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Q&A With New Jersey PartyPoker Pro Jamie Kerstetter

Kerstetter Talks About Former Law Career and Burgeoning New Jersey Online Poker Market

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Jamie KerstetterAs a native of Monroe Township, New Jersey, Jamie Kerstetter attended nearby Rutgers University for her undergraduate degree and then got her law degree from the University of Michigan. After all of those years of education, however, Kerstetter finds herself battling it out on the poker felt instead of inside of a court room.

Kerstetter, who turned pro in 2009, has spent the last five years playing in cash games and competing on the tournament circuit. She has over $350,000 in tournament earnings, including a win at the Venetian DeepStack Extravaganza. In 2012, she narrowly missed out on final tabling the WPT Borgata Poker Open.

After spending 18 months in Mexico playing online, Kerstetter was drawn back to New Jersey with an offer to represent PartyPoker and the newly launched online poker market.

Julio Rodriguez: You spent the first couple years of your career as a lawyer? When did poker come into the picture and what did your friends and relatives think of your decision to make the switch?

Jamie Kerstetter: I played a little bit of poker when I was in college at Rutgers. When I got to law school at the University of Michigan, I started playing some more online, playing in some sit-n-gos on PartyPoker while I was studying. After that, I transitioned to live games at the casinos in Detroit. After I graduated, I sort of forgot about poker and concentrated on my law career.

Two years later, the recession hit hard and I, along with everyone else I was hired with, got laid off. It was a tough time and jobs were hard to come by, so I went back to poker. I got really serious about it, read a bunch of poker books like Super System and the Harrington on Hold’em series, and after that, I decided I didn’t want to go back to law. I started making the trip to Atlantic City something like twice a week to play poker at the Tropicana and Taj Mahal, which were two of the better rooms at the time.

At first, my mom understood why I started playing poker, just because there weren’t any jobs available, but after she saw how serious about it I was, she started to panic a little bit. I understood, of course, because most people don’t turn their backs on a career like that, especially after so many years of education. In the last year or so, however, she’s come around to the idea that playing poker can be a legitimate career.

JR: Do you consider yourself to be more of a cash game or tournament player?

JK: I started out just playing cash games, whether it was in the casino or in private home games. But I’ve always been really competitive. I even played soccer and ran track at Rutgers. So I think these days, I’m more suited to tournaments. After spending a year and a half playing mostly MTTs (multi-table tournaments) online, I still have that itch for tournaments. There’s really not a lot of glory in cash games.

JR: With the increase in casino competition from neighboring states, New Jersey is currently in the middle of a seven-year struggle to bring in business for Atlantic City. In your opinion, how has the recession affected poker?

JK: Atlantic City has definitely seen better days and the competition in nearby states and from places like Parx Casino has definitely eaten into the out-of-town market and shut down some of the smaller rooms, but overall, poker is still going pretty strong. The Borgata is one of the best poker rooms in the country with some of the most experienced dealers and staff around. Also, when they run a tournament series, it really does draw players from all over, which is part of the reason why the World Poker Tour Championship was moved from Las Vegas. When you add in online poker to the mix, I think that Atlantic City is still one of the top places to play.

JR: Speaking of online poker, how did you become a PartyPoker Pro in New Jersey?

JK: I got message from someone at PartyPoker gauging my interest in becoming involved with the site. At the time, I was playing online poker in Mexico and although I had plans to come back for some of the bigger tournament series running in Atlantic City, I had no plans to come back for good. After playing on the site and seeing the overall product, I jumped on board. Right now I act as a brand ambassador and interact with the players, helping to get them set up and answer their questions. It’s been really exciting.

JR: PartyPoker is currently leading with about a 40 percent market share of New Jersey’s online gaming revenue since launching in November. Why do you think the site has been so successful? Do you believe it’s because of the product, or are people just that excited to finally be playing on PartyPoker again?

JK: I think it’s a good combination of both. PartyPoker is a trusted company that has always played by the rules. As soon as the UIGEA (Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act) legislation was passed, the site left the U.S. market. Although that wasn’t a lot of fun at the time, people started to see the problems associated with some of the other sites like Full Tilt and Ultimate Bet that weren’t playing by the rules. So I think New Jersey players see an established product that they trust. They know their deposits are safe and they know they are going to get paid quickly. The site has an established relationship with the Borgata, which is the best room in the city. Also, they’ve really committed to putting out great promotions right from the start, even around the launch when the player pool was smaller. They put big guarantees on their tournaments, knowing they were going to have to provide overlays. The players love that stuff and that’s why the site is on top.