Player profile: Florida’s Tonia Williams

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By Lauren Failla

Tonia Williams hasn’t been playing poker for most of her life, but she definitely has made her mark over the past three years with cashes totaling more than $50K. Lauren Failla recently caught up with the Tampa-area player to see what makes her tick.

How long have you been playing poker? I started playing in 2004.

What attracted you to the game? I started watching poker on TV and it looked pretty exciting. I liked watching all of the different strategies people used in the game. It looked challenging. I had always liked to play many of the table games in Vegas but this seemed different. I wasn’t doing too well at blackjack one day and ventured into a poker room to a table where several older men were playing. They made me feel very welcome and I loved it. I actually sat at the table for 12 hours playing $3-$6 limit had a blast.

Which game is your preference? I only play no-limit hold’em. I prefer tournaments over cash. I never played much cash in Florida until recently when the limits changed.

Over the last year you have had some significant cashes. What do you think this is attributed to? I have been studying the game for a few years, reading, working with a coach and asking some other great players a lot of questions. I must have been asking better questions lately. The information is out there, but it’s hard to actually stop and think and do what is suggested. I guess that is the discipline. I think I have been slowing down, paying more attention to what is going on and thinking through situations better lately. I’ve also been going for the win instead of just making the money.

Does your geographical location (Florida) play a role in your poker? I used to travel to Vegas more, but since the limits have gone up in Florida I really don’t need to travel to play anymore. We have some very nice rooms here in Tampa and St. Petersburg. I do like to travel, though, to meet my friends at different tournaments around the country. Maybe they’ll start coming here to play in the future.

Would you like to keep poker recreational or have it play a more significant role in your life? Well, since I never do anything halfway, I will probably always be striving to do better so who knows? I used to think I wanted to play poker for a living, then I’d go on vacation for a week or so, play every day and think, “What was I thinking?” I would like to do more, though it doesn’t have to be just playing. I have met some great friends from all over the country the past few years.

How do you feel about the female players who are up-and-coming? It’s great that there are more female players with different styles playing. I think that everyone should play however they would like to play. Some people think all women play the same way and that actually gives us an advantage if we don’t always do that.

Do you have any thoughts on where poker for women is headed? And do you think it’s important to have women-only events? I think more and more women are starting to play. I believe it will take some time for us to become more of a presence in the poker world just as it has in other industries. Yes, I think it’s important to have women-only events because it’s an opportunity for those who don’t quite feel comfortable playing in an open event get a start. I started playing a monthly ladies event here in Florida and the first big tournament I played in was the ladies event at the World Series and it was a great experience. Those that don’t want to play in them don’t have to. I try to always support the ladies events around the country.

If you had some advice to the female players considering poker as a career what would that advice be? Well, when I told my coach I wanted to move to Vegas and play poker for a living she told me I shouldn’t only rely on poker. So, I would say the same: Take it slow, find a good coach, listen to what the coach says and have fun.

Any closing thoughts on poker and what, specifically women, can expect at the tables? They can expect to have a great time. Go for it and don’t be intimidated. It was hard for me to walk in the first poker room, but it wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be.