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A Personal Thanks to the Poker Industry

by Linda Johnson |  Published: Dec 28, 2011

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Linda JohnsonIt was difficult to hold back happy tears as I sat on the stage of the Penn and Teller Theater listening to Mike Sexton make the introductory speech for my induction into the Poker Hall of Fame on November 8. The time allotted for my speech was limited and I was unable to properly thank all the people who have been there for me throughout my poker career. This column is dedicated to some amazing people and organizations that provided me with opportunities that led to my induction.

My family: My dad introduced me to poker at the age of 21. He told me that if I wanted to gamble, I should learn to play poker. This is the best career advice I have ever been given. My mother supported my decision to leave a secure, high-paying government job to become a professional poker player, although inside I’m sure her heart was breaking and she was worried about my future. My brother and sister always believed in me and supported my industry choice.

My friends: There are too many to list here, but you know who you are. I am truly blessed to have real friends who have helped me succeed and who have rejoiced in my success.

World Series of Poker: I thank the WSOP for providing me the confidence to quit my job and move to Las Vegas to become a professional poker player in 1980 after finishing fifth in the ladies seven-card stud event that year. I am grateful to all past and present WSOP staff members who have helped make this annual event so prestigious.

The Fremont, Mint, and Golden Nugget Poker Rooms: These were the main cardrooms in which I played 60-plus hours a week during the early and mid-80s and honed my poker skills to the point that I could make a good living.

Card Player Magazine: My first leap into the industry side of poker occurred when Denny Axel, Scott Rogers, and a silent partner purchased Card Player in 1993. Imagine being a professional poker player one day and then owning a poker magazine the next day. I owe a big thanks to June and Phil Field and the entire Card Player staff for teaching me how to be a publisher and for giving me a voice in the poker industry.

World Poker Tour: I am fortunate to have been the studio announcer the first six seasons of the WPT. The staff I worked with were like family. I appreciate the opportunities I had to travel and meet many great poker players and watch them play.

Tournament Directors Association: I am grateful to Matt Savage, Dave Lamb, and Jan Fisher, my co-founders of the TDA. I have enjoyed working with them and the TDA members over the past decade to develop standardized rules for poker tournaments.

Poker Groups: I feel blessed to have made friends with some amazing people through membership in poker groups like the Wednesday Poker Discussion Group (we’ve met every Wednesday for the past 11 years to discuss poker and improve our games), MIF (a Canadian group of businessmen who have a passion for poker), and the Oklahoma Hold’em Hotties (a women’s poker group in the Tulsa, Oklahoma area who are way too much fun). My friendships with many members of these groups will last a lifetime.

Mike Sexton: Mike has been a close friend for 25-plus years and is someone I admire for his vision, generosity, and charismatic personality. I’ve had the pleasure of working with Mike on many poker-related projects including the World Poker Players Conferences, Party Poker, World Poker Tour, Poker Gives, and other charity events.

WPT Boot Camp: Teaching poker is one of my favorite activities. I appreciate the WPT Boot Camp staff (Ron Rubens, Rebecca Joy, Rick Fuller, Nick Brancato, and Jules and Crispin Leyser) for providing a venue for me to teach

Card Player Cruises: My favorite poker activity is vacationing with Card Player Cruises. My partners in this business – Mark Tenner and Jan Fisher – have worked hard to create the most successful poker cruise company in the business. Thanks also to our Director of Operations, Rita Axel, our Marketing Director Al Lange, to the entire CPC staff, and to our passengers for sharing so many magical moments at sea.

Ladies Poker Groups: The Ladies International Poker Series (LIPS), the High Heel Poker Tour (HHPT), and the Pink Ladies Poker Tour have been invaluable in helping to grow the number of female poker players. I thank the leaders of these groups for providing events for women to play poker.

Women in Poker Hall of Fame: I am grateful to the voters who chose me to be a charter inductee into the WIPHOF. I appreciate Lupe Soto and the WIPHOF Board of Directors for spotlighting women who have made major contributions to the poker world.

Jan Fisher: I owe a big thank you to my best friend and business partner Jan Fisher. Jan has spent a great deal of time over the past 15 years working with me behind the scenes to ensure success in many poker-related projects.

Poker Players Alliance: I am grateful to the PPA for giving me opportunities to speak with many of our political leaders in an effort to overturn the UIGEA.

Poker Gives: I am appreciative of my co-founders in PokerGives.org: Lisa Tenner, Mike Sexton, and Jan Fisher. PokerGives.org is a vehicle for the poker community to “give back” through charitable donations. Thanks also to our Director of Operations, Michelle “Sassy” Richey, our volunteer webmasters Diane Roznik and Michelle Adams of Roznik Media Enterprises, and to each Poker Gives donor.

Seaside Publishing: Thanks for allowing me to be part of the new book The Winning Women of Poker.

The Poker Hall of Fame: My induction would not have been possible without first being nominated by the public and then being voted in by the poker media and the living members of the Poker Hall of Fame. I am thankful to each of you for bestowing this incredible honor upon me.

In addition to the people I have thanked above, there are thousands of others who have enriched my poker career. I appreciate everyone who works in any aspect of the poker industry, an industry I love and respect. You were in my heart and thoughts as I received poker’s ultimate honor: induction into the Poker Hall of Fame.

Linda Johnson is available to host poker events including tournaments, seminars, and charity events. She can be reached through her website www.cardplayercruises.com.