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A Poker Life -- Lauren Kling

Kling Talks About Her Background in Blackjack and Poker Education

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Lauren KlingIf you are fortunate enough to ever find yourself sitting across the table from Lauren Kling, do yourself a favor and don’t take her lightly. Her good looks and outgoing personality only hide the fact that underneath it all is poker machine set out to separate unsuspecting players from their money. It may just be the most fun you have losing all year.

There aren’t many examples of beauty and brains in the poker world, so perhaps you’d be forgiven for dismissing Kling as just another example of eye candy without the skills to justify the stack sitting in front of her, but you’d be wrong.

A trip into Kling’s background only serves to validate her current position in the poker community as an up-and-coming tournament grinder. In fact, you could even say that a knack for cards runs in her blood. It’s been a break out year for the 24-year-old poker pro, having scored nearly $500,000 in tournament earnings online.

Though her career has just begun, Kling has already spent time as a blackjack card counter and a poker professor. Here’s a look at her story.

Hit Me!

Kling was born on November 30, 1985 in Washington D.C. to her parents Robert and Seena and older sister Lindsey. She lived there for seven years before the family packed up and moved to Windermere, Florida. Early on in life, Kling was introduced to the Las Vegas lifestyle.

“My dad was kind of a high roller when I was younger,” said Kling. “I remember plenty of trips to Las Vegas as a little girl and my dad was constantly being comped free rooms and meals because of how much blackjack he was playing.”

Her father was a gambler, but he wasn’t exactly blowing the family funds. Robert Kling is a smart man and was somewhat of a mathematics expert while attending MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology). It was there that math whizzes devised a way to beat the casinos for millions using card counting and team play. These teams were famously chronicled Ben Mezrich’s book Bringing Down the House and more recently in the movie 21 starring Kevin Spacey.

Lauren Kling“My dad had a loose affiliation with the team,” explained Kling. “I’m not sure if he was asked to be a member or if he just had some friends on it, but he clearly knows what he’s doing when he sits down in the pit.”

As Lauren aged, her dad would teach her the tricks of the trade. It wasn’t long before she was counting down six-deck shoes with relative ease. With her parents now divorced, she would take her older sister’s ID and accompany her father on his trips to Las Vegas and even the Bahamas.

“I’ve always been pretty good about keeping the count,” recalled Kling. “Using my sister’s ID, I was able to make a lot of money just playing alongside my dad.”

Card counting isn’t illegal, but when caught, players have been asked to leave the casino and in some cases, have been banned altogether. When asked if she ever caught any heat for counting cards from casino security, Kling explained that she never had to worry.

“Card counters are generally white or Asian middle-aged men,” she said. “I don’t think anybody ever suspects the young blond girl at the table is doing it. The movies really over dramatize it, but the basic premise is accurate. When the count is good, you want to be betting big. When the count is bad, you want to be betting small. It’s a pretty simple concept, but it takes a special kind of person to be able to keep a running count, let alone do it without being obvious.”

A Change of Scenery

Kling’s friends were headed off to various state colleges in Florida, but she opted to instead challenge herself with a move across the country to attend the University of California, Berkeley. Kling quickly realized that she had enrolled into one of the most academically challenging schools in the country.

“I really wanted to get out of Florida,” she explained. “I just needed a change of scenery. Berkley is a pretty tough school. You had to make sure that you not only knew the material, but that you knew it better than everyone else. My professors would grade on a bell curve, so there were times when you’d only miss one question on a test and get a C because the majority of the class had gotten a perfect score. Needless to say, there wasn’t a lot of time for partying.”

Without an outside release from the rigors of her school work, Kling turned to poker. “During my freshman year, I lived in a co-ed dorm,” she recalled. “The guys on my floor would regularly get together to play poker and they thought it would be fun to teach a girl how to play. A couple of the guys knew that I had a background in blackjack, so they bought me into this $20 tournament and gave me a quick rundown of the basics. I didn’t have any idea what I was doing, but I was hooked nonetheless. We played pretty much everyday for that first year, or at least whenever we weren’t studying.”

