Two of a Kind: Jan Fisher and Linda Johnson

Maria Ho enjoys a few quiet moments on a recent CardPlayer Cruise.

Maria Ho enjoys a few quiet moments on a recent CardPlayer Cruise.

I first met Linda Johnson and Jan Fisher back in 2011. Several notable female poker players had been invited to participate in a charity poker event in Colorado at the Fort Collins Series of Poker. I was thrown in with the likes of special guests including Linda, Jan, Jennifer “Jennicide” Leigh, and Tiffany Michelle for a tournament and weekend of local Fort Collins activities. The town, the series, and the event coordinators were unfamiliar to all of us. We were in the same boat – on a new poker adventure together, and some of us meeting and spending time together for the first time.

I knew of Linda and Jan’s individual accomplishments in poker. How could you not? They’re on a short list of historic female poker trailblazers – some of the very first women to break the glass ceiling in poker, or even play the game for that matter.

Apologies in advance to Linda and Jan for using the word “historic”. They’re going to give me some major shit for this, but let the record show that “historic” does not have to do with age, rather an “importance in history”, which they very much have when it comes to the history of the poker industry. Let the record also show I don’t think either of you are “old”. Shit, you two can outdrink, outplay, and out-party me…and then some!

Most of what I knew about Linda and Jan had to do with their separate careers. I was in for a treat when I discovered that the are a total bestie unit – a package deal, each other’s partner in crime, ride or die chick, BFFs, secret keepers, and life-wifes. Essentially, Linda and Jan are the Maria Ho and Tiffany Michelle of their generation (still no offense with the word “generation” ;)).

As we were shuttled around Fort Collins for a weekend of events, outings, dinners and poker activities, I enjoyed being squeezed into the back of a limo and getting to watch The Linda and Jan Show. These two were just plain fun. They were funny! Thrown into a foreign situation with a bunch of drinking, loud, demonstrative, twentysomething poker newbs (who they probably didn’t initially think they have much in common with besides the common link of poker), Linda and Jan fit right in! They were ready to party, crack jokes, and didn’t bat an eyelash at the age gap. In fact, I’m quite sure they were completely unaware that an age gap even existed, because in their eyes they’re just as young, crazy, and fun as they’ve ever been. These two have not slowed down.

I appreciated that they didn’t behave in a way that made the rest of us girls feel looked down upon. Linda and Jan were just two of the girls. I thought, “I want to be them when I grow up.

Jan Fisher, Tiffany Michelle, Linda Johnson and Maria Ho on the ship.

Jan Fisher, Tiffany Michelle, Linda Johnson and Maria Ho on the ship.

Over the weekend, I looked forward to the car rides to here or there with Linda and Jan. I got little snapshots of their lives and friendship. To say “friendship” doesn’t quite capture the depth and extent of their relationship. They finished each other sentences. They know all of each other’s dirty laundry and have endless adventures together and “remember whens”. They entertained us with stories of their young and wild days – stories that shall not be repeated, because your sweet little ears surely couldn’t handle it. That’s how wild we’re talkin’!

I came away from that trip being in love with Linda and Jan, individually and as a “couple”. I had never met another female friend duo that encompassed or mirrored the spirit of Tiffany Michelle’s and my own partner-in-crime-ride-or-die-chick-lifewife-bestie dynamic. “Oh my gosh, Linda and Jan are future me and Tiffany,” I thought.

Since that trip, any chance I get to be involved in something that the Linda and Jan are doing, I jump at. Even if I can merely place myself in a near vicinity of where the two of them will be, like a creepy stalker, I do.

Luckily, this year, for the second year, the HPT partnered with CardPlayer Cruises and held one of their Main Events on board one of the many CardPlayer Cruises. I brought Tiffany along as my plus one and soon everything was right in the world. Linda+Jan, Maria+Tiffany…the Never-Fold-Foursome were back together again!

(I just made that name up. I feel like I can do better. I’m open to a more excellent foursome name suggestion).

One night on the cruise, Linda arranged a secret, girls-only dinner – secret because it’s hard to carve out some alone time or find a private corner when you’re on a ship with a ton of people for an entire week. While Tiffany and I enjoy talking about our adventures together and happily answering any questions asked about The Amazing Race, Last Woman Standing stuff, our absurdly close and soulmate-like relationship, or just about poker in general, when we’re with Linda and Jan, we are the quiet ones. Like little disciples, we sit at the their feet and gaze up at them longingly, hoping they’ll share some nuggets of wisdom, indulge us with stories of poker days gone by, or, like a fortune teller, give us a glimpse into what our future holds. And they don’t disappoint.

Linda will tell you about the time that Jan almost died in Japan (literally). Jan will tell you about her early days as a Vegas dealer and all of the unimaginable shit that went on without the standards and regulations that we now have in place today. One time she literally got up from the table and walked off the job because the dealer abuse and sexism was so ridiculous. Their stories are endless. They’ve been everywhere together, done everything together, have supported each other through the best and worst life has to offer, and truly epitomize the bond of friendship.

When I’m around Linda and Jan, I feel like I’m looking into a crystal ball and getting a glimpse into my own future.  Their lives and careers inspire and excite me with the possibility of what’s to come. They have taken their poker experience and notoriety, skill sets, passion and have created a business that the two of them get to run together. Sure, they could retire and play the occasional WSOP H.O.R.S.E. event (which they’d kick your ass at!), but they are passionate about giving back and staying active in the poker community. They love what they do at CardPlayer Cruises because they employ people they care about, get to share their love for poker with others, and they have each other along for the ride come what may.

I most enjoy when the two talk about how they’ve built their careers and what that has entailed. Aside from having individual poker accomplishments, these two women have been at the forefront of poker advancement, legislation, business decisions, and have helped bring it to the masses. It was unbeknownst to me, the extensive strides they have single handedly taken to help grow and refine the game of poker. These ladies aren’t just poker players.

I often feel like poker is a selfish endeavor and I wonder what worthwhile and productive things my future holds. Linda and Jan give me hope that the time and energy I am spending in this industry is worthwhile and is going towards something…something good, if I so chose. If, in 20+ years, I have followed in their exact footsteps, I will be a lucky woman. That would be a good life. They’re active, inspiring, and philanthropic women. They love what they do and surround themselves with people they love. Life is what you make it and let me tell you, these two are making the most of it. Their lives are full. I have been honored to spend time with them and am continually inspired by them.

I will now end with an annoying, but oh so appropriate, poker pun. Some might tell you that a royal flush is the best hand in poker, but based on my experience with this pair, Linda and Jan are two-of-a-kind that can’t be beat. That’s a winning pair right there… every time.

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Maria Ho

Maria Ho is a professional poker player and was the Last Woman Standing in the WSOP Main Event twice – 2007 and 2014. She’s one half of the Heartland Poker Tour’s broadcast team and boasts $1.6 million in live winnings.
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