Hemingway’s poker story is worth telling

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Most regular poker players, professional and amateur, know there’s no truly stereotypical player anymore.

Sure, you’ll see some cigar-chomping old-timers, and there are more than a few hotshot young guys who love making huge moves and turning over big bluffs. But the face of poker is much more diverse in 2013.

And in March, at the Heartland Poker Tour’s most popular stop (the Golden Gates in Black Hawk), that face belonged to Teresa Hemingway.

Some players underestimate Hemingway at first; she’s used to it. The Aurora resident is an amateur and, obviously, a woman. And as much as her table opponents should know better, the reality is her gender prompts certain players to think that means they can get the better of her.

And while Hemingway doesn’t lack for confidence, you also might not meet a friendlier or more gracious person in your life.

Hemingway, an account manager for a communications company, topped 670 competitors to become the third female champion in the tour’s history. She cashed more than $226K for the win, having invested just $360 in a qualifier — no re-entries. She came out on fire, building one of biggest stacks throughout the event and reaching the final table as chipleader.

Even after Hemingway had built such a powerful stack early in the tournament, some opponents refused to buy in to her abilities.
“Being a female (player), I could feel them coming for me,” she said. “But I just tried to stay focused and play my game. When you’re a woman and the chipleader through most of the tournament, they don’t always take you seriously. But when you keep turning over the winner, they can underestimate me, or any other woman, all they want.”

Hemingway said her biggest prior win was about $3K at a tournament in Las Vegas. With so much more money on the line at the final table, one might expect an amateur to tighten up, but Hemingway kept playing her aggressive game.

“I really didn’t feel a ton of pressure,” she said. “I felt like I was putting the pressure on the other players at the table. It really was such smooth sailing all the way. I made some pretty good calls, but of course luck is involved. There is skill, don’t get it twisted, but you have to have some luck, and it was on my side for the whole tournament.”

Though Hemingway’s gender is only one facet of the story, she agrees that it’s an important one.

“Being the first woman in Colorado, and third overall, to win (the HPT), what an honor that is. It’s a pretty exclusive club, and I hope to see more women join that club as well. What an opportunity it is to represent women in poker.”

Before the win, Hemingway and her family had planned a trip to Hawaii for her parents’ 50th anniversary, and this will make it a little nicer, she said. “We might enjoy some small splurges, a few home improvements, but that’s all. It was fun, but now it’s really business as usual.”

— Email Rick Gershman at rickgershman@gmail.com.