The Rise Of Two Poker Princesses

Since the inception of BLUFF we have been waiting for the perfect opportunity to have a cover featuring beautiful women wearing lingerie. We’ve thought long and hard about it, attempting to create the perfect scenario where we could go ahead and pull the trigger. Well, we finally have our chance with the lovely Lacey Jones – who was named the Hottest Woman in Poker by Wicked Chops Poker – and the equally hot up-and-comer Christina Lindley. While neither has won a major title yet, it’s clear that poker is in their blood. We were lucky enough to sit down with both of these lovely ladies to chat about their past, present, and future in poker.

BLUFF: What is your first recollection of playing poker?

Lacey: My first ever memory of poker has to be in South Carolina. I played with my family, and I liked all the games where I could collect nickels and pennies so I could buy candy with the money. We played 21 and poker, and I got to keep all the change I would make. It was so fun because everybody would sit around playing games all night long. It was really nice to bond with family and see people I didn’t get to see a lot. I guess poker somewhat reminds me of family, which is nice. I think this was when I was about five or six. I guess I have been around poker for quite a long time. In high school I dated the same guy all throughout and he was a total jock. There would always be a poker game at the parties after the football or baseball games. I would hop into those games and have a blast. That led me right to college where I would play poker with all the frat guys when I would finish bartending. That was a lot fun because everyone was wasted, and I was the only one who was sober.

BLUFF: It seems as if poker has been a part of your life for quite some time then. When did you realize that this was something more than a hobby, something that you could potentially look at as a profession?

Lacey: I used to make a good amount of money in college. I would play stud games or blackjack at an Indian casino called Casino Del Sol near University of Arizona. During the time I was doing the whole escapism thing, as I had lost my older sister and someone else who was very close to me around that time. I would go to the casino, and it was my way of calming down, and clearing my head. I loved doing all the math that poker and blackjack required. It was easy for me to leave everything at the door and just play. (laughs) Now it’s like the reverse.

I guess I started taking it really seriously when I moved to LA and was modeling. It was really great for networking. I would meet with all these producers, directors, and writers who would have these home games. My agent would invite us, and we would all go to socialize and there would always be a game going on. So I would always be able to get into the game and meet with these guys. I was able to get some jobs out of it, because they would see me playing and get a chance to talk with me, versus some girl who was just drinking by the bar. I was approached in a situation like this to play in a tournament for a lot of the ESPN radio guys. My agent knew they needed some models and sent me to the Normandie Casino to play in this charity tournament. I was on the Mike & Mike show, as they were hosting the tournament. Oddly enough I had one of the Mikes at my table. It was a rebuy event, and I didn’t rebuy once and ended up bubbling, finishing 32nd. It was a bit of a wakeup call for me, because I saw for the first time what a male dominated game poker was. All the women in my family were better than the guys, so it was never something I thought that I couldn’t do. When I first was sponsored I was so excited, and I didn’t realize that it was going to be difficult to be respected as a woman in the field. It became a challenge for me and inspired me to really go after it. My goal is to show the world that women can play poker just as well as men.

BLUFF: You mentioned being a sponsored player, you were in a way one of the first women to be sponsored a few years back when you were with Absolute Poker, tell us a bit about that?

Lacey: Yea, it was surreal. It was I guess word of mouth that Absolute Poker heard of me. Somehow word made its way to me through the grapevine, and I was asked to meet Mark Seif in Vegas. I jumped on the opportunity, as I love Vegas and my Dad had been living there for quite some time. I met with Mark a few months before the WSOP and he asked if I would be interested in playing some WSOP events if they gave me some training and coaching. “Hell yeah!” I said. I was thrilled about the opportunity. Everything happened all at once. I was totally thrown into it. It was really interesting for me, because it was a new challenge and I love trying new things. I didn’t realize at the time how few women were sponsored in poker. It was surreal that they would choose me, almost like the right place at the right time.

BLUFF: What was the response of some of your peers at the tables who saw that you were sponsored?

