Pro Katie Stone Reflects on Poker and Motherhood

Katie Stone (pictured) is always busy. Between raising her son Luca and playing professional poker, Stone is also an ambassador for Stone makes part of her living playing online and this month, she will step into the live realm to battle in the Borgata Winter Poker Open. The BWPO festival is highlighted by the $3,500 buy-in…

Matt Clark
11 de enero de 2019

katie piedra
Katie Stone (pictured) is always busy. Between raising her son Luca and playing professional poker, Stone is also an ambassador for Stone makes part of her living playing online and this month, she will step into the live realm to battle in the Borgata Winter Poker Open. The BWPO festival is highlighted by the $3,500 buy-in WPT Borgata Winter Poker Open Main Event with a whopping $3 million guarantee.

Stone took some time out of her schedule to talk to about her life as a poker player, mother, and a face of one of the leading online poker sites in the United States.

Run us through a typical day:

7:30 a.m.: Good morning! 3-year olds wake up early!
8:30 a.m.: Take Luca to preschool
9:30-3:30 p.m.: Live poker or working from home; poker study and hand history reviews, writing articles, working on projects with; laundry, grocery shopping, Dr’s appointments, etc.
4 p.m.: Pick Luca up from preschool
5:30 p.m.: Make or order dinner, start bath and bedtime routine
7:30 p.m.: Start an online session that can last until 2 a.m.
1 a.m. (most nights): Sleep

How has life changed for you as a mother and have you noticed any challenges that are specific to being a professional poker player?

Life before the baby was certainly much simpler, however becoming a parent has inspired me personally and professionally in so many ways. Currently, my main source of income is playing online and live tournament poker here in New Jersey which means long sessions most days, and I also have other responsibilities with my sponsorship as well as a few other writing and podcast projects. Additionally, poker has never been tougher so finding enough time to study has been one of the toughest but most rewarding parts since 2018 was by far the best year of my career. With these added challenges, however, I’ve found increased passion and captivation in everything I’m working on and juggling everything with parenting has forced me to be more diligent and focused on each of these jobs. The combined effort has helped me zero in on what I want to do with my life and career and I’m very thankful for that.

katie piedra

You’ve been very involved in the promotion of women’s poker for many years, why made you so passionate about it?

When I first started playing poker in 2005, my first instinct was to hire a coach. My next instinct was to hire a female coach, and this is when I started to understand that at every level of the game, men were the majority and I think this is where it all started for me. Not only did I want to improve at poker, I wanted to better understand this gap to help find ways to bring more women to poker. I wasn’t in agreement with the traditional sentiment of poker being a ‘man’s game’ and I felt that women who were able to conquer this notion in the poker room would be better equipped to conquer these notions in everyday life.

By the end of 2009, I was playing online MTTs full time and the primary platform for poker discussion and learning was 2+2. Anyone will tell you though, that 2+2 can be a harsh environment for women and so I like many women simply ‘lurked’ rather than participating in discussions or asking questions about hands. Over the next 1.5 years, I became more comfortable posting in the online forums as I made friends with fellow online players (including my future husband!) and was in a few great Skype chats. In early 2011 I petitioned 2+2 to start a women’s forum. Later that year, and largely thanks to Kevmath, TWSS  – a forum dedicated to women’s poker and the issues surrounding it – was created and I was made one of the moderators. It is still active today, and I am very proud of the threads (relationships, pregnancy, LGBTQ) that have been able to survive there when they simply wouldn’t have had the chance prior to that.

Those ‘lurking’ years on 2+2 also showed me that in addition to there being little interest about female gamers or ways to bring women into poker, the overall notion of women in poker was generally not taken seriously. To counter this, I formed The Grindettes in early 2011 with Katie Dozier, Jamie Kerstetter, and Jennifer Shahade as we had all noticed 1) how tough it had been to even find other women who were playing online poker regularly and 2) women in poker were mostly being used as digital marketing tactics rather than highlighting gaming talent. We thought that by joining together as a group of women who were playing online poker (mostly) full time in addition to other successful careers, we could help shift the focus and hopefully inspire other women to give it a try as well. The four of us are very close to this day, have made remarkable strides in our respective careers and I’m proud of what we’ve all accomplished.

You have a background in chess, did this have anything to do with you getting into poker?

The average age to learn chess in my family was 3. My chess lineage goes back to at least my great-grandfather, who immigrated to the US from Germany. I played throughout school but was more interested in horses and basketball, so chess took a backseat…until college. One summer, I organized a week-long chess camp for kids in Dallas, TX that eventually grew over the next 5 years into a 100+ city summer chess camp tour around the U.S. Exiting chess and entering poker was a deliberate, common decision among chess players at the time as poker had reached peak popularity, and by the end of 2006 I’d sold the majority of my company shares and had effectively switched games. It was an amazing experience and I have stayed in touch with some of our past students and their parents, watching them do remarkable things with their lives. My son’s chess lessons start soon!

You became a sponsored pro with a few years ago, what is like to work with them? 

As a full-time online MTT player for the past 10 years, I’ve witnessed many of the ups and downs online poker has experienced. I moved to Mexico post-Black Friday to continue playing online and then back to my home state of New Jersey in 2014 when online poker became legalized there. I’d been playing live poker at Borgata since 2008 and on for a few years before I became a sponsored pro, so I am their longtime customer first. I’ve seen and experienced first-hand how dedicated Borgata is to online poker and the poker community. They have consistently gone above and beyond for the players, transparently acting in their best interests all while continuing to enhance and improve their experience at the tables. It was a perfect fit because of how passionate I am about doing what’s right for the players as well as bringing more women into poker. It’s also really nice to be a part of a team that is genuinely looking out for the long-term health of the poker community. I’m thankful that my aspirations for playing poker, improving player conditions and promoting the game to women can all come together in this form.

Both WPT and Borgata are taking some strong steps towards bringing more women into poker by hosting their first ever Brunch and Learn event which is featuring instruction from frequent WPT Tour poker pros Jessica Dawley and Loni Harwood on Saturday, January 26.

The class is followed by a $120 buy-in Ladies Deepstack re-entry tournament that is open to all levels and starts at 1 p.m. This will hopefully be the first of several live and online initiatives geared towards bringing more women to poker in 2019. The WPT Championship Event starts the following day, with online qualifiers running on for a few weeks before that.

I had a great time commentating three final table streams at Borgata in 2018, including the WPT Championship Event in September. This January’s final table will be played, live streamed and filmed for television on March 13, 2019, at the HyperX Esports Arena at Luxor in Las Vegas and I’m hoping to be there for some poker or commentary action as well!

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