Poker’s always on the lookout for a new female star, and in Melanie Weisner, we may just have found one.
So, you’ve just landed at JFK after a brief poker sojourn to the Caribbean, you’re pro Jared Fogle and you’re in the mood for a little prop action. In steps Melanie Weisner, new online starlet and one of our ones to watch in 2011, to take a ride on the luggage carousel in return for…yes, a simple dealer button.
Well played to Melanie for doing the bet, but then she’s obviously been moving in poker circles for long enough to already be a fiend for the side action. Already a major player at the 1K heads-up SNGs and the big weekly guarantees under the name “Callisto5”, Melanie’s built up a stash of winnings pushing the $600k mark. Recently, however, with a new sponsor on board, she’s slowly been branching out into the live arena, particularly in Europe, where she recently won two Ladies’ events on the EPT, and came 2nd in a major Heads-Up Championship in Paris, France.
As we said last month in our guide to the best players for 2011, she may have had limited success on the live scene so far, but that’s all set to change this year. She’s got the game, she’s got the roll, she’s got the personality. And now she’s got an exclusive photoshoot in WPT Poker magazine. What more could a girl want?
Melanie, how did you first get into poker? Was it really from watching your brother playing online and winning?
Yes. I had never seen anything like what he did. I didn't know that the kind of money he was making was even possible to earn at my age, let alone by playing cards over the internet! I didn't know anything about the game but I was determined to learn everything I could about it. My brother wasn't interested in teaching me, though, so I forged my own path, fell in love with the game and never looked back.
How’s your brother doing now? Are you ahead or is he?
He's doing great. Overall I'm up on total profit/winnings but he's gaining on me now that he's playing a lot more. He's very talented and plays unlike anyone I've ever seen, myself included, and I'm sure he'll do great things in poker.
What was it about the game you were especially drawn to when you were getting into poker?
It was mostly the competitive aspect for me, especially a competition that allowed you to outsmart the other people. The whole idea of poker seemed like I was getting away with something when I won, even though interestingly enough it was something I put more effort into than any other aspect of my life. It was also cool knowing that I was one of the only girls who was winning at the same level as all of the guys. As I got more and more involved, it became even more mentally challenging and satisfying, and that's the beautiful thing about poker –you will always be mentally stimulated by the game.
What was your bread ‘n’ butter online when you started making proper money and what do you mostly play now?
I loved multi-table tournaments but I started grinding heads-up Sit ‘n’ Gos to fund my tournament bankroll. I used to grind 14-hour days of MTTs. Now I play mostly heads up Sit ‘n’ Gos and just MTTs on Sundays, and as many events as I can possibly play on the live circuit.
What tips would you give low-to-medium stakes heads-up players? Is it all position, position, position?
Honestly, I think position is much farther down the line than experience. It's really about how much you play, how much you’re open to learning while you play, and how much you challenge yourself to do better. If you eat, breathe, and sleep poker, you'll become better and move up the ranks. As with most things, talent is necessary, but serious work and effort is much more important. Lots of the regulars like to establish dominance at different stake levels and the only way to move up ranks is to play them, and you will become a much better player for it. Analyzing hands, thinking and talking about hands, and applying and utilizing all of the knowledge that comes from your wealth of experience are the true tools it takes to move up in any form of poker. Heads-up is great because you see and play so many hands and you can really focus on dynamic and gameflow because there’s only you and your opponent and nothing else going on at the table, and I think playing a lot of it really accelerates your progress.
You had your first Vegas experience last summer. How was that and what will you do differently next year?
It was really incredible. The whole atmosphere is unlike anything else in the world. There is nothing like walking into the Amazon Room at the Rio and hearing nothing but the sound of a thousand people shuffling chips. I think I played well and getting another 35 live tournaments under my belt was incredibly useful. I think next year I will pace myself a little better so I don't burn out, and hopefully run a little better than the past year!
What were the hardest things about moving from online to live?
Probably understanding what people are doing and why they are doing it, and being aware of the different mindsets and metagame levels that you get online. It's easy to out-level yourself or “valuetown” yourself off a bunch of other things when you aren't used to adjusting to play in live tournaments. The structures require some adjustments as well. For me, I was so used to playing people online that knew a lot of the "standard" moves and rules for stacks and bet sizing and I was irked certain moves weren't working because other people weren’t on that same level. I found myself really out of place facing all these "non-standard" things live. It took about half a year of playing on the live circuit for this to really sink in and for me to start understanding it as well as I did online. I'm still working on it.