Lacey: It was mixed. I didn’t get any respect first of all. In ‘06 there were a lot of comments that it was clear that someone had been coaching me. Most of the comments, however, were from the women. Some of them were quite rude, telling me I was just a model picked to look pretty at the table, and that I wasn’t there to play seriously. It was in a way good for me, because with so little respect I was able to prove them wrong and do well in a lot of events. I constantly felt that I had to prove myself – which is okay, because nobody should be able to get things just handed to them, working hard at something is very important. You can’t automatically say that you are going to be a professional poker player and make millions; you would have to be like Stu Ungar to do that. You have to put in a lot of time and effort and experience to learn the game. I feel right now that my game has gotten – and is getting – so much better.

BLUFF: Has that been something that you have been able to help your good friend and fellow cover girl Christina Lindley with – not allowing her to get too ahead of herself, and really work on her game from the ground up?

Lacey: Yeah, we are really similar in that we both have gotten somewhat thrown into poker and have a lot of attention directed towards us without much showing. I think with Christina, that she has the drive and she is ready to take it on. I, along with some of our other friends, have told her to watch out, and that it’s not going to be that easy. I think she gets it but it’s one of those things you need to learn from experience – numerous bad beats and getting so close to the money but not being able to seal the deal. You have to go through that heartache first to realize that poker is something that you love, but that you love to hate at the same time.

BLUFF: At this point, what do you consider the highlight of your poker career, either on or off the felt?

Lacey: Wow! There are so many great things, and it all keeps getting better and better. I would say in ‘06 cashing in the ladies event was great! Also, getting so close in so many other tournaments. It was really sad when the whole online gaming ban happened, because I was supposed to play numerous events in ‘07. I had moved out to Vegas from Manhattan Beach to play, and instead of it being a bad thing it turned into another great opportunity. I was playing at Caesars Palace during one of the circuit events, and I was approached to do some hosting for, as well presenting the WSOP bracelets to the winners. It was crazy at first, because I wasn’t sure if I wanted to spend the whole WSOP working instead of playing, but since I didn’t have a sponsor I went for it. I think one of my favorite poker memories was presenting the winners with their bracelet. I watched every single hand of the final tables and being able to interview the players who busted out was really educational for me. But, to stand next to the player who won the bracelet gave me goose bumps, because you could see the passion and excitement in their eyes, and I was able to be a part of that memory. Sharing in that, and keeping in mind that I want to be on the other side of that someday, really keeps me hungry. Being around all these pros and being involved on the media side has helped my game immensely. I’ve absorbed so much that I think in the upcoming tournaments you will be seeing me do very well. Unfortunately this past WSOP I wasn’t able to prove myself, as I was going through a rough patch in my personal life, but I think there are great things to come.

Of course, there is also my new gig, as the hostess of The Real Deal at the Venetian, which is super exciting for me. I can’t wait for it to start. It’s a new challenge, being in front of a live audience, getting a chance to joke around with Paul Rodriguez and the great pros they have on board. It’s going to be great.

BLUFF: For those of us who are unfamiliar, tell us a bit about The Real Deal. What can we expect?

Lacey: Well, it’s the world’s first fully interactive poker show. If you are in the room, you are in the game. There are two big name pros at each show and they are all champion players that will change each night. Then we pull six members of the audience who get a chance to play with them. The rest of the audience has these cool interactive handheld devices, where you can bet on the flop, bet on who will last longest, and all sorts of good stuff. Then we have a virtual hand of the night, which the audience gets to share, and play along with the table. Its really kind of cool because the point leader from the audience gets to come up when play gets heads-up, and they play three-handed. We give away tons of prizes. It gives audience members a chance to play with some of the legends of poker who they may never get the chance to sit down at a table with. It’s definitely an awesome show that I think a lot of people are going to be talking about.

BLUFF: What would you say your biggest strength at the poker table is?

Lacey: I would have to say right now its reading people and my memory of cards. When I play Seven-card Stud I am great at remembering my live cards and my dead cards, as well as hands I have played in the past with my opponents. I calculate so much information when I play that I’m exhausted by the end of a session.

