After some promising results in the last 18 months, UltimateBet pro Liv Boeree has proved she’s more than just a pretty face
The 25-year-old astrophysics graduate from Kent got into poker after taking part in reality TV show Ultimatepoker.com Showdown, where she was tutored by Phil Hellmuth. Since then Boeree has travelled the tournament circuit as online presenter for the EPT and caught her big break in 2008, winning the European Ladies Championship for $30k. She then signed a sponsorship deal with Absolute Poker (she has since transferred to UltimateBet), and has continued to prove her skills with a deep finish at the WPT World Championship in April 2009.
I graduated with an astrophysics degree at 21 but didn’t know what the hell I wanted to do with my life. Then I saw an advert for a reality TV show where you could win £100,000. I got through the auditions and it was a big secret what it was all about. Eventually it was revealed we’d be playing poker with coaching from Phil Hellmuth, Annie Duke and Devilfish. I’d never played poker before.
Annie sat me down after one really bad beat and told me to grow a thick skin if I was going to play this game and taught me the basics, such as why you should raise instead of call. She took me under her wing and basically mentored me for a few months. I didn’t win the show but I saw how Phil, Annie and Devilfish lived like rock stars. They’re rich, famous and travel the world playing poker – I thought there couldn’t be a better job. After the show I decided that in three years’ time I wanted to be a professional poker player.
European Ladies Championship
I’d never played any big live tournaments before [the ELC] and when I sat down Annette Obrestad was on my table which was pretty bad. She was great to watch, it was a pleasure. Once she was knocked out it was plain sailing as so many players were passive.
Winning the $30,000 was a lot of money and it gave me a huge amount of confidence. In theory I’m against women-only tournaments but I have very hypocritical thoughts. It’s slightly insulting to women because it’s saying that their cognitive abilities are not as good as men’s so they need their own tournaments. However, the tournaments are really good value! I’m going to play something if I feel like it’s good value and I have a strong edge. I will play them but I don’t really promote them.
Phil Hellmuth introduced me to Absolute Poker’s head of marketing who was looking for a new spokesmodel. Soon enough I had a deal, which was fantastic. I was an unknown quantity to them, which was why winning the ELC was huge for me. They thought maybe I could play after all.
I had to consider long and hard about joining Absolute after the scandal. But I knew the company was legitimate and the problems were a surprisingly long time ago. I would be stupid to turn the deal down just because some people have said they were bad once. I can understand why people were upset – it wasn’t a good thing for poker.
I get a lot of resentment from people saying I only have a deal because I’m a pretty girl. I’m not going to fool myself, that’s the reason I got a deal, but I want to prove myself and more than anything I want to have a major live event win under my belt within the next six months. It’s sad for people like Jeff Lisandro who’s a great player [but can’t get a sponsorship deal]. There are so many great, great poker players now that companies are looking for people who are very good with the media and identifiable. That’s why a lot of women are in demand. It must be frustrating for players who have astounding results and still can’t get a deal.
WPT World Championship
I went to the Bellagio to play in some side events and I final-tabled the first two I played. I then played a $2,500 super satellite for the main event, thinking I’d never win my way in but I did. It was a $25k buy-in and I was just so happy to be playing. My day one was brutal – I had Carlos Mortensen on my table. I’d heard various stories about what people think of his play, but from what I’ve seen he’s absolutely incredible. On day two I had Kathy Liebert, Nenad Medic and a few online wizards, but it went really well and I got up to about 400,000. The next thing I knew we were on the bubble. I thought, ‘Wow, am I really going to cash in this?’
The bubble burst but I lost a big pot soon after and ended up with 160k and the blinds at 8k/16k/2k. Then Justin Young raised UTG to 40,000 but only had 200k himself. He’d committed quite a lot of chips, I shoved with K-K, he snap-called me with 3c-4c and made a flush to knock me out. I was absolutely reeling at the way I got knocked out. I know he’s a good player and he knows better than to make that call. Obviously I was pleased with the $41,000 for coming 37th but I was really sick at how I went out.
A lot of people thought that if I wanted to be respected as a poker player I shouldn’t do stuff like this, but it’s fun! Play to your assets. I’m not going to go down the route of a glamour model. The shoot wasn’t lying in my underwear on a bed, it was rock ‘n’ roll style with whisky, fire and cowboy hats. I love that and I don’t see the harm in it.
It’s A Knockout
Halfway through the WSOP, PokerNews came up with the idea of [me] fighting their presenter Melissa Castello in a boxing match. I said okay to it [but] didn’t think it through that much. I thought it’d just be a fun, online thing, but the next thing I knew it had turned into a media storm with a press conference in the middle of the Rio!
Three days before the fight I found out that Melissa had been going to the boxing gym twice a day for the last two weeks while I hadn’t had a chance to do any training at all! I rushed down there and was taught the basics such as how to maximise my power. The next day I had 40 friends ring-side who’d come down to watch. Before I went out I looked in the mirror and imagined that I was invincible. I won a convincing decision and even got her to turn her back on me and run away. I whooped her ass!