Lee Davy catches up with former poker room manager, dealer, and now sometimes poker player, sometimes hypnotist, sometimes novelist, Kat Arnsby, to talk about life on both sides of the table.
A blog post found it’s way into my ‘Pocket’ the other day. It was about boobies, poker, and dealing, so I had to read it. It turns out it was written by Kat Arnsby, or the Poker Baffer if you prefer, and I loved it so much I thought I would reach out to her for an interview. I was delighted when she said yes.
This is what she had to say.
Where did this love for games and gambling come from?
“Hard to say… I don’t remember a time when I didn’t play games with my family on rainy afternoons and Sundays after lunch. When I was really little, I had this weird solitaire strategy game where you had to hop pegs over other pegs, and I played it for hours; loving the sense of achievement when I beat it.
“I played Connect 4 and Monopoly as a kid, and then when home games consoles appeared I’d play those with my brother. He was always better than me, and it started the development of a competitive streak, although I always like to beat my scores too. I’d be ashamed to count the adult hours I’ve spent racing against my ghost in Mario Kart.
“As I got older the gambling element added a certain buzz, but I still play Risk and Chess online without a cash investment, so it’s not all about the money.
“My first gamble was in the seaside arcades in the penny falls machines, and I still play those to this day; I know they’re a rip-off, but there is something magical about the lights, and the noises and I love it when a massive chunk of coins clatters into the tray.”
Explain what a ‘minge-to-the-wind” mad-cap punt is to an American poker fan?
“Well, your readers might have to look up the word “minge” in the Urban Dictionary, but I mean it as a bet that you know you’re losing on the long-term, but you still have fun doing. Roulette, slot machines, prop bets with your mates, betting on a dog because you think it has a cute name, that sort of thing.
“I particularly like Bingo. It’s not just for old ladies; it’s a lot of fun, and you can win some serious, life changing money. It’s not a great bet, but it’s a good night out, and the bar is always cheap, I heartily recommend it.”
How did you become involved in the UK Casino industry?
“I was working for an insurance company while studying for my BA degree, and it was a super boring, life-tilt inducing job. The brother of one of my colleagues was the Training Manager for a major UK casino operator, and they were looking for trainee Roulette dealers.
“I was going on to study an MA, at vomit inducing expense, and I needed money from a job that fitted in around a demanding schedule of academic work.
“I’d watched films about casinos although I’d never been in one; thought it looked like fun, so went along to the interview; got the job and I never looked back.”
What positions have you occupied over the past decade, which were the best and the worst?
“I started in the gaming pit dealing Roulette, BlackJack, and 3Card Poker, then I got the job training other staff in the games, and then I took over running a low-stakes poker room.
“There were good and bad elements to all the positions, but the worst aspect of any of the roles was dealing with drunk customers, sometimes it took all my energy not to punch them in the face.
“One of the best parts of being a dealer is when a customer is winning loads from the casino. They love it; it makes them really happy, and that joy is infectious.
“I think I enjoyed the job of cardroom manager the most because I love poker, and it felt like a privilege to be around the game all day and get paid for it; I also met so many great people in that job who will be my friends for life. The downside of the job was having to listen politely to bad-beat stories day-in, day-out. Some days they made me want to rip my ears off.”
What is the most hilarious and absurd situation you have found yourself in as a dealer?
“I have been at a Roulette table when two octogenarian ladies started having a physical fight over whose chip was on the winning number. They were rolling about on the floor and beating each other with their walking sticks. I shouldn’t laugh really… but I still do.
“When dealing at a Hold ‘Em poker table once I had to physically dodge a flying ashtray that was launched at my head when I dealt a four flush against a guy’s AA after his preflop all-in was called by 22. However, as a player, I understand the passion involved in the game, so I didn’t hold it against him.
“After a few years in the casino industry, I think it’s easy to normalise behaviour that people who don’t gamble/play poker would think was very strange.”
How are the dealers treated today in your opinion?
“I think that operators treat their staff very well as a general rule. There is good training available, you usually get a free meal on shift, and although the pay is not fantastic, it’s not bad if you love poker.
“I think some players can be awful to dealers, some of what the dealers are expected to put up with, and the insults they get launched at them because a guy can’t fold top pair is pretty shocking.
“That said, it’s only a few players who are like that, the majority are not, and I have noticed an upward trend of other players defending dealers when some guy’s being unreasonable at the table.
“I still think you have to have a pretty strong constitution to survive as a poker dealer, so many people can’t ride out the period of being a rookie. Once you know what you’re doing, and the players respect your skills, I think you get treated pretty well.”
What’s it like being a female in a poker community stuffed full of men?
“I quite enjoy it. I like the “bantz” and can certainly hold my own. I try not to generalise too much, people are all so different, one man is unlike another, and the same for women.
“I’m a bit of a lad, so I think I was always destined to fit in. That said, I get away with a lot that perhaps a man wouldn’t; he’d get a smack, and there’s no kudos for a guy who can beat up a woman, so I’m probably cockier than I would be if I had a penis.
“I notice I instantly ally with other women in poker rooms like we’re automatically friends because we’re a minority, but in truth, I don’t care whose money I take. There are no friends at the tables!”
What advice would you give to women who wanted to get involved in live poker but feels slightly intimidated?
“Play with the ladies first. Seek out women-only poker groups on FaceBook and ask them where they’re playing; they will certainly be friendly. There are a lot of “ladies only” games available, and if the idea of being part of just 5% women in the average field doesn’t appeal, play your first live game at one of those.
“Equally, in a decently run cardroom, the supervisor won’t allow anyone to be too uncomfortable, so if you want to go along, let them know it’s your first time, and if they’re good at their job, they’ll keep an eye out for you. In most situations, men make a lot of noise and bluster, but they are harmless; and bear in mind, it’s not just women who are intimidated, sometimes men are too!