BLUFF: What’s your biggest weakness?

Lacey: I am working on a lot of things right now, but one of the most important is the ability to lay down big hands. When I know I’m beat, I still make some bad calls. I have this problem, thinking that I am always being bluffed, especially being a female at the table. I am getting a lot better, and working on knowing exactly where I stand in each hand I play.

BLUFF: If there were one person who you could model your game after, who would it be and why?

Lacey: Really good question. Well Stu Ungar but he isn’t alive, so I’ll go with someone else. There are a few people that I would love to learn from. Gavin Smith, I really like his style. I like how people never believe him, yet he still seems to have a monster stack. Erick Lindgren and Daniel Negreanu would be great to learn from as well. I feel like with anybody though, you have to take certain parts of someone’s game or style and see if works for you. Sometimes, a style that works great for one person is horrible for someone else. I can’t play like Mark Seif and raise any two cards. I need to be able to act like Mark one hand and like Daniel another. It’s all about switching gears.

BLUFF: Because there are so few women who play poker, you’ve become a role model to so many. What tips or advice would you give a woman who is looking to get involved in poker?

Lacey: I would have to say never give up and have a no fear attitude at the table. These guys have been playing against guys their whole lives and they aren’t used to having females compete with them. Therefore, they don’t know what to do with us. So we actually have an advantage over them, although a lot of women believe it’s the opposite. Read books, practice, and get as much experience as possible. Don’t be scared to walk into a poker room and play. Always be willing to adapt and learn and fix problems.

BLUFF: Ok, you are definitely one of the hottest women in the poker industry, what is one of the strangest things that’s happened to you at the tables, in terms of a guy trying to pick you up?

Lacey: (laughs) There are so many. I’ve had guys tell me they would fold their hand if I would go on a date with them. I have to switch it up, as to where I play, because there are a lot of regulars and I’m nice to everyone. Sometimes guys I play with regularly are convinced that I like them, and they have even asked the floormen about when I usually come to play (laughs). I’ve had some stalkers who followed me around tournaments. It’s tough because I am naturally a nice person, and I love talking and being friendly at the table, but sometimes guys take things the wrong way.

BLUFF: For all the guys who have their eyes on you, what are some attributes you look for in a guy? Would you date a poker player?

Lacey: Yikes! I don’t like dating poker players, mainly because its my profession, and I don’t really want a guy walking into a room with his buddies pointing at me saying “Yeah, I hit that!” I wouldn’t be totally against it, but they would have to show that there is more to them than that. For me, the kind of guys I like have to make me laugh, they have to be spontaneous, and willing to go out and do something fun and unplanned. The most important thing would be to be confident in who they are. I’m pretty fun, carefree, and a total nerd. I love going to hockey games, and seeing live music, there is so much more to me than poker. I try to balance everything out as much as possible.

BLUFF: Fast-forward five years, where is Lacey Jones?

Lacey: Wow, well I would love to have a title, or maybe even two, especially in my favorite games Stud and Razz. I would love to be doing a lot of lobbying for special interest groups that I care about. Raising money for charities that I support, such as breast cancer awareness, and supporting our troops. I don’t know about the whole marriage thing. I came close, but I won’t get married unless it’s the perfect person, and I’m not focusing on that right now. I may go to law school, it’s an option. There are so many things I would love to do. I guess we will have to wait and see.

BLUFF: Well thanks so much Lacey, we appreciate your time, and best of luck at the tables!

BLUFF: Tell us a little bit about your very first poker experience.

Christina: Actually, the very first time I played poker was with my dad. My dad and I have a strange relationship, and about a year and half ago I made amends with him and one of the first things we did together was play poker. He lives in Memphis, so we drove down to Tunica and he taught me how to play. That was my very first experience and I realized pretty quickly how much I enjoyed it and that I was pretty good at reading people. I didn’t play again at all until about six months ago when the writer’s strike hit L.A. I was doing a hosting workshop, and we were assigned to write a show that we would want to host. The first thing that came to mind was poker. They really liked my show idea and I got it registered. I soon was introduced to a number of people in the poker world and I went from being interested and intrigued to wanting to pursue poker head on, one hundred percent.

