Kara Scott on her Irish Open run, her table reputation and the perception of women’s poker

PokerPlayer catches up with paddypowerpoker.com Irish Open runner-up Kara Scott in this exclusive interview

Kara Scott has been around the poker scene for so long now that it’s hard to believe she has only been playing the game for two years. After an eye-catching 104th place finish in the 2008 WSOP Main Event, Kara outdid herself recently with an amazing runner-up finish in the paddypowerpoker.com Irish Open for €312,000.

We caught up with one of poker’s hottest talents for an exclusive interview…

How does it feel to be the runner-up in the 2009 paddypowerpoker.com Irish Open?

It feels pretty amazing actually. It’s a hell of a tournament so to come 2nd is great. I feel great about that.

Can you talk us through the early stages of your tournament?

Day 1 was pretty standard for me. I spent a lot of the day with Albert Iversen at my table and I got to see a lot of his game. It wasn’t the easiest of tables. There were definitely spots though where I gain some chips so I did that. I finished up around average.

Day 2 was much the same as I just hovered around the chip average wondering when I would be able to make some more chips. On Day 3 I spent the whole day with Iversen just to my left again which wasn’t great. He was the chipleader at my table for most of the day until I managed to get those chips off him and become chipleader myself before we played a massive pot where I made a move on him. Unfortunately it didn’t work out as I donked off most of my stack to him!

With such a good player on your left, how did that affect your game? Were there any big hands that came up that allowed you to gain a lot of chips?

I was trying to stay away from him. I thought he was the best player at the table. My plan was to not play pots with him and especially not down the streets because he’s basically going to own me in those situations. He’s just played so much more poker than me.

When I wdid inevitably get involved with him he was giving me a lot more credit for having stuff than he should. Eventually, we ended up having the big hand where I tried to make a move on him. I hadn’t done anything out of line in ages. Iversen was thinking for ages about whether he was going to call my all-in on the flop which I had completely missed.

I bet, he raised and I reraised all-in. He was looking at me and going, “you could be making a move but I know that you know that I could be making a move!” He made the call and then told me that he only called because he gave me credit as one of the type of players that could make that move. I said thank you and that I wish you had thought I was a donkey and a weak girl! It was nice to get credit for being a good player from somebody that I really respect.

There’s still a perceived image of women players being very weak-tight at the table. Do you see this when you’re playing and do you try to capitalise on it?

Definitely. I think there are two very distinct camps of men that I play against and some of them see women as very weak-tight. And then the others watch the play and make their decision based on that, such as what Albert Iversen did. He saw me picking spots at the table and knew that I knew what I was doing. You have to play against those players very differently.

Are they going to see me as a girl and assume that I always have the nuts when I make a bet or are they going to realise that I’m going to be playing well and pushing edges?

On Day 3 with 40 or 50 people left, did you look around and think that this may be your one big shot to win a huge tournament?

It certainly crossed my mind! It crossed my mind on Day 1 and 2 as well, I felt like I was playing well though I could definitely see holes in my game. Generally, my game falls down around the middle of the tournament and it became really clear to me during the Irish Open where the holes are in my game and for that I’m really grateful.

After the big hand I lost against Albert I was down to about 50,000 chips which was 6 or 7 big blinds. I was trying very hard not to get disappointed at that point. About 3 hands after I got crippled, I shoved with 10-10 with two people already in the pot. They both called and checked it down to the river on a very flushy, straighty board. I hit a third ten though to triple up.

From that point it was a grind until I hit a really good run of cards. I got moved to the feature table at the end of the day and won a really big pot against a guy who was trying to speech-play me. That was fun! I ended with quite a few chips and got myself into a good position.

How important was your WSOP run last year in steadying your nerves and giving you experience for this tournament?

If I hadn’t had the deep run at the WSOP I wouldn’t have been able to play as well as I did here. I find it an incredible endurance test I guess, just to be able to focus and concentrate for that long. There were times when it was excruciating, especially when I was short-stacked. I had the slowest player in the world on my table and I had to call the clock on him a few times.

Eventually, the tournament director came over and had to sit by him every time he had a decision to make. The whole table was going nuts! It was hard to be able to focus and not let go of the sight that I could still make it.

I had to focus on thinking about my equity and continually making the right decisions. I didn’t care if they worked or not but I really wanted to just make the right decisions.

What were your feelings going into the final table?

I didn’t want to climb the money ladder. The pay structure is so steep, ridiculously so. One of the things Nick Wealthall told me when I called him to get some advice was to think of it as am SNG. The pay is top-heavy and the top 3 basically get paid.

