How does a 21 year-old college student go from playing $5 Sit-N-Gos to making a living playing $100/$200 limit poker and appearing on nationally televised poker events in less than one-year? PokerLizard sat down with Jennifer “Jennicide” Leigh, one of the most well known names in online poker to find out the answer.
PokerLizard: Ok, so how did you first get interested in poker?
Jennifer: Actually, when I was a little girl, I got into video games and lived my life on the computer. I played mostly RPG’s (role-playing games), which has a big community, and so began talking to other players. One of them was Robert Boyd, who is Dutch Boyd’s brother. He introduced me to poker and I started with $5 Sit ‘N Go’s, and I actually won my first one. And that’s what kind of thrilled me into finding out more.
So I went out the next week and purchased like 20 poker books to start learning.
PokerLizard: Which ones would you say helped you the most?
Jennifer: “Theory of Poker” by Sklansky, and also his Tournament Poker for Advanced Players were definitely very beneficial to my learning.
PokerLizard: Those two sure are a grind to get through…
Jennifer: They are, they are, but I was a pre-law major in college, so learning and reading have always gone hand in hand for me. I was very studious in school.
PokerLizard: So how long would you say you’ve been playing ‘serious’ poker?
Jennifer: I’d say about 6-7 months now, meaning that’s my main source of income.
Up until then, it was just a learning process and more or less just trying to improve my game – playing small tournaments online. Then I realized it was time to leave school because my grades were just slumping. So since I was able to pay my bills with poker, I decided to give it a go. It wasn’t something I sat down and figured out, “well, this is what I’m going to do.” It just fell into place. And it’s definitely not the glamorous lifestyle a lot of people think it is, but I’m giving it a shot.
PokerLizard: So you just turned 22…
Jennifer: Yes, just last month. So I’m taking a little break from school and giving poker a try just to see where it leads.
PokerLizard: So tell us how you go from $5 SNG’s to playing $100/200 on PokerStars?
Jennifer: [laughs] Well, it’s actually funny. You never really think those little SNG’s will lead up to this level, but it’s really all about the competition for me, not the monetary effects. So it’s a grind, just building up, learning daily, and always trying to improve your game. I think that putting in all those long sessions like I used to do and studying hand histories really helped me get to this level. And some of those sessions were 48 hours.
I used to be an EverQuest junkie, and I’d pull 48 hour sessions playing that, so long endurance games are nothing new to me.
PokerLizard: Did you ever have a mentor while you were learning the game?
Jennifer: I’ve never really had one mentor, per se, but have just spent a lot of time talking to other players about my game. With NL tournaments, I do have someone who’s helped me the most – Jason Brown.
PokerLizard: So what are you favorite games – NL tournaments, cash games, etc?
Jennifer: Well, I really enjoy them all now that I’ve gotten more into the limit games.
And there is so much variance in tournament poker that it can be pretty rough! The swings are just incredible. It’s very hard to make an honest living as a straight tournament player only.
PokerLizard: So are you planning on using poker as a springboard to something else down the road?
Jennifer: I’m really just seeing where it takes me. Some people really plan 4-5 years in the future, but I don’t have much of a gameplan right now. I just want to see where it all goes.
Something I think a lot of poker players have in common is that they’re major procrastinators. Up until 3 days before this recent tournament [the Legends WPT], I didn’t even have a flight booked! I wish I could sit down and plan out a real nice agenda, but things just don’t work like that in my mind – I’m very spontaneous.
PokerLizard: How about the Legends tournament – what are your impressions of that tournament?
Jennifer: Oh, well I went into Day 2 kinda bummed with only about $6400 in chips, and then I went out with queens about 30 minutes into Day 2. But that’s tournament poker for you.
At least with a cash game, when you lose a hand, it doesn’t kill the day for you. But coming out here and playing in a long tournament, that’s all you have, so once you’re out, you’re out. I really wanted to rebuy…[laughs].
PokerLizard: For 2004 you ended up number 47 on the PokerStars tournament board…
Jennifer: Yeah, and I think I was the highest ranked female, which was a huge accomplishment because it was my first year playing poker.
PokerLizard: So what is your biggest online tournament win so far?
Jennifer: It was a $100 rebuy tournament on PokerStars with a $16K prize pool. Of course I was in the tournament for $2200 worth of rebuys…
[PokerLizard Note: Since our interview Jennifer finished the $1,000 Limit Hold-em event in the World Championship of Online Poker (WCOOP) in 9th place, earning approximately $11,000 – the PokerLizard.com mojo strikes again]
PokerLizard: So you definitely subscribe to the Daniel Negreanu theory of rebuys.
Jennifer: Yes, and it’s true. If you’re a pretty solid tournament player, what you do is make sure that you spot out the weakest players at your table, then you move in on them. They’re going to call, which builds up the chips at your table. Then later in the tournament, you’ll be able to make moves on those chips and build your stack back up.
PokerLizard: So basically you’re trying to win your and their rebuys back.
Jennifer: Yes, exactly. You have to look at the payout odds. For instance, rebuying four times for $400 to win $15K is a pretty decent ratio, I’d say.
PokerLizard: How often would you say you play online these days?
Jennifer: Not as often when I’m traveling, like recently. It’s really more something I do when I’m home and not doing much. And when I do play, it’s usually $30/60, or $100/200 ring games.
PokerLizard: I noticed you’ve taken some razzing on the internet from some you call “railtards.” What has that been all about?
