Leilani Dowding, the UK’s smartest glamour model and Celebrity Poker player, gets her chips out!
With 11 GCSEs and three ‘A’ Levels, glamour model Leilani Dowding doesn’t fit the stereotypical image of a Page 3 girl. A self-proclaimed swot at school, she reckons her teachers would have a coronary if they knew she gets her baps out for a living. But after being signed up by Ladbrokes, the former Miss Great Britain is playing with pairs of a very different nature…
WHEN DID YOU FIRST PLAY POKER?
I started playing about a year ago when Ladbrokes approached me to do a photo shoot with Roy ‘The Boy’ Brindley. They asked if I was interested in learning how to play and set me up with an account. With the type of computer I had, I couldn’t play on the site. I was really worried they wouldn’t see me play, so I got my dad to play for me. The plan backfired when he ran out of money!
WHAT HAPPENED THEN?
I didn’t play for a while after that. Then Barry Hearn’s son, Eddie, asked me to play in a live tournament. I went to the Matchroom office to have a chat, and we had a practise session. I was hooked. In the run up to the event, I’d drop in once or twice a week when they’d have a game on.
ANY AMBITIONS TO PLAY IN BIG POKER TOURNAMENTS LIKE JENNIFER TILLY?
Yeah, definitely, but I want to get really good first. I’m planning to go to the WSOP. I don’t feel ready to play in the Main Event yet, but I think you can learn a lot from watching.
WHAT’S YOUR STRATEGY?
When I started playing online, I made a rule that when I won three tournaments in a row, I could go up a level. If I lose three in a row, I move back down. I’m on a winning streak on the $10 sit-and-go tables at the moment.
DO YOU FIND MEN EASIER TO PLAY AGAINST IF THEY THINK YOU’RE JUST A MODEL?
Yes, definitely. And I don’t want that to change. I’d love to start doing really well, so I can hustle them. I’m actually very shy, which surprises people, and playing live brings that out. It got me into trouble when I first started playing, because it came across as arrogance. When I get more confident though, I’d love to play dumb, saying something like, ‘Does a flush beat a straight?’ when I’ve got the nuts.
DO YOU PLAY UP THE GLAMOUR PUSS ELEMENT TO UNNERVE PLAYERS?
I’m too embarrassed to because I don’t dress like that.
WHICH IS IRONIC WHEN YOU GET PAID TO TAKE YOUR CLOTHES OFF FOR A LIVING…
Absolutely. I’m hoping once I get better and more self-assured at poker, I’ll be able to work it and manipulate other players. A couple of my male friends do say I put them off their game. I’m more intimidated by female players – I’ve seen women acting audaciously. When they raise and bluff, all the men believe them.
COULD YOU SEE YOURSELF DOING THIS AS A CAREER?
I’d love to. I’m really into it, but I don’t think winning at the $2 and $5 tables is putting me quite in that league yet. I don’t want to be known as the model that can’t really play, but gets freerolled anyway. Of course, I want to be entered into tournaments, but I want to be able to play really well and then maybe get a sponsorship deal.
YOU WERE STUDYING FOR AN ECONOMICS DEGREE WHEN A MODEL SCOUT SPOTTED YOU. HAS THAT BACKGROUND HELPED?
I was really good at maths and physics at school. But since modelling, I think I’ve gone a bit braindead! If I can get my brain working again, I’ll start calculating the odds more.
ANY OTHER CAREER AMBITIONS?
I want to do more television work. I did some interviewing on the Ladbrokes poker cruise and really enjoyed it.
CAN MY EDITOR HAVE YOUR PHONE NUMBER?
Leilani’s increasingly spending her days online in between shoots. You can chat and play against her, screenname The Vixen, on the tables at Ladbrokes.com.
She’s been teaching her football player fiancé the rudiments of the game and he loves it. When they get married, she’ll become tonguetwister Leilani Aliadiere.
There’s no love lost between the two glamour girls. Leilani doesn’t mince her words: ‘She’s vulgar and gives Page 3 girls a bad name.’ Miaow!
If you like Leilani then you will love PokerPlayer magazine. You can try a digital copy HERE