“One of the best reasons for women who’ve been playing online to go and play in a live mixed field is that their ability will be underestimated by a lot of male players… it’s perfect for your win rate to be an underestimated opponent!
“I’d say bite the bullet and get involved, there is a massive range of people in cardrooms, and the majority are lovely. In any environment there will be a sub-sect of assholes, some male, some female; I promise anyone thinking about having a go at live poker that it’s worth it, you’ll definitely make some friends.”
When you look at the poker world what do you see at the level you compete at?
“Calling stations everywhere. I play micro-stakes online, and small stakes live. Unless I get some excellent information to the contrary, I assign almost no bluff ranges to my average opponent. This is usually great because extracting value is easy pickings, but the flip side is that trying to chip up when card dead is very hard.
“I do notice that more low-stakes and micro players are starting to take their game seriously; I think there has been a slow shift in attitude in the last five years away from the idea that you can only be a “proper” player if you’re making bets that could buy a house. I have some fascinating strategy discussions online with people who average $15 buy-ins or less. The low-stakes live fields are a little bit behind, in my opinion. If you are winning at NL$10 online, I recommend playing at $50-$100 live buy-ins occasionally… these people are terrible, honestly, just terrible!”
Share some funny gambling stories you have been embroiled in?
“I was watching the England v Sweden World Cup 2006 match in a Manchester pub, and I was bored, so I went to the bookies to put a bet on, and they were offering 27/1 on Sweden scoring next (who worked out those odds?). I can’t resist bets with odds like that, so I put a few quid on it. I went back to the pub and, almost immediately, Sweden scored; everyone in the pub was devastated, except me, I cheered and shouted with joy. The atmosphere went sour pretty quickly, and I was all but chased out of the pub; not that I cared, I had to get back to the bookies anyway.
“One of my favourite gambling endeavours was when I was part of the staff team on large live tournaments. We used to bet £5 on a “horse”, i.e., we’d each pick a player that we thought would run the deepest and then the winner would get the pot. My horses always seemed to land uncanny run good at the right moment, and I thought it was funny how often that annoyed my male colleagues. None of the players never had any idea that they were making me money!”
Talk about your background as a clinical hypnotist, your program, and how poker players can benefit?
“I trained in hypnotism with The Innervisions School of Hypnotism in 2011, gaining a clinical diploma. I went along to the free induction weekend because I was a fan of British Mentalist Magician Derren Brown and wanted some insight to his trickery!
“Clinical hypnotism and stage hypnotism are very different, but I was fascinated and began the year-long training; it was expensive but very worth it.
Hypnotism is often muddled in with mumbo-jumbo like “crystal healing,” Tarot cards,”universal energy” and other superstitions. It’s nothing to do with any of that; it’s about using language to shape the way you think about, and react to, the external world. You do this already, you have done since you were a child, hypnotism is about taking control of it. Hypnotism has been used for a long while in other sports as a tool to get players focused on their game and to speed up healing time after an injury. The course I have planned for poker players cannot guarantee they will become the best player in the world, but it will help anyone who’s open to it be the best player they can be.
“Anything, where focus, concentration and emotion are involved, can be improved by the use of hypnosis… and no, I won’t make anyone think their belt is a snake or eat an onion like it’s an apple… unless they want to, of course.”
Who would be in your Kat Arnsby Six-Max home game and why?
“I’d want Shaun Deeb because I’m mainly a large field online player and I he’s had some consistently sick results in that format. I’d hope to learn something immediately applicable to my normal game.
“Davidi Kitai would be on the list because there is something psychic about the way he plays in these GTO heavy days, and I’d love to get an insight into how he assigns his opponents’ ranges.
“I’d have to ask Jack Salter along because I think he is the British player to watch at the moment, his results this year speak for themselves, and I’d definitely learn from him.
“I’d also want Irish player Dara O’Kearney because I think he’s one of the nicest and most interesting people I’ve ever crossed paths with…on Twitter. He can run 30 miles without stopping, which means he’s a master of mind control, and I want to meet him in real life.
“Also, Cate Hall, because she’s a strong minded, intellectual person and I think we’d have some explosive academic arguments; aside from poker, arguing about intangible issues is my favourite past time!”
If I gave you 10,000 hours to work on anything what would you choose and why?
“If you got your whip out and made me focus on one thing, I guess it would have to be writing my novel. I’ve had a complete synopsis of a very long and complicated sci-fi epic for about five years now and failed to turn it into anything more than a few fleshed-out chapters.
“If I reach my deathbed without writing it, I know I will be absolutely gutted, so I would focus everything on that and get it done. I doubt anyone would want to read it, but that shouldn’t be the sole drive behind writing a novel, not a good one anyway.”
Give my teenage son some advice when it comes to pulling the girls.
“Make sure he knows I’m 35 and single, so I may not be the one to ask about this!
“Find a “yourself” to be and be it, 100% without compromise or shame. Know what you like, have your passions, be excited by things and become an interesting and fun person to hang around with.
“On a more immediately actionable note, don’t just tell a pretty girl she’s pretty, she knows that already. Compliment her on something she’s done or chosen herself. Notice that her hairstyle’s changed, or point out her shoes/outfit are really cool; compliment her on her achievements and her uniqueness as a person.
“Also, don’t take a carpet-bombing approach to pulling, no girl likes to feel like she’s with you because she’s the only one of many who took up the wide-reaching offer!
“If you like a girl, focus on her and give her respect and attention… make sure you know whether you’re trying to impress a girl or your mates… it’s unlikely you can do both at the same time!”
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