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Newhall woman cleans house in world poker

Tiffany Michelle claims highest poker winnings ever for a female

Posted: July 19, 2008 12:23 a.m.
Updated: September 19, 2008 5:04 a.m.
Tiffany Michelle plays in main event during the World Series of Poker at the Rio casino in Las Vegas on Monday. Tiffany Michelle plays in main event during the World Series of Poker at the Rio casino in Las Vegas on Monday.
Tiffany Michelle plays in main event during the World Series of Poker at the Rio casino in Las Vegas on Monday.

Hevad Rain Khan kept his mouth shut as he walked away from his seat at the No Limit Hold’em World Championship at the Rio Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.

Known among poker circles as the most animated and excitable player on the World Series of Poker circuit, Khan would shout some kind of nonsense and put a chair on his head, play invisible basketball, or just run around screaming each time he won a sizable pot.

Last weekend, there would be no screaming, no chair on the head, no invisible basketball, no running around — and ultimately, no sizable pot.

All he could do was quietly walk away as all of his remaining chips were passed to Tiffany Michelle.

“I actually had the best pair when I beat him,” she said. “It was very surreal. I believe this is the start of something special. It is just the beginning.”

For card-playing women, Michelle’s poker run may indeed be the beginning.

In a game that is otherwise male-dominated, Michelle’s performance in last week’s premiere poker event may have done more than break the gender barrier — she may have ushered in a new era of poker player.

While no woman has ever won the “main event,” Michelle still made history — her 17th-place finish earned her $334,534. The amount was the highest total ever won by a woman in what card enthusiasts consider poker’s signature event.

The previous high performances for a female at the top billing poker event were Annie Duke’s 10th-place finish in 2000 — $52,160 in winnings — and Barbara Enright’s fifth-place, $140,180 winning in 1995.

“There is a lot of pressure and weight put on now that I won,” Michelle said. “Women have a huge advantage playing poker. It is fun to beat up on the boys.”

The 24-year-old Acton native hit the poker tables about four years ago, when she was part of the growing contingent of media outlets covering the World Series of Poker.

“It was very strange to be sitting on the other side of the fence,” said Michelle, an aspiring actress who covered poker’s premiere event as a media representative for several outlets. “Many of them underestimated me and didn’t know what to expect.”

Yet, cards were always in her blood. She learned how to play poker at the same place she went to school — home.

“I grew up playing cards since a child,” she said. “I was always a gamey person.”

And play cards she did.

After a couple of poker players approached her about playing in this year’s tournament, Michelle agreed to accept their offer to pay her $10,000 buy-in fee in exchange for a share of her winnings.

“I was in a zone, making the right plays,” she said of her performance. “The thing for me, I already won something.

“I had a title as last female standing.”

Now, Michelle hopes to remain standing so she can tackle her next goal — pursuing a career as an actress and filmmaker.

“I am such the girl next door,” she said. “But I would love do something dramatic, such as directing movies and having something I created finding their ways into people’s homes.”

In addition to her historic performance last week, Michelle has been building a filmography that includes a visible role in the recent Will Ferrell comedy “Semi-Pro.” 

“I get that what I did was a big deal,” she said. “But I still have to go out there and prove myself.”
She will begin proving herself with a series of movie auditions when she returns to her Newhall home in the next few days.

She is also mulling over a few poker-related offers, including a possible deal to work the professional poker circuit and play in a legends tour at the Bicycle Club in nearby Bell Gardens.

The 2008 World Series of Poker had a record 58,720 participants, making it the largest and richest event in the tournament’s 39-year history. The total prize pool for the 55-event, 47-day poker tournament in Las Vegas was a record $180.7 million — $20.8 million more than 2007.

Michelle missed the final table and the chance to earn millions by only a few spots. However, she may have severely dented the proverbial glass ceiling and pioneered a new era of talented female poker players.

“I get that what I did was historic,” she said.


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