Couples That Play Poker Together, Stay Together
Having similar interests is just one of the ingredients to make a successful relationship, and these couples have one passion in common: the love for poker. It must be nice to not only get to play poker for a living, but to also get to do it with your romantic partner. How sweet.
One would imagine, however, that year-round tournament schedules, constant traveling and emotional ups and downs that can come from a career in the game could also put some strains on a relationship, so we wanted to know a little bit more about how some poker power couples make it work.
Do they study together? How do they find a balance between poker and life? What are their V-Day plans? We asked some of the industry's most favorite power couples.
A Couple That Studies Poker Together Stays Together
Although Jason Mercier shifted his focus from the non-stop poker travel life to spend some extra time at home, both he and Natasha Mercier "still turn on PokerGo and discuss hands," as Natasha confessed. But when there's no poker, they "focus on family activities and watching our kid grow."
Natasha says, "sharing a strong passion for poker is part of how we fell in love. I honestly can't imagine coming home from a tournament and not being able to share bustout hands with my partner." And now it appears that their offspring will fit into this poker family just fine.
Randy Lew and Celina Lin "both have a lot of passion for poker." As he is focused more on cash games and she's from a tournament background, this causes "a lot of good poker discussion as we often will have different points of views on how to play a hand which makes us think outside the box and more thoroughly about hands."
The Moorman's also love sharing poker hands together. For Katie, "it's really cool that we both do share this passion for the game. It helps so much that we both understand the struggles that poker can involve and we know how to be there for each other when it does get tough." In Katie's opinion, her game has "improved tremendously since we started dating and I started playing more full time. I appreciate that even though Chris is so much better than me at the game he will still ask my opinion on a hand and hear me out if I had a different perspective than him about it."
Kara Scott and Giovanni Rizzo became friends years ago, as both of them were on the same ambassador team. As a duo that finds themselves in engaging, deep conversations, Scott admitted that sometimes "poker sneaks in there, too."
Jennifer Tilly and Phil Laak also appreciate watching poker shows together and swapping gossip from the casino. For Jennifer, "having poker in common bonds us and makes us closer." But for Phil, "as much as we love poker, it is not all consuming."
Ashley Sleeth and Jesse Sylvia love "watching a lot of feature tables together and discussing spots."
Farah and Phil Galfond enjoy sharing the same passion because, for Farah, "it's definitely a bonus that we both understand the ups and downs of the game and how it can make you feel."
On the other hand, couples like Liv Boeree and Igor Kurganov don't like talking that much about poker in their daily life. "We're usually working on our other projects - I'm getting into more public speaking and science communication stuff, and Igor often helps me with ideas." Of course, they always have some time to discuss a good hand, when one comes up. "We definitely talk through interesting hands after one of us has played one."
As for Loni Harwood and Phil Hui, the couple lives by the motto: "balance is key to a successful poker couple relationship." Loni says, "We always talk poker but have a life outside from talking hands." For Phil, having Loni in his life is amazing because "being with someone that understands the swings and emotions that are involved in poker is just a plus to playing a game for a living." He is very comfortable with knowing that he has "one of the best players in the world" by his side every day.
Jamie Kerstetter and Chris Horter only talk about poker sometimes. Jamie says that "he focuses more on online MTTs and I have kind of transitioned away from MTTs into live cash - but we're there for each other when we need to vent or have a cool hand history we want to brag to the other about."
Poker Travel and Life Balance
Randy and Celina enjoy traveling everywhere together, and it's not rare to see them in the same tournaments, where Randy confesses that he is the one who "usually cheers Celina."
Outside the poker world, these two "try to minimize talking about poker to have that work/life balance and just enjoy each other's company," as one of Randy's favorite things is to talk with Celina.
As for Liv and Igor, we saw them in multiple poker tournaments, in fact, Liv says "If we travel to a tournament, we almost always go together."
Katie and Chris also love the poker travel and Chris says they go to "most tournaments around the world" together. They enjoy spending time at their new house on the lake, or just "going out to eat and hanging with friends" when they're not traveling.
Kara and Giovanni have been traveling together for many years and, in Kara's opinion, sharing the same industry and passion is so much easier for them. "I think the fact that Giovanni and I both understand immediately what the other is talking about, dealing with, doing - that all takes a lot of the potential pressure off of a relationship."
This couple's favorite go-to date night is just staying at home "cooking and eating well" or just spending time with their friends in their "pretty little city Ljubljana." The couple has two cute dogs, and they love hanging out with them and "playing other board games, mostly code games."
Although Farah was previously in the world of acting, she started transitioning more into poker thanks to Phil, and now these two occasionally take in a tournament or two and have even played in the WSOP Main Event together twice. Outside of poker, Farah and Phil also love "chilling on the couch, watching TV."
Loni & Phil's motto: Balance is key to a successful poker couple relationship.
Loni and Phil don't travel that much anymore for poker. For Phil, since they moved to Florida, "There are so many tournaments here in South Florida, that Vegas for 8 weeks during the summer is enough time away from home." Loni and Phil still travel together, but Loni says "there are times where one of us doesn't feel like traveling, and that's perfectly normal."
These two "spend every day together," and Loni says that the couple is very competitive and active. They enjoy games, movies, sports, the beach and CrossFit.
Jamie and Chris don't travel that much either, since they now have a dog. "It's really hard to leave the house with sad puppy eyes looking at me." But they do, of course, still head to Vegas for two months every summer for WSOP. Their house is a vital element for the couple as Jamie says they "have become boring homebodies, but our house has become a hangout for a lot of our friends who come to town for WPTs."
Away from the tables, Jennifer and Phil watch the Bachelor and superhero movies or, in general, do "all the standard stuff people like to do."
Valentine's Day Plans
Natasha and Jason's Valentine's Day this year is going to be special and different "as it's the first one we share with our now four-month-old son, Marco. We wanted to include him, so we booked an early dinner on the beach. We're also going to see baby tigers and monkeys. Just a standard mom, dad, and son Valentine."
For Kara and Giovanni, this V-Day is special too as they have "a doctor's appointment and a scan booked, which sounds like Kara's most romantic thing in the world for her," as they're expecting a baby.
Liv and Igor have something to celebrate because it's actually their anniversary.
Randy and Celina's plan is to watch the new 50 Shades of Grey film, and get some chocolate, because he knows Celina likes dark chocolate.
If u feel like pizza next time @nanonoko , all u have to do is ask! https://t.co/hPVMvKIdux— Celina Lin (@CelinaLin)
Ashley and Jesse will be, of course, traveling this day. This time through Asia, and then skiing in Colorado.
And for Farah and Phil, Valentine's Day is going to be a relaxing one, since Farah is "forcing Phil to have a spa day" because "he's been extremely busy the past year, and he never takes time to relax."
Phil and Loni will have a relaxing day too. Loni's sure that Phil is going to "cook a sweet dinner," and they have no plans set in stone, yet. Phil says that he is going to cook "whatever Loni wants for dinner."
Jennifer and Phil's plan is also a nice quiet dinner but, Jennifer confessed that the only thing Phil can cook is waffles, so he probably "will light a candle and make it romantic."
Whatever these couples do, it's nice to reflect on a day's hard work, learn from each other, travel together, and grow together.