Did you get a lot of advice from people at this stage?

The best poker players that I know are constantly talking to their friends and getting advice about their own play. I think it would be crazy not to do that. I was lucky that Jon Kalmar was there who is a good friend. Right before the WSOP he gave me some fantastic advice which really helped. He was a huge help here too.

And also Nick Wealthall, who has always been my poker coach, was a great help. Even if it was just simple things like “OK, you’ve just lost a massive pot, calm down”, it was invaluable.

What big hands stand out from the final table for you? I know you got involved in a huge pot with A-Q vs K-K?

Antanas Gueorguiev opened the pot and he was a fantastic player. With the final five remaining I had noticed that a lot of people were trying to steal from early position. So that meant to me that he didn’t necessarily have to have a massive hand there.

And then Andrew Pantling, who I thought may have been the best player at the table, also knows that Antanas could be opening light so he flat-called. I raised with A-Q basically as a squeeze before Antanas pushed all-in. Looking at the blinds and antes and all the equity in the pot, for me I think that’s a call. Obviously I was behind but it was a very weird thing – when the Ace hit on the river, everyone at the table said they knew that was going to happen. I felt bad for Antanas but I still think my play is a good one and I’m glad it worked out!

Going into heads-up with the massively experienced Christer Johansson were you still very confident you could win?

By the time we got 3 or 4 handed there were so many more chips in play compared to the blinds because we had concentrated all the stacks. I knew that would mean a lot more play further down the streets which is where I often fall down due to a lack of experience. Because of that I was a little bit nervous. As much as I was nervous, I was also very excited though because part of this is about improving your own game and having the chance to play against someone as good as Christer is a great opportunity.

Do you think you played well in the heads-up?

Q:I think I made some definite mistakes. I didn’t play terribly but on reflection there were definite mistakes. I played one big hand far too passively. I was trying to be quite aggressive, especially after I lost an early big pot to him. That pot had really rattled me early. I needed to take a step away and focus again.

I nearly managed to get back to even before the final hand. I made a check-raise all-in on the flop with middle pair and he called me with top pair. I heard an interview he did though which was really nice where he said he very nearly folded to me. But he figured I’d be able to make a move like that and could have many drawing hands too. In the interview he said “after all, top pair is top pair”, and it’s very true.

On the final and before that on the feature table you are surrounded by big crowds and TV camera everywhere. Do you relish that type of atmosphere when you’re playing poker?

I think I have a bit of an advantage in that respect compared to most players as I am very used to the cameras. Also, the Irish Open is a very friendly event and the rail were so friendly. They were just a really great crowd. I felt very supported by them and also I had a lot of friends there which made the whole experience a lot more comfortable.

I was a little bit nervous going onto the final table but mainly because I didn’t want to appear like a donkey on TV!

Before this you had a decent cash at the recent EPT Budapest. Do you think that cash and this result signal how much you have improved as a player since last year’s WSOP?

I don’t think I have improved as much as I should have. My game has definitely improved yet I just haven’t capitalised enough on the resources available to me. Its something I need to do – I need to play more and be more serious about my game. I’m so grateful to have gotten deep in two major tournaments and now I just need to play more to capitalise on that.

Are you now confident playing against some of the best players in the world at these events?

Well, I wouldn’t want to be the one person left at a table full of world-class players but if I can pick them out and pick my spots carefully so that I can be a favourite against them, I feel a lot more confident. I no longer panic and think they are just going to read my soul! Sometimes they can, but mostly they can’t!

I feel a lot more comfortable now and I think my game improved so much playing against better players. I have no problem saying that I think there were better players at the final table than me. There were better players all throughout the tournament. But they just didn’t get the cards at the right time unlike me.

Do you ever feel that you have more to prove to people because of your background in televised poker?

There is sometimes some resentment but not from good players. They would just be happy to see someone they think may be a fish sit at their table because it means they are likely to win. If I play against them and they decide they like my game, then that’s great.

There’s a lot of people out there who don’t seem to think I can play well, and im not sure why. My whole career as a poker player has been on TV. I started out on Poker Night Live when people saw me play literally just after I had learnt the game and didn’t even know what a flop was.

I love poker and I want to get better at it. I don’t want to be the fish who everybody is taking chips from.

Does this result mean we will be seeing a lot more of you on the poker circuit now?

Hopefully! I’m definitely going to put some of the money away into a poker bankroll. I’d like to play more live and work on my game. I’d love to play the GUKPTs around England especially as I’ve never played any of those.

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