Angelina Rich: From Fashion Designer to Poker Pro

Angelina Rich4

I first noticed Angelina Rich’s name last year, when she won the Women’s Event at EPT San Remo. But at the same venue history was made with Victoria Coren becoming the first two-time EPT-champion, and all of my attention was focused on Coren’s achievement – and Rich faded into the background.

This year though, it’s been impossible to ignore the former fashion designer and her accomplishments at the felt. At the end of 2014 Rich hadn’t even made it to the top 100 of the Global Poker Index Player of the Year Ladies. This year she sits in 12th place!

First Rich won the Terminator Event at the Aussie Millions for $27,255 in January, and then she outlasted nearly 2,000 players in The Mid-State Poker Tour Main Event in Las Vegas this summer, taking home $215,815 for the win. Just recently she finished in 11th place of the WSOPE Oktoberfest Event in Berlin for $15,384 and in 10th place in a Hyper Turbo Event at EPT Malta for $1,567.

This impressive run made me curious, and I caught up with Angelina Rich to hear more about her poker career, women in poker and her life as a full-time grinder.

First and foremost, congrats with an amazing year. Last year you went deep in a couple of tournaments and you won the Women’s Event at EPT San Remo, but this year’s been absolutely crazy! You won an event at the Aussie Millions. You took down The Mid-State Poker Tour Main Event, and just two weeks ago you went deep in a couple of events at the WSOPE and EPT Malta. What is going on?
“Thanks! Overall it has been an extremely successful year for me. I would attribute my success to doing a lot of hard work away from the tables on improving my game, and taking risks by playing larger buy-in tournaments. I transitioned from playing low stakes online to mid stakes online to jumping into live tournaments very quickly, luckily it worked out really well! I think confidence plays a big factor into my results. My first win in Australia really set the tone for the year and gave me the added boost to push on and get some more results. A huge reason my results have been so successful is due to the people who have taught and mentored me over the last couple of years.”

You started to play poker only two years ago. How did you get into poker, and how did you get that good so fast?
“I learned how to play from people that I went to high school with. They have been playing since high school, and playing professionally for many years. I initially moved in with them, when they were living abroad to pursue a career in the fashion industry. They persuaded me to give poker a try and the rest is history. I’ve been playing ever since. I have been extremely lucky being surrounded by successful players from the outset. My boyfriend [Alex Lynskey] also plays professionally which has really helped my game.”

You are only the second woman to win an event and a gold ring at the Aussie Millions; the first one being Annette Obrestad in 2010. And you are the first woman to ever win a Mid-States Poker Tour Main Event (MSPT). Is that something you take pride in?
“It felt amazing being the first and only female to win an MSPT event, and it is something I’m very honored, proud, and privileged to have achieved!”

Tell us a bit about winning the MSPT. Why did you decide to play the event? What was your expectation? And how did you approach final table play; ultimately beating Kevin Stammen heads-up?
“This was the first event that I played in after arriving in Vegas for the WSOP. Although it wasn’t a WSOP event, I heard that it had a big guarantee so I decided to give it a go. I hadn’t had much experience with live tournaments that were $1,000 or more so it felt like I was really taking a shot, especially in a field as big as it was. The way I approached the final table was to just play the best that I could, and not let anyone try to run me over or target me because I was a girl. I played pretty aggressively, which I think helped me acquire a decent amount of chips. Once we were four handed, the whole table decided that we wanted to make a deal. At this point I had the most chips so I was awarded the trophy.”

Do you have a strategy playing large field tournaments like the MSPT?
“I would say that you should be well prepared for long days. I think it’s very important to be well rested as well as eating good food that is going to keep you going throughout the day. Also going into an event with a positive mentality is very important. Other than this, you just have to play your best!”

What’s your take on women-only tournament? Are they good or bad for the game?
“I think women-only tournaments are great for the game! I think it really encourages ladies to play, who might be intimidated by the fields that are predominantly filled with men. I think it’s a good way to ease into playing larger field tournaments as well. The women’s events tend to be pretty small fields, so they can be good arena to hone your skills and gain some confidence.”

Lately there’s been a lot of discussion about sexism in the poker community, and for example Cate Hall has spoken about ”poker’s women problem”. What’s your take on the issue? And have you experienced this kind of misogynist behavior at the poker tables?
“I believe that there are many pros and cons to being a woman in poker. I do agree with Cate Hall’s standpoint, that if women feel uncomfortable in their environment they are less likely to come back and play again. If people are made to feel uncomfortable in a certain situation, this will clearly reduce the likelihood of the people putting themselves through the same situation again; in turn this reduces the number of new or recreational players returning to the tables. I like that she says, “This is not about feelings. This is about money.” I think that this is definitely something that we should cater to from a business standpoint. Personally I am thick-skinned and can take these inappropriate or misogynistic behaviours light heartedly. That being said it is not okay, and still an issue that needs to be addressed.

Despite the obvious negatives, I do find that in being a woman there are many advantages when playing poker. Some of these things include; table image, the ability to exploit that table image, and the feeling that some men want to take it easy on you, and perhaps will play softer against you as a result. Although gender discrimination exists in the poker world, I think these advantages can contribute to my profitability.”

How can we attract more women to the game?
“I think having more women’s events with different stake levels is important. Also it’s a volume thing. There are rarely women’s events at series, and when there are, there is only usually only one tournament with around a $300 buy in. Many of the pro women players don’t even end up playing the women’s event, because there is better structured, higher buy-in tournaments scheduled at the same time. Advertising these women’s events also needs to be improved upon.”

You have a background in fashion design? Have you quit fashion all together to become a professional poker player?
“I realized shortly after getting my degree in fashion design, that it was a long brutal road to working your way up in the fashion industry. You have to be very patient and very determined. I was willing to do these things in order to work my way to the top, but I sort of just fell into poker along the way. I would say its something that I’ll likely go back to, because I still have a passion for it. But right now it’s just not really what I want to do.”

You are quite the globetrotter and seem to enjoy traveling. You have lived in Australia, and now you live in Rosarito, Mexico. Did you move to Mexico in order to still play online poker? And was it a hard decision to make?
“Yes, I moved to Mexico to primarily play online poker. My whole life, all I really wanted to do was travel. So for me, moving to various foreign countries came very naturally and was an easy adjustment. I wouldn’t say I “live” anywhere really, because I have been traveling constantly for about two years now. I haven’t stayed in one place for more then two months at a time. It does get hard at times being away from family and friends.”

What are your plans for the rest of the year poker-wise?
“As of now the plan is to take a break and do some traveling around Europe. After that I will be going to Prague for EPT. Then taking another short trip back to the U.S to go home for Christmas. After this I will be going to PCA, and Aussie Millions right after.”

Do you have any goals for the future? And what motivates you?
“I’d love to continue improving my game and travelling the world, as far as motivation goes – I don’t need any because I absolutely love what I do!”

Photo: Angelina Rich, The Mid-State Poker Tour.

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