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The PokerNews Profile: Erica Schoenberg

The PokerNews Profile: Erica Schoenberg 0001

Erica Schoenberg is one of those rare women who could stack you at no-limit hold'em in one moment and school you in beer pong the next. Equally at home in Manolo Blahnik stilettos or her beloved Cleveland Cavaliers jersey, Schoenberg exudes style and class at the tables, all while quietly taking your chips with her thoughtful, patient style of play. She's arguably one of the most talented female tournament players to emerge in the last few years, and given her background, one might say that Erica was born to gamble.

Erica Schoenberg grew up in small-town Akron, Ohio. Her parents met at the Santa Anita racetrack, of all places, and as a child she'd often accompany her father to the local track to watch the races. Cards were king in the Schoenberg house and she'd often gamble with her allowance at bridge and gin rummy games with her family. Before long, Schoenberg was learning how to handicap horse races and would have her father bet small sums for her. Always adept with numbers, she won a county-wide math competition at the age of 13. It was acting and dance, however that captured her imagination and she headed off to the College of Charleston to study theatre.

After graduation, Schoenberg moved to Los Angeles to begin her acting career. Like many aspiring actors, she held a number of odd jobs to pay the bills while she went on auditions. She worked as a personal trainer, a kickboxing instructor, did a few modeling jobs, and for a time, played professional beach volleyball. At about the same time she began to realize that Hollywood was not for her, Schoenberg discovered blackjack. After running a $25 investment into $2,000 in a blackjack tournament, she was hooked, and was recruited and trained by several members of the infamous MIT blackjack team. Blackjack connected her natural aptitude with numbers to the gambling world and soon enough, she was earning a living at the game. In 2005 she was invited to play in the World Series of Blackjack and ultimately finished second. Life as a professional blackjack player is tough, though, as casinos frown upon card counting, going to often extreme lengths to prevent it. Soon, her blackjack team disbanded and Schoenberg turned to a new passion—poker.

Schoenberg's first televised poker appearance came in the GSN series "Poker Royale: Young Bloods". Competing with the likes of Michael Mizrachi and David Williams, Schoenberg would be the first to tell you she was out of her league. It did, however, drive her to work even harder on her game. She started playing online and won a seat to the 2006 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure. Though she didn't cash, she was in love with the game and developed a huge desire to keep playing tournaments.

In April 2006, Erica Schoenberg played in the $25,000 buy-in WPT World Championships and stunned the poker world with a 16th-place finish in one of the most elite fields on the circuit. Her breakout performance led to a sponsorship deal with Mansion Poker and she appeared in a number of commercials and print ads for the site. She was also invited to appear on the WPT's Ladies Night Out invitational at the Bicycle Casino and finished fourth. Schoenberg's first major win finally came in April 2007 when she won the $2,500 No-Limit Hold'em event at Mandalay Bay, beating Anna Wroblewski heads up to take home $105,875. She followed that up with her first World Series of Poker final table that summer, finishing third out of 2,778 entrants in a $1,500 No-Limit Hold'em event. Schoenberg earned over $260,000 for her impressive finish.

This past spring, Schoenberg made quite a splash on the newly-created WPTL—the World Poker Tour's new ladies' tournament series. She finished as runner-up to Vanessa Selbst at the WPTL event at the Commerce Casino and placed 10th in the WPT Ladies' Championship at Bellagio. It was also at the Bellagio where she met fellow poker professional David Benyamine. The two fell in love and are now engaged to be married. Benyamine or "Mr. B" as she affectionately calls him on her blog, proved to be an invaluable resource to her as she developed as a player, frequently watching him play (and win) at the highest-stakes games in the world.

When she's not on the felt, Schoenberg can often be found on the links. An avid golfer, she also follows the UFC, enjoys watching basketball, and has an enviable collection of designer handbags—from Fendi to Louis Vuitton. When she's not traveling the tournament circuit, she lives with Benyamine in Las Vegas, and is a sponsored pro with Full Tilt Poker.

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