Anybody who still thinks poker is a man’s game hasn’t played against Raena Janes.
Janes, known as “RJ” at the tables, is arguably the best female player in Southern Arizona. A regular fixture in cash games in Tucson and Phoenix, Janes also makes frequent deep runs in major tournaments across the state and Las Vegas.
Two of her most recent cashes were among her most significant, at least in terms of placing. In June, she was 31st in a $1,500 Omaha/8 bracelet event at the World Series of Poker. In mid August, she was the last woman standing as she took 25th in the 10th Arizona State Poker Championship in Scottsdale.
“I get 25th or 31st pretty consistently, can’t just pick off those last few players,” said Janes, a 41-year-old mother of two. “For some reason, I haven’t been able to break through past that.”
It’s been a pretty consistent level of success for Janes since she first played about eight years ago. Persuaded by “a bunch of guys from work” at one of the charter schools in Tucson she founded, Janes headed to Casino del Sol to play what she thought would be a small hold’em tournament.
“It turned out to be Omaha, and I had to have the rules in front of me for every hand,” Janes said. “It turns out you don’t get quads every hand. So, of course I won the tournament. And then, of course, you’re hooked.”
Though she’d never played before, it wasn’t surprising that Janes took to the game so quickly. She grew up in a large family and they were board-game enthusiasts, especially around the holidays. The competitive nature of such activities came out the first time she was dealt a hand.
“I was like, ‘People can actually do this for money?’” she said. After playing a handful of tournaments in Tucson and Phoenix, Janes won a WSOP package in 2007, and though she didn’t cash in that Vegas event, she fell in love even more with poker after visiting what she calls “the Holy Grail.”
Janes’ first WSOP cash came in 2013, when she made the money in a $1,500 no-limit hold’em bracelet event, but she’s had cashes across the country (and the globe) since 2008. Janes has final-tabled tourneys in Los Angeles and Aruba while also cashing in side events in the 2013 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure in the Bahamas and the 2013 EPT stop in Berlin.
Despite her success and skill, Janes said she still gets treated differently by most players because she’s a woman. But rather than let it bother her, she uses it to her advantage.
“Men can be total jerks at the table, but I just turn it around on them,” she said. “I’ll play stupid; I’ll play drunk girl, whatever. It’s hysterical. It’s funny because they never give you credit. I have to have something, I can’t pull off a total bluff.”
VEE QUIVA: Medhana Yohannes, a Valley resident, recently hit the Super 7 Bad Beat when her quads lost, giving her the largest share of the $85K split among the nine players at the table.
— Email Brian at email@example.com.