Jennifer: Yes, that all stemmed from me letting too many people know about my personal life. At that time I was young and dating, which everyone does, but my ignorance led to too many people knowing all about it. So of course they would come to my tables and continuously ask me questions about my personal life – who am I dating, etc. That’s when I decided to play under a different name until things quiet down.
I mean, pick up a tabloid magazine. The Brad and Jen break-up, that’s huge. Not this! [laughs]
PokerLizard: They really have nothing better going on in their own lives, so they spend their time knocking other people down…
Jennifer: Right, and what they don’t realize is that I’m just another poker degenerate like them. It’s funny, because I love this life of poker. I love to go on the forums and discuss poker but now I have to spend my time defending myself and dealing with everything BUT poker. But I grew up online too and am just another nerd. [laughs]
PokerLizard: You definitely hear about a lot of poker players who used to play Magic the Gathering, Chess, and Backgammon. But you don’t hear a lot who are touted as “ex-videogame players.”
Jennifer: Well the two really do go hand-in-hand. When you start a videogame, like an adventure one, and your character is at Level 1, you can equate that to the starting level of a poker tournament. Everybody starts the same way. Then you accumulate information as the tournament progresses, just like in RPG’s (Role Playing Games). And in both types of games, you’re there for one reason – to make it to the “final battle” or final table.
So that’s the mindset I use in tournaments and I think it helps me. It’s the same with the Chess players and Magic the Gathering players – the competitive nature in all of them really helps them in poker. All of these different forms of strategy games are great learning tools for succeeding in poker.
PokerLizard: So tell us about your nickname, “Jennicide”.
Jennifer: I used to belong to a few hacking groups – not the malicious ones – and I decided this would be my name for all the online discussions groups. I was definitely a nerd when growing up. I was a Linux user with about 6 machines on my desk. That was my life!
I’m actually very girlie – just to look at me, you’d never guess that I was totally into Linux and coding in C. Nobody knew! On the inside, I’m this complete nerd.
PokerLizard: I think it’s safe to say that without you admitting it here, no one would ever have known…
Jennifer: Exactly! You know I’m always wearing pink and girly-girl sparkly things, but when you actually talk to me about my interests, the truth comes out.
PokerLizard: So a lot of these other players, like Scott Fischman, David Williams – they mention that being a young pro is really tough on relationships. What’s your take on that?
Jennifer: It’s almost impossible to have a relationship. I thought maybe it would be easier for me to date other players, but when both of you are running bad, it’s impossible to even have a conversation. It’s also really difficult to have friends outside of poker. They’re always calling up to do stuff and you have a totally bizarre schedule, so it doesn’t work out.
That’s why I’ve tried lately to cut down on playing online tournaments and just stick to the $100/200 ring games, because I can actually quit and go have a life outside of poker. I used to just spend a whole day playing 7 or 8 different tournaments. Which I don’t regret at all – the number of hands I saw and all that I learned was well worth it. And I think that’s how these young players are making such a strong push into the game, because online they can see so many more hands than playing live.
PokerLizard: What was it like playing on Poker Royale’s “ Battle of the Ages”?
Jennifer: It was actually an honor. Dan Harrington’s book is definitely one of the best out there, and I got to play with him. Also Miami John, Barbara Enright, just the kinds of great players you don’t expect to get to sit down with at a short-handed table.
There were a couple of hands that I questioned, but I’m learning too, so as soon as it comes out on TV, I’m sure I’ll write an article on my play. The experience was just great – being able to talk to them about poker and some different hands.
PokerLizard: So when will it air on TV?
Jennifer: I think sometime around Nov. 11, 2005 but I’m not quite sure on that…
PokerLizard: I notice a lot of young players have backers when they’re starting out. How about you?
Jennifer: Actually, my winnings from the $100/200 games pay my way into the tournaments.
PokerLizard: Do you mostly try to satellite into the big tournaments?
Jennifer: I do sometimes go that route. I just wish every satellite was a double-shootout. I used to be a big Sit ‘N Go player – nine-handed tables, where the winner took all. So a double-shootout would just be like winning two of those SNG’s.
But for most of the bigger tournaments I usually just decide to buy-in because it seems like you can spend more money on the satellites than the entry fee…[laughs].
PokerLizard: What do you like most about the poker lifestyle, and what do you like least?
Jennifer: I know that the sacrifices are what I like least. As in losing friends, missing so much during the day. Sometimes I wake up at midnight and wonder where the day went. So losing that connection with your friends and the real world – that’s what I like the least.
But then my favorite thing about the poker lifestyle is the fact that it’s opened up so much for me. I’m just a girl from Delaware , and I’ve gotten to travel to the Bahamas , Vegas, LA, and other girls my age wouldn’t dream of being able to do all of that.
PokerLizard: Sounds like you’re pretty grounded about the whole poker thing.
Jennifer: I still live with my parents and they really help me stay level-headed. They’re very supportive and always there for me no matter what.
PokerLizard: OK, we’re going to ask you the obligatory PokerLizard question…
Jennifer: OK…[laughs]…is it the Rounders question??
Jennifer: Cool – I already know the answer to this! You don’t even have to ask me, but if I were Matt Damon, what was he thinking?? They need a sequel just to explain the relationship between him and his girlfriend. I mean Famke is great, gorgeous, a knockout – go for her! I think they should have shown the episode of him going to the World Series with her…that would be cool.
PokerLizard: Yep – it will always be mind-boggling…Well thank you very much for taking the time to talk to us today, and best of luck with your upcoming tournaments!
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