We recently had the very good fortune of tracking down one of poker’s best ambassadors and highly-talented player. Clonie Gowen, a staple on the World Poker Tour and a member of Team FullTilt, decided at an early age that poker was her calling. So how does this WPT Ladies’ Night champion and mother of 2 manage to stay at the top of her game, teach poker seminars, coach ambitious players, and still find time to relax in Dallas, TX? Read on to find out…
PL: How did you first get involved with poker?
Clonie: I dated a boy in high school whose parents played poker. So we’d go over there on the weekends to play poker. I was 15 and developed a passion for the game at that early age.
PL: So when did you make the decision that it was time to go pro?
Clonie: I went to Vegas for the first time when I was 17 and played poker for the first time. I came back about 3 times a year, then started driving to Shreveport, Louisiana on the weekends and really began to play more seriously.
PL: It seems like you made a really fast ascent in the poker world. If we have our timeline right, you went on vacation in Costa Rica and got 10th in a WPT event…
Clonie: Kinda sorta. The WPT made that a bigger thing than it was. I was on vacation, but was also there to play poker – I just happened to have my family with me. And I also placed 2 nd in another $500 buy-in event, which was a lot back then.
PL: And then from that you were invited to that Ladies’ Event, which you won.
Clonie: Yes, and I also had some other good finishes around then, and 11 th and a 16 th in some other pretty major events that year.
PL: And now Team FullTilt and Poker Royale…have you really had time for all this success to sink in?
Clonie: Well, the funny thing is, I was a cash player long before my tournament success, so they made more of a bigger deal of those. I’ve played poker for many years – I’m now 34 – but most people only know me from my WPT appearances.
I certainly never thought I’d be where I am now.
PL: As far as Team FullTilt goes, how much of your time do you spend with them and what is your involvement?
Clonie: We all worked to develop the software that everyone uses now on FullTilt.com. So now we all play on the site and try to get together once every couple of months.
PL: How does living in Dallas, Texas affect your poker lifestyle?
Clonie: Well, it certainly means I’m traveling all the time. With no legal poker here in Texas , the tournament circuit keeps me on the road a lot. But that’s just the nature of the business. All of the big pros are traveling quite a bit.
PL: So what do you think about these made-for-TV events? Do you enjoy putting your own money on the line in the big WPT tournaments, or is it more relaxing playing in the made-for-TV events?
Clonie: Well actually, even those events require a buy-in…they just usually add money to the pool.
PL: We noticed that some pros, specifically Erik Seidel, are very outspoken on the fact that the WSOP and WPT are raking in the bucks and should add money to the pot since they’re profiting mostly off of the pros?
Clonie: I absolutely agree with the idea that these big corporations should give some back to the players. They are making so much money off of the fact that we’re playing on their shows, and it’s all our own money going into the prize pool. Erik is completely right here.
PL: You’re also on the board of the US Poker Association. What kinds of things are you all working on right now?
Clonie: Well, I wish I could say, “a lot”, but the USPA is kind of at a stand still. There really isn’t anything going on right now. They’re re-organizing and trying to get things off the ground, but they need a lot more members. Maybe they need to start going to tournaments to sign people up.
PL: How about your lecturing and teaching activities?
Clonie: I do teach at the WPT Boot Camp and at Howard Lederer’s events. The Boot Camp is usually made up of players at a standstill in their game, looking to get to the next level.
PL: How about life away from poker? What do you like to do in your spare time?
Clonie: I enjoy spending time with my family at home, and not playing poker.
PL: So are you one to keep your kids from playing until they’re older, and are you teaching them the ropes?
Clonie: If my kids show interest in poker, which my son does, then I want to be the one there that is teaching them. There are lots of good things to learn from poker – math, money management. And I don’t believe kids should just go wild on the internet, that’s just not good parenting.
PL: So having been in the poker lifestyle for over 13 years now, would you rather see your kids get into a more mainstream career?
Clonie: My daughter is 13 and she actually knows how to play poker and she’s really pretty good. But if you ask her if she wants to be a poker player, she’ll say, “No, that’s my mom’s job.” It’s just not her thing. She wants to be a veterinarian, so that’s her world. She does think my job is cool, as do her friends, since I’m on TV sometimes…
PL: In an event as long and grueling as the WSOP, how do you maintain focus?
Clonie: You just have to really love the game. When I’m sitting down at a table, I mostly love it, so I can play forever. But if you’re not in the right mindset to play, then you won’t be able to last as long.
PL: Any major goals for next year?
Clonie: Make it past the dinner break…[laughs].
PL: What, if anything, would you change about how the WSOP was run this year?
Clonie: I’m sure everyone’s said the same thing, but the long bathroom lines were really ridiculous. And the switching up of some events because of TV coverage isn’t good – they raised the limits on some tournaments because of television, which isn’t fair for the players.
PL: How about the WSOP field – do you think they should try to limit the number of players with a larger buy-in?
Clonie: Absoluely not. Sure, there are more people to go through, but the added dead money, and huge payouts now, I’m all for letting it continue to grow. You just play one table at a time and avoid the land mines if you can.
Several times at this year’s WSOP I went out with the best hand – thank goodness there was a tournament the next day!
PL: Do you have any special routines or preparations to get yourself ready for these big events?
Clonie: Yes, I eat a lot of sushie, which makes me feel good and keeps my energy level up.
PL: So what are some of the benefits of the poker lifestyle, and the downsides?
Clonie: The nice parts are getting to travel, which I never thought I’d get to do like this much, and being on TV, which is fun.
The worst part of the poker lifestyle is also all the travel and the time I’m away from home. You’re traveling so much that you’re just worn-out. It’s hard to be well rested for a big event now because you don’t have the downtime like you used to a few years ago.
PL: So on to the WPT. Do you see their latest move to allow players to wear logos as a move in the right direction for poker?
Clonie: I do, but there are still stipulations to that. A player who makes the final table in a WPT event can’t immediately signup sponsors right then. They have to pre-register their sponsors ahead of time and present the logo’d shirt at the start. It’s not super-easy, but it is a good change for the players.
PL: So do you have any plans for a book?
Clonie: Yes, I have a book coming out in the Fall of ’06, so keep your eye out for it!
PL: When researching your background for this interview, we found a lot of “interesting” posts on the internet about you…do you follow any of that, or just ignore it?
Clonie: I have seen some of what’s out there but don’t tend to read any of it regularly. A lot of it is personal stuff from people who know nothing about you, but just like to spread rumors. It can get in your head if you let it, so I don’t pay it any attention.
Most of the stuff I’ve read lately seems like it’s from a lot of kids, and all sexually-oriented. No one has anything of value to say about the female players. It’s just like high school…who’s the hottest, or who is so-and-so dating. I just try to avoid all that because it makes me feel bad.
PL: Well, then you probably haven’t noticed that there are basically two groups of internet geeks…
Clonie: Ones who think I’m hot and ones who don’t?? [laughs]
PL: We were actually thinking about the ones who either think you’re one of the great women players and a nice ambassador, or they feel you haven’t done anything in the poker world and are mostly jealous haters.
Clonie: Ahh yes, that. Well every pro has fans and detractors. I’m doing what I’m doing and they’re posting on the internet. So it really doesn’t bother me – I know who I am and what I do, and I make a very good living…so they can post what they want.
PL: Great Answer, Congratulations on your success.
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