Poker came naturally to World Series of Poker bracelet winner Kathy Liebert. Growing up playing games like Monopoly and poker on ski trips to Colorado with her family, Liebert has always had a mind for competitive games that demand top-flight intellect.
After graduating college and taking a job in New York City, Liebert realized that the hobbies of her youth had become the passion of her life. "After graduating college, I started working in New York as a business analyst and wasn't really satisfied with the job."
A then frustrated Liebert received guidance and support from her family, particularly her mother. "My mom really encouraged me to do what I wanted to do for a living. Taking her advice, I moved back to Colorado and I started playing in the $5-limit poker games and things went really well."
It wasn't long before players and casino staff realized that Liebert had exceptional talent. "After a short while, people started inviting me to home games and things went really well. I eventually was asked to become a prop-player for the casino's $5-limit games. It was a lot of fun."
It wasn't long, however, before Liebert got bitten by the tournament bug. "In 1994 I went out to Las Vegas for my first tournament. I had such a great time and won roughly $34,000. I cashed at two events in the same week and quickly realized how much fun it was. I decided at that point to focus more on tournaments than cash side-games."
Liebert was able to taker her skills from Wall Street and bring them to the table. "The stock market is quite similar to poker. In both, you have to put up money and take some risks. You might win and you might lose. Poker gives you a great reward versus risk ratio and I do my best to try and hedge my bets, just the way I would on the stock exchange.
Ultimately, you want the biggest reward possible for the least amount of risk in both fields. I think this is where my skills really come into play. I learned really good money-management skills from working on the market."
Liebert also found it wasn't very difficult to get started in the industry. "I started playing low-limit games and home games. I eventually began to move up to higher limits and I did really well."
Not everything came easy for one of the greatest players in the today's enormous tournament fields. "Just because things came easily doesn't mean that I didn't pay my dues. I studied the games and read books. I analyzed the games and spoke to other players. I also spent a lot of time studying tournament-style play and books before I got serious with the tournaments. I still work diligently to improve my game and am always trying to take my play to the next level."
Liebert was also influenced by a number of players in her early days on the felt, but still feels that books were her greatest teacher. "I've talked to a number of players over the years, but I think reading books has helped me out the most. Players like Doyle Brunson, Bobby Baldwin, and T.J. Cloutier wrote great books and I basically got to learn from their experiences."
Liebert has become a major force to be reckoned with in the poker world. Having won over a million dollars in one tournament victory and winning a much-coveted WSOP bracelet, she continues to have an impact in almost every tournament she enters. According to Liebert, she covets the challenge as much as the prize money. "I use to play for the money. But since I've found a lot of success in the game, I've come to find that I enjoy the trophies and bracelets just as much."
Like many of today's top players, Liebert is enjoying the growing popularity of the game and capitalizes on online play as a sponsored representative of the online poker site, InterPoker. "I think the growth of the game, especially online has been amazing. People can learn how to play poker so fast thanks to the Internet. Anyone can play nowadays. The growth has been great for the game and I really hope it continues to bring new players to the tables."
As one might expect, Liebert has become a role-model for many aspiring women players around the world, but doesn't mind the responsibility. "I try to encourage women to play. I offer tips and insights on the game via my website, KathyLiebert.com. I have found a lot of success and want to share these successes with other women. Lots of women have come out and supported me and I want to give back to them and share what I have learned."
Liebert is definitely an advocate of women in the game and feels that there has never been more opportunity for women in the game than now. "When I first started playing it was really a guys-only club and quite an intimidating environment. These days, women can go online and get comfortable without having to feel intimidated or face chauvinistic attitudes. I think this is the best way for women to get into the action."
In addition to mentoring women players, Liebert is also the tutor of Hollywood film icon, James Woods and sees him as one of the games up-and-coming players. "I talk to him a lot about poker. He's a great guy who strives to be great at poker. He really loves the game. I think we'll see him win something really big soon."
When asked what was the best advice she had given Woods or any other player for that matter, Liebert responded, "He asks me questions about specific hands. But I tell him and this drives a lot of people crazy as well, it all depends on the situation. People hate to hear that but it's so true. They want an answer and they feel sometimes I'm not giving it to them, but poker is a game of situations and you have to consider a lot of factors before making a decision. It's not just playing the hand you've been dealt."
Ed note: Kathy plays at InterPoker