Tournament titan Kathy Liebert has amassed one of the best resumes in poker making her our No.1 female poker icon
Kathy Liebert is not just a great female poker player, she is a great poker player. It’s an important distinction because it’s too easy to focus on how far she is ahead of all the other female players and forget how much she has achieved in the game as a whole. To put it in perspective, consider the following players: Marcel Luske, Tony G, Gavin Griffin, Howard Lederer. All household names but in terms of money won from tournaments, Liebert wipes the floor with them all. Over the past 15 years she has earned over $5.5m from tournaments, putting her in the same bracket as ElkY and Doyle Brunson. It’s an astonishing feat for a player who wasn’t part of the online generation and who by modern standards came into the game late.
To really understand why she is such an iconic poker figure, you have to go back to the early 1990s when this former business and finance graduate was still propping in local card rooms in Colorado. A friend encouraged her to try her hand in a Las Vegas tournament at the Gold Coast ($100 Omaha hi/lo) and after finishing 2nd out of 470 entries Liebert was hooked.
What stands out over the next two-and-a-half years was her metronomic ability to finish on a final table week-in, week-out out of hundreds of entries. Every single one of the 28 cashes from July 1994 to March 1997 is a final table finish. That year, she went into her first WSOP campaign brimming with confidence and almost won her first bracelet, finishing runner up to Max Stern in the $3,000 no-limit hold’em event.
But instead of letting the $123k change her direction, she continued to observe immaculate bankroll management, playing the mid-stakes tournament circuit, flitting between Reno, LA and Las Vegas and racking up those final tables.
Liebert’s real breakthrough came in March 2002 when she became not only the first woman to win a major poker tournament but also the first to win $1m when she took down the inaugural PartyPoker Million Cruise. The final table included such big names as Phil Hellmuth and Chris ‘Jesus’ Ferguson but Liebert emerged victorious.
The result propelled Liebert into an amazing eight-month heater which included three WPT final tables and a WSOP final table. One of the few accolades missing from her mantelpiece was a coveted bracelet but in the 2003 Series it looked guaranteed in the $1,500 limit hold’em event. After a marathon final table, Liebert found herself in an epic heads-up duel against off-duty Horseshoe poker dealer John Arrage. She managed to reverse the 3/1 chip deficit and Arrage seemed to be content with 2nd place. But as the blinds went up to $5k/$10k, Arrage went on a 25-minute heater, dealing the hammer blow when he flopped a full house with pocket sevens.
Liebert couldn’t stage another comeback and the poker world was left wondering whether she would ever bounce back from such heartbreak. It didn’t take long to find the answer. The following year, Liebert blasted through another limit hold’em field to win her first bracelet and cemented her status as one of the best players of all time. Since then, she has racked up a string of huge cashes in open events like the WPT Borgata, the Aussie Millions and the PCA.
Despite her live game roots, she has shown an impressive ability to evolve her game to compete with the online generation – in March this year she was painfully close to closing out her first major no limit hold’em championship, finishing runner up in the WPT Shooting Stars main event and taking home her second biggest cash of all time.
Liebert is undeniably one of the legends of the game and refreshingly one who has avoided the trappings of fame. She may keep herself out of the limelight but she remains our top female poker icon.
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