Kellyann Heffernan is a professional poker player who specializes in high stakes no limit heads-up action. Although she defines herself as a citizen of the world, she is UK-based and comes from Glasgow in Scotland. Kellyann’s slogan is: “Poker is not just a man’s game.” I had an opportunity to speak with Kellyann and ask her opinion about the role of women in the game of poker.
1) There are those who consider poker to be a man’s game. How do you respond to that?
There are both men and women who still classify poker as a 'man’s game’. Some people are just set in their ways and can't grasp the fact that poker, like many other things in life, has evolved through time to a place where a woman no longer looks like an alien when entering a poker room. Those that think this way used the exact same arguments about women before World War I when men thought that women couldn’t handle hard, industrial work. Then the time came when the men were sent off to fight for their country and the women stepped up to the plate and took over those jobs, which apparently they couldn’t do. Do you know what? They did them well (some might say even better than the men before them), keeping the home fires burning for over four years. So how do I react? Quite frankly I laugh, as it’s such a ridiculous opinion.
2) The top echelon of professional poker players seems to be dominated entirely by men. Why haven’t many female players been entirely successful?
This, for me, purely comes down to the ratio of male/female players in the game. There are women out there who are absolutely killing it, and there seems to be more and more women getting into poker and choosing it as a career path. A few decades ago, due to the shape of society’s expectations of women this would have been very much frowned upon. Even now I guess in certain cultures/families it is and this is probably because of that contentious word...gambling.
If, like you say, there are those who perceive poker to be a man’s game, then there is certainly a perception that gambling is a vice, based upon historical and religious reasons. Furthermore, it’s fair to say it’s historically been seen as a male vice at that. It’s a prejudice of a sort, I suppose, for those who do not understand that this is a game of skill which lends itself to anyone with the cunning to pull it off. This kind of perception might dissuade women from getting involved and probably has. Like I say though, it’s about the expectations that society has for women and this is probably the primary causal factor.
3) As a platinum blonde, do you think your looks give you an advantage or a disadvantage at the tables?
Neither. I would never try and play the 'bimbo' card either. I talk a lot at the table and people soon realize I’m not how they probably perceived me initially, and this despite how people seem to perceive blonds (which is something else I find quite funny). How can you judge someone's intelligence or mental capacity based on how they look on the outside? You just can't.
I would say that my looks have no bearing on the game whatsoever. I derive no advantage or disadvantage at the table. It’s not like I’m sitting at a bar waiting to be chatted up. The people I’m up against are there to play for keeps; they are as serious as I am. The primary motivation for all of us there is to win.
4) Have your opponents ever displayed a condescending attitude towards you?
Not at the tables no, though behind my back in conversations, of course. So many guys are two-faced and bitchy in poker, and certainly see women as the weaker sex in the game.
But, I don’t care what happens away from the table because that’s life. No matter where you are, what job you do, who you interact with, there will always, always be those out there who disrespect you and badmouth you. I don’t care much about those types of people. I’ve learned though through experience that there aren’t many gentlemen out there.
I actually haven't, no. I bring a certain presence to the table though. People wouldn't dare make these comments at my table, and if they ever did I would make them regret their intransigence.
6) Who do you think are the most talented female poker players in the world?
Vanessa Selbst is absolutely incredible. I love her. She's so successful and down to earth and does so much to help the world. She is one of the greatest players of all time and certainly more talented and humble than most of the top, if not all the male players right now. She is my favourite player in the world just now. There are also a lot of other talented female players, though she is in a different league to anyone and will be historically remembered in the game forever.
7) Have your parents/family always supported you in your desire to pursue a career as a professional poker player?
Yes, my family supports all of my choices. I gave up a very good career to play poker, and have never looked back. I believe you should always follow your heart and do what you love.
8) Tournaments or cash games? Can you share with us some success stories from the tables?
Cash. The most memorable pot I won was when I was playing heads-up cash online. My laptop was down and I switched to my phone. A guy open-shoved all-in for quite a large amount (which was a very weird move). I had 4 6 (offsuit) not that it even matters. My kitten was sitting on my lap, and he put his paw on my phone and called! Hahahaha! The guy had Aces, and I hit a straight on the flop. I did type in the chat box that it was my kitten, doubtful he believed me. So, yes, my cat plays poker as well, apparently.
9) Please tell us a bit more about Kellyann Heffernan.
I live a quiet life away from the tables. My family is everything to me. I have great friends and I believe I have a good soul. I always put other people first and live my life one act of human kindness at a time. The world we live in is full of corruption and heartache, so, to be a good soul wanting to make a difference is all that matters to me. I'm not materialistic at all. They say nothing worth having comes easy. I disagree wholeheartedly.
10) What are your poker goals for the coming year?
If my health continues to improve, I want to play more live events. I have just had to cancel Prague which I'm not happy about, though PCA will be next so I'm still smiling.
Originally posted on Titanbet Poker.