long-time ambassador for the poker world, Kathy
Liebert is a player's player. Feared and respected
at the table, Kathy is dangerous on the tournament
circuit. She is the first woman ever to win an
event with a $1M first place prize - the PartyPoker
Million. A shrewd investor who used to work on
Wallstreet, Kathy knows how to get the most out
of her money. We had the opportunity to talk to
her about the current state of the poker world,
playing online, and of course, TILT.
Check Out All The Lizard Interviews
PL: How long have you been playing serious poker?
Kathy: Over 10 years – I started playing
tournament in 1994. I first started low-limit
games in '91, but got serious in '94.
PL: What has helped your game the most?
Kathy: I'd say reading books, talking to other
players. For tournament strategy, TJ Cloutier's
and Tom McEvoy's books are great.
PL: What about strategy? Do you think that there
is really much of a difference between women and
men in how they should approach a game?
Kathy: It depends. Sometimes, as a woman, you
sit down to a game where a lot of the guys see
you as a weaker player and play you softer –
so you have to adjust your game. Or if they're
bluffing you a lot, raising with a lot of junk
cards, then you have to wait patiently until you
get something and let them have it. Then they
start to respect you a bit, and if you don't think
they have strong hands, you get them out.
PL: Do you believe that advice is a bit of a
lead-in to a “poker for women” book?
Kathy: Yes, I've been considering writing a book,
with both strategy for the beginning player, as
well as tips for the women players.
PL: Do you have any preferences as to who you
play with – women or men?
Kathy: It really depends on the players. If there
is a table of players who don't play as well,
women or man, then I'd rather play there. There
are good women players, and there are beginners
– but you can tell that with some experience
and strategy behind them, they could be good as
PL: Before you played poker, you were with Dunn
and Bradstreet – do you ever miss the “regular”
Kathy: Right. I do miss the corporate environment,
but with poker, it is so much more competitive
and exciting – you make your own hours,
you don't have to be at work everyday. So the
benefits of being a poker player do outweigh the
good points of a daily job.
PL: Has your recent growth in popularity and
the overall boom in poker changed your daily schedule?
Kathy: Sure- there has been a much higher demand
on my time, doing the invitational events, TV
shows, and that type of thing. So it's made it
more interesting as well as more profitable, but
it also takes more effort to stay on top of it
PL: Speaking of televised events, you won the
Battle of the Sexes, and you're involved in the
Poker Superstars event. Do you use those to help
boost your income and hedge your regular play?
Kathy: Well, I suppose so – I do enjoy
both of those shows, and I also happen to make
money at them, which doesn't hurt. There's another
show for GSN coming up called “Pro Vs. Celebrity”,
which is another opportunity to make some extra
PL: Speaking of celebrities, do you still work
a lot as James Woods' tutor?
Kathy: Well, he's always asking questions about
poker. He goes to a lot of people, always trying
to learn and improve, so he doesn't just rely
on my help alone. He takes it real seriously,
is very intelligent, and has learned a lot.
PL: So tell us about your job as PartyPoker spokesperson.
Kathy: I've been doing that for a few months
now and play there a lot – the games there
are great. I recently came back from the PartyPoker
Cruise, which was fun. I enjoy spreading the word
about online poker, and that you can make money
by going online and playing. So it's kind of a
combo of wearing their logos and letting people
know abou the site.
I play several times a week, except when I'm
in a big live tournament. But I'll often play
the low-level tournaments on Sunday, as well as
various games throughout the week.
PL: You're mostly a tournament specialist. Do
you ever get very involved in ring games?
Kathy: I do play the $15/30 games online which
are very loose with a lot of action, and you can
sometimes sit down for an hour and make a lot
PL: What kind of goals have you set for yourself
Kathy: The tournament world is very volatile –
you never know what's going to happen. You're
going to have your final tables and your wins,
you just hope that the wins come in the really
big events. But my major goal is to win as many
major NL tournaments as I can. Winning one of
those a year usually makes for a very lucrative
PL: Does it ever bother you that you had to grind
it out for so many years, and now, first-time
players can win one big tournament and be set
for long time?
Kathy: It's actually a good thing – now,
there are many more opportunities throughout the
year to win $1 Million. In the past, you only
had the WSOP $10K buy-in event. Now, with the
WPT, PartyPoker Millions, and many other events,
there are a lot more chances to really grow your
bankroll. Hopefully it'll be my turn again soon.
