Lee Davy sits down with Amanda Musumeci to talk about her life as a poker player, her background as a conspiracy theorist, caring for her Grandmother and much more.
Amanda Musumeci is like a little whirlwind; a jabberbox, a live wire, a very interesting and absorbing character. She also puts the needs of others before her own – except when she is playing poker that is. In short she’s a fine breed.
I was fortunate enough to stop her spinning long enough to have a coherent chat. It was a real pleasure. She is as interesting as she is illuminating. I got the feeling that sometimes Musumeci feels like she is tied to one of those medieval torture racks; her body being pulled in different directions. But she is strong. She will not be torn apart.
So who do you want to become?
“ I want to spend a lot of my time and effort in humanitarian work. I want to be hands on – get down and dirty and be a big contributor in some way. I know that I need to set something up for myself, so I have passive income to release more time so I can work on these types of projects. Freedom of time is very important, and the poker grind can consume you for decades.”
What are your other goals in life?
“It’s all a work in progress. My five to ten year plan is to become a really successful business person, and to support myself and help support others. I would love to help build schools for impoverished areas. I went to school and learned political science and was into government activism – I was a little bit of a conspiracy theorist. I have always wanted to make big changes in the world, and I don’t think poker is the platform for me to do that. I am blessed about the career I have had, because it has given me a massive network that I am able to resonate with. I hope to put that to good use in the next few years.”
How have you succeeded in poker?
“I’m not sure? I have started doing poker coaching over the past few years. I have noticed that some have the natural aptitude to do well and some don’t. I think there is a nature versus nurture argument here. Perhaps, I have a bit of both. I am fortunate to have that part that’s built in.”
You are a very confident person, how important has confidence been for you?
“What’s really funny is back in the online poker days that’s all I did. I didn’t set foot into a live casino for three and a half years. Then when Black Friday happened, and everything I was familiar with was taken away, I had to take that step and move into the casinos. When I had to start playing live poker it was weird. I had not been social for three and a half years. I was an online poker maniac. When I finally started dabbling in live poker I was so insecure and nervous at the tables. It gave me a moment to look at myself and what the past three and a half years had made me become. Live poker has breathed the life back into me. Now it’s like I am on a stage. I make everyone laugh, I drink tons of coffee, I am out of control, I tell insane jokes, and I have the most fun ever. Interacting with the people is more interesting that playing poker. Poker is a game. I have never been obsessed with it. I didn’t care much about poker. I found it, I was good at it, and I stuck with it. My passion is with people, not with poker.”
Who have your mentors been?
“My early adopter was Matt Stout. He was the first person to teach me the ropes. Then after he taught me I did much better. When I started I was playing small sites on my own money. I wanted to branch out but I couldn’t afford it, so Mark Herm and Dan Kelly – two of the best players in the world – backed me. They helped me amp up my aggression and fine tuned my game. They taught me to become more creative and mess with people’s heads.
“When I started playing live poker that was difficult for me. As a female there were a lot more situations that when I tried to explain them to my friends they couldn’t understand my dynamic at the table. Being a female, and also having the attitude and rapport that I would create at the table, made it all very complicated to understand for some. It wasn’t easy for me when I got into live poker. I had to guide myself through the process and I think I have done pretty frickin well.”
What are your main challenges in life?
“Balance is one. Poker is all consuming. It’s difficult to eat healthy, and be healthy. You are surrounded by people with addictive personalities and you pick up bad habits. As I take myself away from the poker lifestyle I hope to improve in those areas.”
Give us a conspiracy theory
“I strongly believe that the United States is keeping the cure for cancer out of reach. The American Health care system in general makes me sick. I am the primary caretaker from my grandmother, and the way she is treated by the health care system is terrible. I am a documentary junkie and I watch so many about our healthcare system and it’s appalling the way things are managed in this country.”
Is it difficult being a carer?
“That’s been a challenge. In the last two years I have been her primary caretaker. Picking up that weight, especially when she needs me a lot, has pulled me away from poker. I have taken much more time off poker in the past two years, than ever before. When I hit that big score at the WSOP in 2012, for almost half a million dollars, I was staked so I didn’t get to keep all of that money, but it was still a sizeable amount. It was good timing because I had to take time away from work to care for family members who became ill. I took 6-7 months away, and so that money was a real blessing as it allowed me to help my family with financial matters. I took pride in doing that.”
Balancing playing poker and caring for someone less fortunate than you. How does that make you feel?
“I have turned 30 this year. I am growing up. As I enter the next area of my life I want to make a more secure financial future for myself, and get closer to where I want to be. I need to step back and take a look at the bigger picture. Spending time with my grandmother, and watching her slowly go, humbles me. She is a Jewish grandmother and she is always asking me when am I going to get a real job? She has enough money to get by, but she always worries about it. I don’t want to be in that situation. As a poker player we don’t have regular income. You have to be really responsible and manage your money. That’s my immediate goal right now.”