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WSOP Ladies Event Champion Lara Eisenberg Talks Women’s Tournament Strategy

by Bernard Lee |  Published: Mar 09, 2022

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During this series of strategy columns, I will be interviewing 2021 World Series of Poker bracelet winners. These champions will provide observations, tips, and strategies for you, the readers of Card Player, about the specific poker game in which they captured their bracelet.

The Event: $1,000 Ladies No-Limit Hold’em Championship

The Winner: Lara Eisenberg

Since March is National Women’s History Month, I thought it would be fitting to interview the WSOP Ladies Championship winner, Lara Eisenberg.

The reigning WSOP Ladies Championship winner is a unique individual who doesn’t just play poker, but also has an eclectic array of interests and talents. Since 1999, the Maryland native’s day job is as a radiologist. Additionally, she was an active PC gamer and is also a world record holder in skydiving.

“During my medical residency, I actually went skydiving on a blind date and just loved it. Since then, I have made 4,500 jumps. I competed in four- or eight-person group formation events. Also, I am part of a 400-person world record jump held in Thailand in 2006.”

As for poker, she was not a rookie entering the 2021 event. Lara had over $200,000 in career earnings, including her first piece of poker jewelry – a WSOP Circuit ring. In 2019, she captured the $1,125 no-limit event at Horseshoe Council Bluffs Iowa.

“Council Bluffs will always have a special place in my heart. Up until that point, I had always wanted to win a WSOP Circuit ring and I’m proud to have done it in an event with a tough field.”

Over the past several years, Lara has dedicated much of her free time learning poker via online training sites. She credits poker champions Jonathan Little and Jon Van Fleet for helping improve her game, which resulted in her capturing her first WSOP bracelet.

I recently spoke with Lara for my radio show (You can watch my interview on my YouTube channel BernardLeePoker or listen on iTunes) and some thoughts about playing in ladies tournaments.

Bernard: Congratulations on your first WSOP bracelet!

Lara: Thank you, I appreciate it. Bernard, you and I had previously met in Council Bluffs, Iowa during a WSOP Circuit Series.

Bernard: Yes, I remember. And that was the series in which you won you first ring!
Lara: That’s right.

Bernard: Well, what an exciting 2021 WSOP you had as you captured your first bracelet in the ladies event. Had you played in many ladies events prior to this?

Lara: Actually, I had only played in one ladies event before the WSOP. I played in one at the WSOP Circuit stop in Baltimore. Obviously, I’m glad I played in this most recent one.

Bernard: Do you think that a ladies tournament is a good starting place for any woman who might be a little uncomfortable playing poker?

Lara: Absolutely. It’s a fantastic tournament to play. It was so much more fun than I expected. Everyone wanted to play well, but they also wanted to have fun and enjoy themselves. It wasn’t an atmosphere where players want to stare you down and intimidate you. Everyone was very respectful and very collegial, even at the final table.

I would definitely recommend giving the ladies event a shot. It really is a great place for someone to have a first event. If you feel nervous, the overall atmosphere makes you feel more comfortable to play.

Bernard: I think one of the biggest growth potentials for poker is women. Currently, women make up a very small percentage of poker players. What advice or insight would you give women who are hesitant to give poker, especially live poker, a try?

Lara: I think some women think that it will be an intimidating experience. Don’t be intimidated by your opponents. Come into the event knowing that there are going to be players who are super nice and others who might be super jerks. But that is true whether you are a man or a woman. And remember not only men can act this way, but women can be mean as well.

To get more experience, I would recommend watching poker programs on television and on PokerGO. When you are able to see the hole cards, the game is more understandable. You can become more familiar with the action at the table. Then, to take their game to the next level, there are lots of training sites online since there is so much to learn at all levels.

Bernard: As for women who play poker recreationally, do you have any tournament advice for them?

Lara: With recreational poker players, you are going to see less women who are very aggressive, which I think is inherent in our nature. Players are playing too passively when they are not as experienced. They are just waiting for the nuts and that doesn’t happen very often.

Also, people underestimate the physical tell aspect of the game, which is prevalent with inexperienced players. Since the ladies event often has a good number of inexperienced players, you can spot some pretty reliable tells on your opponents. This is why everyone should be paying close attention and be off of their phones while playing.

Now, let’s combine those two thoughts. If you are up against an amateur woman who is aggressively playing a hand and seems like they are not getting out of the hand, be wary. If she seems very excited, she usually will have the goods. So unless you have the nuts, I would just get out of the way. There will always be another hand and better spots.

Bernard: That is a great advice, not just for the ladies, but the men as well. Anything else you have seen that women players specifically tend to do?

Lara: I have seen that women tend to be hard on themselves. If they make a mistake, they can beat themselves up about it and this feeling makes them not want to play anymore. They may feel embarrassed or even mad at themselves, taking away the joy of playing poker.

I would tell them to remember there is a lot to learn about poker and poker can be hard. We all make mistakes, even the top pros make mistakes from time to time. Hall of Famer Linda Johnson once told me that she wants three things every time she sits down at the table:

Have a good time
Let your opponents have a good time
Play well

Bernard: I love that quote from Linda. Do you have any final words of advice?

Lara: The one thing that I would say not just to women, but for all players is to try to have little-to-no expectations, especially when entering a final table. If you do, these expectations tend to change how you play. The focus should be on making the best possible decisions so that you can feel good when you walk away from the table.

Coming into the ladies event final table as the short stack, I had very little expectations. To be honest, I was just so happy to achieve my goal of final tabling a major WSOP event. So, winning the bracelet was such a dream come true. ♠

Bernard Lee broke into the poker world after a deep run in the 2005 WSOP main event. He has two WSOP Circuit rings, and is an author, having written for Card Player, the Boston Herald, Metrowest Daily News, and ESPN, where he was a host of the show The Inside Deal. His radio show and podcast, The Bernard Lee Poker Show, recently celebrated its 14th anniversary, and his latest book, Poker Satellite Success: Turn Affordable Buy-Ins Into Shots At Winning Millions, is now available on Amazon as well as D&B Publishing. Follow him on Twitter @BernardLeePoker or visit his website at BernardLeePoker.com or YouTube channel at Youtube.com/BernardLeePoker.