It's been a little while since I won a big tournament…although
I've gotten close in a bunch of the $10K ones
PL: It seems that unless you cash farely often,
playing these big tournaments can quickly break
you, with the expenses and all.
Kathy: Yes, it is very expensive to play in that
many events. Used to be, your bankroll was $200K
to play in all of the big tournaments in a year.
Now, you need a lot more, especially with the
$25K buy-ins. And yes, the travel expenses can
really add up too.
But, with the big events all paying a $1M purse,
you win one, and you have a comfortable lifestyle,
as well as all your buy-ins covered for awhile.
PL: How about the new crop of younger players
coming up through the tournament circuit –
Scott Fischman, Thomas Keller, etc. What are your
thoughts on them?
Kathy: It's interesting you mention Scott and
Thomas – they have been invited to play
with me in the Pro vs. Celebrity event. They are
both very good players. Scott mixes it up very
well at the table, and “Thunder” Keller
is a very good, aggressive player, so I've been
very impressed with these guys.
It's amazing how quickly these new players are
honing their skills online.
PL: How great was it to win at the WSOP last
Kathy: Well, that's a milestone. Winning at the
WSOP is such a major accomplishment. Winning a
bracelet is always a great event and very respected.
But now the $10K buy-in events are paying so much
in both the WSOP and WPT, that they are all very
prestigious to win. So this year I'll be focusing
on those major circuits (WSOP and WPT) because
they are the most fun to win with the most recognition
PL: So have you already bought-in for the $10K
Kathy: Well, no, not yet. There are so many satellites,
both online and live, that I might as well give
those a shot first. PartyPoker
alone has said they're sending 1,000 players to
the WSOP. That's the way most people are going
to do it, because it's low-risk.
But if I don't win my way in, I'll definitely
PL: Tell us about the EPT (European Poker Tour).
Do a lot of players go back-and-forth between
that and the WPT?
Kathy: Actually yes. Mel Juda plays on both tours,
and I think you'll see more and more Europeans
coming over here, and vice versa.
PL: Maybe have a US vs Europe tournament, like
the Ryder Cup in golf?
Kathy: Actually, there is already a little bit
of that going on, where some people from the states
have played some of the non US players.
PL: I remember John Juanda wanted to play in
something like that in Monaco and was unable to
get a Visa.
Kathy: I know John has a visa now and most foreign
players can go back and forth relatively easily,
but I guess since he’s foreign born it take
a while longer. I know he went to the one in Aruba
PL: He made the final table.
Kathy: Yeah he did, him and Daniel (Negreanu),
what amazing years for those two…they were
PL: John seems to make just about every final
table and always coming close to big win.
Kathy: Obviously it’s tough to make the
final table and tough to win, with a little luck
I’m sure he’ll have his fair share
of wins, just like the other top players. It’s
becoming more volatile with the large tournaments
and there is always a skill and luck element to
each tournament, so the fact that he makes so
many final tables is proof that he’s playing
extremely well and is due a win.
PL: You mentioned what you like most about the
Poker Pro lifestyle (flexibility etc…) what
do you like least about it?
Kathy: That’s a tough question…It’s
GREAT when you’re winning, it’s a
lot of fun and can be a lot of money, but at the
same time it can be very stressful especially
when you’re on a losing streak. It can be
fun and competitive and I’ve been very fortunate
overall, but there are certainly some players
who have had bad streaks or don’t manage
their money well and you have to be a good business
manager as well as a good poker player to be successful.
PL: So basically, stay away from the Craps table?
Kathy: Yes, stay away from the Craps table. You
also don’t have to enter every single tournament,
sometimes you have to manage yourself a little
bit. Obviously if you are winning tournaments
and are running good you don’t have any
The key since you don’t HAVE to get up
and go to work everyday is to maintain your discipline
and your focus, you have to manage yourself in
such a way that you’re not overdoing it.
PL: Speaking of focus, in the recent past tournaments
used to last a day or two, now they last 4, 5,
they say the WSOP is going to last 9 days this
year, how do you maintain discipline and focus
for that length of time?
Kathy: It’s very hard to remain focused
for those lengths of time, you really have to
be ready to play poker and be at your best, you
have to want it, and one of the keys is getting
enough rest. I think I and some other professionals
tend to over do it because there are so many great
tournaments we want to do it all, but sometimes
you need to relax a little bit, take it easy and
get away from the poker table and get your mindset
back where it needs to be, thinking about your
decisions and making the best decision each and
every time, which is not easy to do and is really
what separates the best players from the rest
in the long-run.
