Women in poker: An interview with Beth Gains

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Beth Gains is a wife, mother, entrepreneur, blogger, and she’s on a quest to become a Supernova, an elite group on PokerStars. This feisty woman quickly is becoming a name recognized in the poker community. Her charismatic personality and her zest for life is a refreshing trend for women in poker. As a Californian, she frequents the most famous for poker hotspots such as the Commerce Casino and Hollywood Park. But she also lives and plays in New Orleans. Don’t be surprised if you see her carpooling, going to baseball practice, putting a brisket in the oven and playing in a cash game. I had a chance to chat with her recently, and Gains gave me a little insight into her world.

How long have you been playing poker?

I started playing poker when I was 18 years old; I was in college in Manhattan. We would stay up late after clubbing and we’d play draw, stud, lowball and wild cards. Sometimes we’d go to the underground poker clubs like the Madison or the Philly. It was all different then, not like today where poker is a part of our culture. Back then it wasn’t that popular.
What is your earliest memory of playing poker? My earliest memory was as a kid with my family. We’d play draw and stud with wild cards for pennies. And we were all very competitive.

What is your favorite game?

I’m right now learning the mixed games. There’s a great game in Hollywood Park, but no-limit is the game of my choice. I love the nuances of the game and because I’m hyper-aggressive it suits my style.

What is your favorite hand?

I guess 7-8 suited or 9-10 suited are my favorite hands. I seem to put a lot of people on tilt when I crack their aces or kings. I like that! 

What’s your name online?

I play at PokerStars and my screen name is Betyamama. I was fortunate enough to win a seat online to the women’s PCA tournament. When I was down in the Caribbean I met Sara Waller. She’s head of women’s marketing for PokerStars. She told me I should start blogging about my quest to become a Supernova. A Supernova is a VIP category that is very hard to achieve. I thought my story would be inspirational to others. If you’d like to follow me go to my.pokernews.com/betyourmama/b log. I’m no where near achieving that status yet, but I’m on my way.

Tell me a little about your personal life and how it interacts with poker.

My life is very hectic. My husband is a movie producer, so he works long hours and is often away from home for months. I have two teenage boys (13 and 15); need I say more? On my off time I spend it by taking my kids to school, sporting events and parties. I try my best to keep things balanced. I take yoga and meditate. With the ups and downs of being a professional poker player the most important thing is to be well-balanced. Nothing good can come of it if you stay on tilt.

How do you feel about today’s up-and-coming female players?

I love the new female poker players. I’m super-aggressive myself, so I enjoy the competition. For so long women would play hands too passively. Annette Obrestad is my favorite poker player. About two years ago a pretty famous female poker writer gave a seminar before the WSOP ladies event. She used my hyper-aggressive style as an example. People thought I would be offended, but on the contrary, I loved it. I don’t think being aggressive is a bad thing; it’s gotten me to where I’m at now.

If you had some advice for female players considering poker as a career, what would it be?

If you’re really serious you need to know this is a very, very hard life. The ups and downs aren’t for everyone. Like I said the most important quality to be successful is balance and learning to make relaxed decisions. I like to relate the theory of poker to all aspects of my life. It’s weird but poker is about not making mistakes, and well, isn’t that what life is all about?

Has there ever been a time that you have had a poker mentor?

Yeah I hired this guy Tom Gallagher. He worked with Johnny Chan. He taught me the math and I basically memorized it. But there’s this friend of mine named Scottie who took me in and introduced me to all the floormen at the L.A. poker rooms. He and I would sit in my kitchen and play imaginary poker. We would deal the cards to seven imaginary players, I would walk around and play each hand and then he would critique my bets or folds. Very helpful! Otherwise, I’ve been fortunate to meet a lot of other pros who have given me great advice. Overall my philosophy is to put myself out there.

Do you still feel you’re learning all the time or do you feel you have mastered the game?

Anyone who tells you they have nothing else to learn has nothing else to learn. Poker is instinctual and mathematical. On the math side you either know it or don’t. I like to think there’s more luck involved but that’s not the case. I’m constantly learning. I read, I watch and I play. I ask questions and I review my sessions. But the real answer to this question is I’m always learning.

What can we expect from you in the near future?

Over the next few months before the WSOP, I’ll be playing a lot of tourneys. But mostly I’m trying to become a Supernova so maybe one day PokerStars can sponsor me and I can become a Team Pro Member.

— Lauren Failla writes a monthly column for Ante Up, tracking the progress of women in poker. Email her at lauren@highheelspokertour.com.