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Riding A Heater

by Gavin Griffin |  Published: Jul 28, 2021


Sometimes it feels like the poker gods can be out to get you. You can feel that, no matter what you do, no matter how big of a favorite you are, that a bad card is waiting for you on the river.

And then there are times where it feels like nothing can go wrong, you are always making the right decision, and you are always up against exactly the right hand.

I had a nearly year-long stretch where I won or final-tabled some huge percentage of the tournaments I played from 2007 to 2008. I didn’t enter that many events, but I managed to cash for around $4 million. The vast majority of that was profit as there weren’t $100,000 buy-in high roller events at the time and if there were, I certainly wouldn’t have been playing in them.

One player who currently finds themselves on a heater is Vanessa Kade, and it feels like a karmic justice.

First, the disclaimer. Saying someone is having a good run of results doesn’t mean that you think they’re only having success because of good luck. Every person who plays poker experiences runs of good and bad luck at different points in their career. A run of good luck makes bad players look good, good players look great, and great players look like the best that have ever lived.

If you’re out of the loop on why this feels like karmic justice, allow me to catch you up. Earlier this year, Vanessa chose to speak up about GGPoker’s signing of Dan Bilzerian as a brand ambassador. She took issue with his behavior toward women, and as if to really drive home her point, he responded by calling her a derogatory name.

The fallout was that she was then swept up in a whirlwind of poker media takes about the subject and, subsequently released from her affiliate deal with GGPoker as a result.

Americas Cardroom jumped on the opportunity to add her to their own team, and the move paid off big almost immediately after. Just a few days after announcing that she would be an ambassador for ACR, Vanessa won the 15th Anniversary Sunday Million tournament for around $1.5 million. The tournament had just under 70,000 entrants and she won it outright, with no deal, a feat that is even more rare.

After racking up some more online results, she’s now heading to the live arena to take on a different game. Doing well in Sunday tournaments online is an incredible feat and takes great skill (as well as luck.) Playing well and winning a bunch in $10,000 to $25,000 buy-in, small-field live tournaments, however, is a different beast altogether.

Kade ventured to Las Vegas for the recent US Poker Open, and it was there that she proved herself among the game’s best with two final tables, and nearly a quarter of a million dollars in earnings.

The feeling of doing well in a live tournament is almost irreplaceable. When playing online, you’re often playing multiple tournaments at once, perhaps watching a TV show, cramming food in your face so you can keep your energy up. When you’re going deep in a live tournament, the focus is different. You’re engaged in every hand that’s going on at the table. You’re paying attention to the little things that make up a live poker game that you don’t get in an online tournament, like who’s feeling tilted, who is feeling full of themselves, what banter is going on, who is drunk or nearly there. All of these things make you feel more in tune with the game around you and, in my opinion, offers a more holistic feeling of pride and excitement than you get from doing well in online tournaments.

I’ve watched players I don’t know go on a run and even gotten tired of seeing their name everywhere (I’m looking at you Fedor Holz). I’ve witnessed people I don’t think are very good win a bunch as well (I’m not naming any). And I’ve seen people that I consider friends have incredible stretches (Justin Bonomo) and been rooting for more for them. Hopefully Vanessa’s heater is just getting started. ♠

Gavin GriffinGavin Griffin was the first poker player to capture a World Series of Poker, European Poker Tour and World Poker Tour title and has amassed nearly $5 million in lifetime tournament winnings. You can follow him on Twitter @NHGG