Lee Davy sits down with the Head of Poker for the Hippodrome in London, Kerryjane Craigie, to talk about her deep run in the World Series of Poker Casino Employee Event; her love for her job, and much more.
Only America has won more bracelets this summer than the UK. We might be crap at politics and football, but we know how to play poker. Benny Glaser has netted a brace, and Phillip McAllister has won one to give the UK three. It could so easily have been four.It seems an eternity since 731 entrants lined up to take part in Event #1: $565 Casino Employees No-Limit Hold’em, and Head of Poker for the Hippodrome Casino in London, Kerryjane Craigie came within a few hands of winning it.
I caught up with her to get a taste of life in the WSOP fast lane, and this is what she had to say.
You nearly won a WSOP bracelet. Talk about how it feels to have come so close, mixed with the emotion of banking $50,000.
“I walked away from that table ecstatic. From returning to Day 2 to the very end, I loved every minute of it. As we got closer and closer to heads-up, I’d look over to my rail and go ‘oh my goodness’.
“CJ had been on a roll and had such a chip lead on me that I knew it would be a battle, the cards didn’t go my way then, but I was pleased with my play. When poker players leave the final table of the WSOP and congratulate you and tell you that you play great – it’s a feeling you can’t describe.
“A bracelet and the title would have been awesome, but I had a great day and still have something to aim for in the future.”
What were the crucial points in that tournament for you?
“There were three that I believe made a difference. Towards the end of Day 1, I picked up some monster hands, got action with them and they held. The very last hand of Day 1 the player in the big blind mistakingly tried to open, which he had been doing a lot in the last 20 minutes or so, and had to take back his bet. I looked down at [As] [Ks] on the button and raised. He went all in, and I called – and won the pot, shooting me up to second in chips going into Day 2.
“I went to the unofficial final table, as the short stack of the final ten. I had back to back aces. The first pair, I 3-bet and everyone folded. The second time, there had been an open and a 3-bet shove, which I naturally called and put myself at risk. There was a sweat as he had AK and the board ran out Q10Q – instead, I was catapulted to the final table as chip leader.
“And lastly, a hand I folded to – I later find out I was absolutely locked with AJ< AK and we had both connected I’m told that friends were screaming at the screen FOLD!”
How did you become the Head of Poker for The Hippodrome?
“An old friend and colleague of mine from another casino was working at The Hippodrome and asked me to come in and meet with the big bosses to discuss a three-month contract to work on raising the poker profile. Within a month I had been offered a full-time contract and weeks after that, I took over the management of the poker operation. Everything just fell into place.”
What are your roles & responsibilities?
“I work on the strategy, mission and budget elements of the poker operation for both the cash games and the tournament schedules. I oversee the management of the staff and set policies for the poker room. I liaise with third parties, ensure compliance is adhered to and coach my management team. The most important part is keeping the poker offering evolving – with promotions, customer service initiatives and elements to grow the business while maintaining the integrity of our reputation that we have built up.”
What do you find the most difficult parts of the job?
“Balancing work ethics versus happy staff. I invest into my team and put a lot of myself into the role. When something goes off plan, and I have to make tough decisions regarding someone’s future, it keeps me awake.”
You signed Kelly Saxby and Chris Gordon to represent your cardroom. You went with the local talent. Explain the theory behind that decision and why Kelly and Chris in particular?
“I wanted The Hippodrome Casino to be represented by the type of player that we appeal to. Go-getter players with great results that enjoy tournament play but also established cash players at a grass roots level. It was part of a bigger picture in our ‘Giving It Back’ campaign that’s a firm feature of our card room, awarding loyalty to our players. Both Kelly and Chris love The Hippodrome and were natural choices for Ambassadors.”
Why aren’t you a full-time poker pro?
“A few reasons: Bankroll! I don’t consider myself good enough to play full time and manage the variance. I’ve had a couple of great runs at WSOP, runner-up this year and last remaining British player in last year’s huge Colossus tournament, however, I’m firmly still in the learning zone. And as cheesy, as it sounds, I love my job. As long as I still wake up each day feeling as I do about my role at The Hippodrome Casino, full time will not be a feature in my thinking.”
What are the biggest difficulties trying to balance poker and business?
“There aren’t any. Business comes first, and I take time out to play the game I love when I can.”
If money wasn’t a concern, would you ditch everything and play poker full time?
“I don’t think so; I need more stimulation than that. I’m very results driven and self-motivated in business – I think I would miss the achievements as well as the staff and player interaction. If I win millions, though – come back and ask me again.”
If you could change one rule in poker, what would it be and why?
“The differences between American rules and those we are used to, especially when placing a bet. I always take a while to adjust to the US style of moving a stack of chips over the line, cutting down and removing some – those not used to it will shout ‘string bet’ every time. It’s so odd to see.”
Describe the moment in your life when you needed the most courage?
“I can think of a few, and they are all to do with walking away from a situation that wasn’t a healthy environment – whether it was a business or personal relationship. I’ve had to take a leap of faith and trust in myself and the optimism that closing one door will open another one.”
What is the one song that always makes you cry and why?
“Kenny Rogers: The Gambler, because it gives good advice that I don’t listen to.”
What is the one thing that can totally fuck up your day?
“Lack of sleep – insomnia is a condition that I wish I had never encountered. Hence why I’m writing this at 4 am in the morning before the 10 am start of the Millionaire Maker!”
If you had to eliminate one emotion from your life what would it be and why?
“Worry – if worrying isn’t going to fix the issue it’s a wasted emotion. And worrying never fixed a thing.”
If I gave you 10,000 hours to master anything, what would it be and why?
“I’d love to play the piano or a violin – I’d love to have a musical gift. At Dublin UKIPT one night a few of us gathered around the hotel piano and James Akenhead and Alex Goulder had a piano duel – it was awesome, and I was very jealous of their talent.”
You only get one life, what do you want to accomplish with yours?
“I’d like to leave a legacy of some sort? First female WSOP Main Event winner maybe?”