Gagne appreciates her success on the felt

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Gigi Gagne of Clearwater, Fla., has had quite an exciting run recently, getting married and nearly becoming the first female World Poker Tour open-event winner, placing second in the Lucky Hearts Open at the Hard Rock in Hollywood, Fla. Gagne entered the final table with the chip lead, but lost to Matt Juttelstad heads-up, taking home $158K.

Gagne was kind enough to share some of her background and highlights of her poker career.

How long have you been playing and what influences have you had to help you succeed? Four years ago, I was at Tampa Bay Downs with a friend when I noticed the cardroom behind the stands. Card games had been my favorite past time as a kid. I love to win.

I decided to invest time and money in the real world of Texas Hold’em and learn by playing, not reading. My education was hard, fast and expensive. In time, I developed from being a donkey to a winner. All I needed to do was wait.

Tournaments or cash games? I enjoy tournament play over cash games. Tournament play involves competition among a number of players. I like knocking out players and getting deep into the tournament. It reminds me of how good I can be or how bad I can be.

Greatest moment? The most exciting moment in my poker career was at the WPT Lucky Hearts when I reached 2.8 million chips going into the final table. A lucky lady came on the river to knock out one player and take a million chips from the chipleader. I was so happy.

Goals? My future poker goals are to continue to play in the WPT events and strive to go deep in every tournament I enter. Need to be in it to win it. I especially like the televised WPT events. My life goals are to continue to be positive, happy and live each day as if it were my last.

TAMPA DEALER SCHOOL OPENS: Elite Casino Dealer Academy has opened in Tampa, featuring former World Series of Poker dealers as instructors. Day and night classes are offered, as well as blackjack dealing classes. The school also assists graduates with job placement. For more information, visit elitecda.com. Mention Ante Up when calling to save $200.

BASEBALL CHARITY: The Silks Poker Room at Tampa Bay Downs will host a tournament April 7 at 4 p.m. to benefit West Coast Diablos 9-under baseball team. The buy-in is $60 for 4K units with unlimited $20 rebuys (another 4K chips) for the first two hours.

SAD NEWS: Ante Up online columnist and friend John Lanier died recently of prostate cancer at the age of 49. Lucky’s Poker Room at Tampa Greyhound Track will host a memorial charity tournament in his honor on April 20 at 2 p.m. Proceeds will benefit the Prostate Cancer Foundation. Buy-in is $80 for 10K chips, 20-minute blinds and a $5 add-on gets you 1K more chips.

— Garrett Roth is the Ante Up Ambassador for Central Florida and the Where to Play editor. Email him at roth@anteupmagazine.com and follow him on Twitter @GarrettRoth.