Do you move in poker circles much more than you used to? Who do you admire in the game, who do you call friends and how have they helped you improve, if at all?
Yes, of course. Poker is my life and most of my friends are professional poker players. I have such an amazing respect for my friends on the circuit and online – they are incredibly intelligent people with tons of talent and a lot to offer in so many different facets of poker and life. I identify best with a few groups of online grinders who were college kids like me and played MTTs with me from the beginning, and they have been invaluable to me in my poker growth and my development as a player and a person. It's really important to surround yourself with great people when you play poker for a living, because you can go through really tough and trying times and it's invaluable to have people around you to understand and support you. A few of these like Dan "shortsharpshock" DiPasquale, Kevin "WuWizard" MacPhee, Mike "Gags30" Gagliano, Eric "AvrilSharapova" Ladny, and Lauren Kling are incredible online players and amazing inspirations in life, both on and off the poker table.
Do you find any added challenges to playing poker as a woman on the circuit?
Yes, it's more of a challenge to be taken seriously, although this can be an advantage on the table because of the sparse number of women playing poker successfully. Women playing poker are usually met with more doubt than credit so it feels like there is more to prove, to prove that you actually are a serious competitor in the game and you're not just someone looking for attention, to become someone's girlfriend, or whatever other secondary motivation women's poker playing is unfortunately sometimes attributed to. However, people like Vanessa Selbst and Liv Boeree are doing a great job championing women in poker and it's nice to be a part of a small group of successful players paving the way for more smart women to get involved in the game.
What was your family’s reaction to you becoming a poker pro?
The struggle along the way was hard, mostly because my family saw the emotional tolls it took on me and the stress it caused when I was trying to work my way up while still maintaining my grades in college. My GPA didn't suffer so luckily for me there was not much they could technically complain about while I was balancing both lives but it was definitely stressful! However, once I finished school and started becoming more and more successful, my family became very supportive and understanding and have shared a lot of the happiness that has come my way.
Do you ever get hit on at the tables? What’s the worst line you’ve heard?
All the time. ALL the time. I've had people include dates as part of their conditions for calling or folding, which are usually the funniest. It's pretty bad when you lose a pot and someone offers to take you out as consolation, which happened to me several times at WSOP. The worst lines are always the trashy tragic ones, like, "Heyyyy....nice pair!”
What's the plan for the next year – more online, more live? What are your main objectives?
Definitely to play a ton more live events. Playing live is so incredible and travelling is amazing too. I fell in love with live poker on the European circuit so it would mean the most to me to win an EPT main event. Winning the Heads-up event at the WSOP is also another of my dreams because it would personally mean so much to me as a heads-up player. I want to be a role model for other smart women wanting to play poker and be able to encourage that during my career.
There was talk of you coming to live in Europe so you could play more EPTs. If that’s the case, where would you settle and why?
I'm still talking of this. I think I would either live in London, Prague, or Tel Aviv. London is a great travel hub and a really fantastic city. There’s no language barrier either so that's a plus! Prague is one of the most beautiful cities I've ever seen and I lived there for six months a few years ago and I absolutely loved it. Tel Aviv is like a second home to me. I love Israel and have a lot of friends and family there. As of now there are still a lot of events I want to play in the States, so if I move to Europe it would be either in four or five months from now or after the WSOP.
Who are your personal tips (other than yourself, of course) for players to watch in 2011?
There are so many talented players out there right now, so just to name a few – Eric Ladny is one of the most amazing players I know and as soon as he's finished school (I mean, look at what he's already done during school!) he's going to blow up so big he will leave everyone else in the dust. Lauren Kling is one of my best friends and an incredibly talented girl and people are going to be in a lot of trouble as she gets more and more experience on the live circuit. I think I have finally turned Dan DiPasquale to the dark side of live MTTs. He's one of the best heads-up Sit ‘n’ Go players but I've been recently singing the praises of tournaments and he finally took the hint, final-tabling the WCOOP Main Event. Andrew Lichtenberger is also incredible and one of the smartest people I know, and I'm sure we're gonna see more great things from him. Scott Seiver is also owning everything and everyone he plays and I wouldn't be surprised at all to see him win a major title this year.
Finally, your dream poker table – you and five people from history, alive or dead.
Anne Boleyn, Jesus Christ, Aldous Huxley, Golda Meir, and Albert Einstein. I have no idea how the poker would even go but the table talk would undoubtedly be the most fascinating conversation of a lifetime.