The Student Becomes the Teacher… Literally

Lauren KlingHer father had taught her the ins and outs of blackjack, but now it was Lauren that had something to show him. After realizing that splitting pocket aces isn’t the best poker strategy, her father began studying the game himself. Before long, trips home to visit the family would result in the two of them heading off to the casino to test their new found knowledge.

“We would make the trips out to the Hard Rock Casinos in Tampa and Hollywood whenever I came home from school. This was before the laws had changed in Florida, so we just played the biggest stakes we could find. They would run these $500 to $1,000 sit-n-go’s and the two of us just cleaned up. The competition was just so bad that it became a regular routine for us. I can only remember one trip where we lost.”

Kling continued this cycle for the next couple years, putting in her time at school and building her bankroll on the side until she was approached with an offer that she couldn’t refuse.

“I had taken a poker and blackjack course during my junior year and it had gone well,” she remembered. “The guys who were teaching it were graduating and needed to hand it over to someone else. They approached me because I had been a pretty active participant in the class and I accepted. I ended up teaching the poker section of the course for a year before graduation. We taught everything from card counting to the history of poker.”

Poker was booming on television with the advent of the World Poker Tour and World Series of Poker episodes, so Kling gave the students what they wanted.

“I tried to teach all forms of poker, but the class made it very clear that they were more interested in no-limit hold’em tournaments. I liked to keep it fun, so I would spend the first 45 minutes of class on the historical side of the game and reserve the last 45 minutes of class for playing and instruction.”

Turning Pro

Kling was a hit in the classroom, but with her collegiate career coming to an end, she was forced to weigh her options. A semester spent abroad in Barcelona, Spain put things into focus.

Lauren Kling“When I was in school, my original plan was to find my way into investment banking. The time I spent overseas changed all of that. I guess you could say that I became a big fan of the jet-setting lifestyle and wanted to find a career that would allow me to travel. After studying entrepreneurship, I realized that I was drawn to the idea of being my own boss and keeping my own hours. There is more to life than sitting behind a desk.”

With her mind set, Kling followed her father to Las Vegas and began her career. Playing online as “SUPERMODL” and “locoenlacabeza,” Kling found some initial success in low buy-in tournaments before a string of live cashes solidified her new found choice of employment.

In August of 2009, she final tabled the Full Tilt Online Poker Series XIII (FTOPS) main event and then followed that up with more final table appearances in both the Sunday Mulligan and $1K Monday. With her confidence riding high, Kling scored the biggest payday of her career, by finishing runner-up in the UB Online Championship 4 (UBOC) main event for $163,244.

“I had gotten really serious online and had a few decent results. I was grinding six, sometimes seven days a week and I just knew something big was on the horizon. Everything just finally came together and I was able to pocket that big score.”

Success Leads to Respect

The money provided a nice cushion for her bankroll, but it also legitimized her abilities to her peers, who seemed to have trouble accepting that an attractive, young female could break into their boys club.

“I used to get a lot of negative comments when I first started playing, but thankfully that has died down a bit since the results have started piling up. The biggest thing that bothered me was that there were people out there who insisted that it wasn’t actually me playing. That it was another player using my account. Eventually, I learned to use that scrutiny as a motivational tool. I don’t let that stuff bother me anymore.”

Lauren KlingKling has always been a sponge for soaking up new information and that skill set has proved to be a valuable asset in her poker career. She credits her ability to work with new ideas and techniques as the reason she’s experienced such rapid success.

“I’ve always been pretty open minded with my game. There are a lot of creative ways to play this game and I’m open to all of it. There’s not a single facet of my game that is set in stone. It’s important to realize that nothing in poker is standard and the game is constantly changing. I’m always trying to stay a few steps ahead of certain trends and adapt accordingly.”

With an attitude like that, it’s not a stretch to say that Kling has found a nice place for herself in the tumultuous, ever-evolving world of tournament poker.