PL: So what do you do away from the tables to
recharge your poker battery?
Kathy: Obviously I travel a lot and I like to
Ski and read books, right now I’m working
on writing a few things and getting some ideas
on paper. Certainly I like to do all the normal
things, go out to dinner with friends or watch
a movie, do some mindless things to get away from
PL: Are most of your friends poker players or
are the “regular” people with regular
Kathy: I tend to be friends with poker players,
simply because we all travel together and that’s
who happens to be there, but I have other friends
outside of poker.
PL: Your Mom’s advice whe you were younger
was, “Do what you love and the money will
follow”, so has this proven to be true and
what did your family support your decision to
be a poker player?
Kathy: Yes they have, my mom has been very supportive
and has always been there for me and is a great
friend as well. She went on the partypoker cruise
with me and we had a great time together. So Yes,
her advice was very sound.
PL: What do you think you would be doing if you
weren’t a professional poker player?
Kathy: My two other interests are Financial Planning,
I love to follow the stock market and do financial
research, and Law, in the past I thought about
going to law school and becoming an attorney which
I think I would have been good at as well.
PL: That seems to be a common thread among poker
players, a lot of attorneys and people who attended
Law School, the old image of the Poker player
as being a risk taking riverboat gambler is being
blown out of the water.
Kathy: Definitely, the old westerns were very
fun to watch but the truth is most players don’t
fit anywhere near that profile. A lot of the players
are well educated, intelligent and enjoy a challenging
game and poker provides that, there are a lot
of different types of people that play poker but
more and more we’re seeing people from other
professions who play and see that if they play
well, they can make money and it’s a little
more fun than working as a doctor or attorney.
portrayal of the poker lifestyle on the show Tilt
was perfect and 100% accurate right?
Kathy: (Laughs) That show was ridiculous, it’s
obviously nothing like that, it’s seems
as though they were trying to portray a Vegas
of the past with scams and cheating, but it’s
nothing like that today. It’s a shame they
went that way, people can see with the advent
of the WPT and the WSOP that it’s nothing
like that show. Unfortunately, they decided to
go back into the dark ages and put a slant on
poker that’s not realistic at all.
PL: We read about the group of professionals
who decided not to play in the Poker Superstars
Invitational or the WPPA events, are these pros
trying to form a Player Union?
Kathy: There has been some talk of Poker players
forming an association, obviously with each tournament
you can decide to play or not play. Some of the
players thought they should be getting paid to
play on TV rather than have to pay the buyin.
The Poker Superstars is a $40k buyin, they did
add some money to the prize pool, but you’re
not being paid like an actor for being on television.
Maybe down the road we will get paid more for
being on TV but right now most of the televised
events are the one’s you have to buyin for,
if you win you make money but if you lose you
don’t get a lot of money just for showing
PL: There has been a lot written about the need
for an association and corporate sponsorships?
Kathy: That would be great if the poker players
could work together and get sponsorships, but
it’s difficult to do in some ways because
poker is such an individual sport and everyone
has their own interests in mind. To really form
an association that can work with the players
and sponsors may come in the future but no one
knows how to put something like that together
and get most of the players involved. Obviously
there are some players working with different
online sites from one another and it’s a
very individualistic thing and coming together
will be difficult.
PL: The best analogy I’ve heard is the
PGA, which self regulates and the golfers pay
to play but the prize pool is much larger than
the cumulative buyins.
Kathy: If the players can work with the casinos
and sponsors to add a lot of money to the tournaments
and have it be self regulating and act as a group
would be ideal, but right now everyone is trying
to get individual sponsorships and are unsure
which direction to take poker and what opportunities
are involved. It will take a few poker individuals
to take the issue on.
PL: Are you surprised by pokers “sudden”
popularity? Do strangers recognize you from TV?
Kathy: It is surprising, a lot of people saw
growth and sponsorships coming but no one predicted
the huge popularity of poker on TV and the increase
in televised events and so many more big tournaments.
In came on so fast, we thought the WPT COULD be
a success but we didn’t know there was going
to be so much interest in doing many many more
PL: What a great “score” for the
Travel Channel to land the WPT,
they probably received a great deal since the
WPT was unknown?
Kathy: I think several other channels turned
down the WPT and now they are all scrambling to
get poker shows on TV.
PL: Thanks for taking the time to talk to us.
Kathy: My pleasure.
If anyone would like to find out which tourneys
Kathy will be playing in or where she's headed
next, check out www.KathyLiebert.net
Check Out All The Lizard Interviews