BLUFF: Since you are still so new to the poker world, why don’t you fill in our readers as to what you have been up to in poker since you decided to pursue it full time.

Christina: So I wrote that show I mentioned. I became friends with Tiffany Michelle, Jeff Madsen, and Hollywood Dave to get their perspective on the show. One night Dave invited me to a celebrity poker event, and while I knew how to play I was still pretty new. I knew what beat what, but that was pretty much the extent of my poker knowledge. It was the first time I was sitting down with people who took the game seriously and played well. I did pretty well considering it was my first tournament. I just loved the tournament format. I love the adrenaline rush, and the strategy of it all. Poker incorporates so much of what I already do with my acting and modeling career, but in a more exciting way.

BLUFF: What are some of the traits you have learned as an actress that have helped you so far at the poker table?

Christina: Well, I have been lucky to train with some of the best acting coaches in the world. In all the different classes that I’ve taken, and all I have learned, one of the key lessons is that acting is all about reacting. You need to be able to watch people, and put yourself in their shoes, and feel what they feel. A lot of that is similar to what you need to be able to do at the poker table. I’m not a poker expert by any means, and I have so much to learn, but my big strength is my ability to react to people. I can sit down at a table and know if a guy is uncomfortable or nervous or doesn’t like his hand. All that has really helped me out at the table. That doesn’t mean that I will be right all the time, because in poker there are always mistakes to be made, but I definitely feel my acting gives me an edge over some opponents who may not have had that same training or experience.

BLUFF: At this point, what would you consider to be your biggest weakness at the poker table?

Christina: I definitely play too tight. A lot of that has to do with how new I am to the game still. I need to open up my game a bit. I also feel as if I let people bluff me off hands too easily. I’m not necessarily playing scared, but unless I am one hundred percent certain I have the best hand I would potentially lay it down. On The Best Damn Poker Show, you will see how Annie Duke really gave me a great lesson to help this. She explained that I didn’t always need to be right in order to make a call, just right enough of the time to make that play profitable. So that is my biggest weakness right now, which since the filming of the show I have been working very hard to correct.

BLUFF: Tell us a little bit about The Best Damn Poker Show, and how you got involved.

Christina: Well I was at the WSOP a few months after my poker journey began. I got knocked out of the Ladies event rather quickly, and I decided to play in another tournament being sponsored by All In Energy Drink. I made a pretty deep run and cashed. After the tournament I noticed they were casting for the show right there at the Rio, and Phil Hellmuth and Annie Duke were there waiting. They asked me if I considered myself a pro, and how long I was playing, and I told them my story. They cast me to be on it, as they really liked the idea of having a relative rookie in the mix.

When we started filming the show, they asked me whose team I’d rather be on, and the truth was that it didn’t matter to me. I admire both Phil and Annie equally. The first night, I got put at the first table with maybe five of the best players out of the 24 on hand. We were the first table to go, and we were one of the tables that needed to have one person eliminated from the show. When we finally played, everyone played so tight that it was basically the first to make a mistake gets kicked off. I allowed someone to bluff me off top pair, and it was the only real mistake anyone had made, so I got eliminated. It was definitely a wake-up call being the first to go, and I learned a lot from it. Annie was kind enough to give me some pointers afterwards, and she was really great. The experience helped my poker game a lot.

BLUFF: Tell us, is there anyone out there that you would like to model your poker game after?

Christina: I would probably pick Daniel Negreanu if I could choose anyone. I love his style of play and how well he can read people. I think he makes some amazing lay downs and calls. I met him at Legends of Poker (at L.A.’s Bicycle Casino), as he was playing at the table behind me, and he was so nice. So if I had to choose a mentor, it would definitely be Daniel.

BLUFF: What are your goals within poker, and what are you trying to accomplish by embarking on this challenge?

