy spending time with my family and friends,” said the single mother of two. “I am one of 10 children so I always have something going on with my family. I love to host parties and help friends with decorating. I play on a mixed league baseball team on the Northshore. I play third base and have no plans of giving it up any time soon.”

And when she’s not knocking down grounders at the hot corner or trouncing her family in Jenga tournaments, she’s busy working as an accomplished seamstress and decorator in the custom drapery department at JCPenney in New Orleans.

This explains why she hadn’t played a hand of poker in three months before entering December’s $340 ladies tournament, which was a High Heels Poker Tour event.

“Being a single mom, and having a full-time job and a large family, keeps me pretty busy,” said Marks, who learned how to play poker nearly 20 years ago with some friends during a snowstorm in Big Sky Montana. “(Capturing the tournament) was really fun, especially to win in my home city and have lots of people I know from the poker room watching me.”
At the final table, with her friends around her, the action reached four-handed, and that’s when the key moment in the tournament arose for Marks.

“I was second in chips by about 50K,” she said, “and the chipleader raised me 40K preflop. I called with {a-Diamonds}{j-Diamonds}.”

The flop was A-4-9.

“She pushes all-in and I call,” Marks said. “She turned over kings in the hole! The turn was a 9 and the river was a jack! At that point I was the overwhelming chipleader by about 800K. I pretty much knew at that point I could take the title. I had three players left all with under 100K.”

It was only a matter of time before she eliminated the other players to collect $4,772 and gold-and-diamond pendant for her first-place prize. Marks, who bested 113 players in 2008 and 40 in 2009, is the first player to win two Bayou Poker Challenge events in its four-year history.

Daphne Taylor from Richmond, Texas, was runner-up. Last year, Taylor was the first woman in the six-year history of the World Series of Poker Circuit at Harrah’s New Orleans to win an open event. 

So why is Marks having so much success with so little tournament experience?

“I pay attention and understand how to play the game,” she said. “I play the cards and try to understand the skill of the other players. I find it hard to play the player when you are in a tournament; you may change tables every hour or so until you make it to the final table.”

Most professionals will tell you hold’em is about playing the people, not the cards. But for Marks, the opposite has worked just fine for her, even when the cards run cold.

“I just keep playing my best. You have to realize that every hand is not going to be the best, but that is where skill comes into play. I never wear glasses or hats or cover my eyes. I look right at the other players with a look that I dare them to call!”