Christina: Well, professionally, I would love to be able to travel the world on the circuit and compete with all of the best. I would love to eventually be one of the only women to make the final table of the WSOP Main Event. There is a stigma in poker against women in my opinion, and even more so women coming from the entertainment industry. People look at you and assume because you look a certain way that you must not have any skill or intelligence. I would like to change that stereotype and enable more women to feel comfortable at a poker table, and allow more women to take up this great game.

Personally, I have this weird attachment to poker. It has repaired my relationship with my father, which is great. He calls me every day and we discuss hands so that’s great. I have also made so many great girl friends within the poker community, friends that I am able to trust and that care about each other and have fun. That’s something I have not had a lot of in the past. I’d love to continue to learn and grow with these girls. Ester Taylor, Maria Ho, and Lacey Jones are such a great support system to have. I learn so much from them because they are all such great players, and each of them has something unique to share about poker, or about how they would have played a particular hand. I really wouldn’t be making the strides that I have been without them.

BLUFF: That leads to Lacey, who shares this cover with you. Tell us a little bit about your friendship.

Christina: She is so different from me in so many ways: She is incredibly girly and sensitive and I think because of that she is very good at reading people. I’ve learned a lot from watching her play and discussing hands with her. Lacey is such a great, well-rounded poker player. I can’t help but improve my own game by being around her.

BLUFF: As one of our first BLUFF pin-up girls, I’m sure a lot of our male readers are curious as to whether or not your are single…

Christina: Yes, I am single. I do not have a boyfriend (laughs).

BLUFF: Ever get hit on at the poker table?

Christina: Oh my god! Every time I play poker I get hit on (laughs). It’s hilarious. It doesn’t matter; it could be a guy who looks to be ninety years old or a kid who looks like he isn’t even legal to be in a casino. Sometimes they hit on you as a tactic though. I’ve been at tables where guys will use sexual innuendo to piss me off, or get me off my game. As a woman at a table, usually the guys are uncomfortable because they are so used to sitting with all guys.

BLUFF: Any really weird encounters?

Christina: At Legends a few months ago there was a guy who would not leave me alone. He kept making comments about my looks, and that I must be a model or actress. When I sit at the table, I don’t really like to chit-chat, especially in a big tournament. So, for the most part I ignored him. Finally, he commented in front of everyone that I was just way too pretty to be playing poker. “Girls like you should just sit and watch their boyfriends play, and not do anything but be pretty,” he said. He thought he was complimenting me, but it made me so mad. Everyone at the table agreed with me that it was not a compliment, and started laughing at how rude a comment he had just made. That was the most enraging experience I have had so far at the poker table.

BLUFF: Looking at this from the other point of view, what would a guy have to do to impress you if you were at the poker table?

Christina: Well, if it was a big tournament, I would probably not be very receptive to a come on. However, if there was a guy who was funny, respectful, and cute that came up to me on a break I wouldn’t be opposed to that.

BLUFF: Any other exciting things happening with you?

Christina: Well I just did a photo shoot with Craig Ferguson for a comedy special he is doing and I did a shoot with him and one other girl for the DVD cover. A lot of funny things there, so that will be exciting. I also plan on playing a lot of the tournaments at Caesars coming up as well as some of the Bellagio Cup events so keep an eye out for me.

BLUFF: What’s the biggest bluff you have ever pulled off, either in life or at the table?

Christina: In the acting world we are always taught to say yes to questions that casting directors pose, even if we can’t do something. If you can’t do it, you learn it before you come on set. Now, I am not a big dancer, and wouldn’t consider myself a dancer by any means. I auditioned for a show called Nick Cannon Presents: Wild ‘N Out, and they lined us up and asked me if I could dance. I told them “Hell yeah, I can dance,” and I got cast – not as one of the actors, but as a dancer. So I went out immediately and hired a dance instructor and probably spent most of the money I made on the show learning how to dance. That was definitely one of the biggest bluffs I have pulled off.

BLUFF: Thanks so much Christina. Best of luck at the tables!

November 2008