Interview With Loni Harwood: “I’ve Really Grown as a Person”

Loni_Harwood_7 (FILEminimizer)2013 was the year Loni Harwood broke into the mainstream poker scene after capturing a WSOP bracelet in a $1,500 NLH Event and topping a field of 2,541 players. She final tabled 3 events and cashed in 6 events overall.

Last year Harwood was not able to complete the series as she headed back to be with her mother, who sadly passed away in July. Since then Harwood has spent time with her family and played a more restricted schedule than normal.

This year has been great so far for the 25-year old pro. She went deep in WPT Borgata, won the Big Stax Championship and is leading the GPI Player of the Year Ladies. We caught up with the popular pro to hear more about her plans for this year’s WSOP, her take on the Player of the Year Ladies and being a role model for other women.

You have taken an early lead in the GPI Player of the Year Ladies. Is it something you care about? And will it have an impact on your schedule (traveling abroad, playing more tournaments etc)?
“Winning GPI Player of the Year Ladies is not something that I care about. For me it’s more drive to try and be the best over both men and women. I have played the least amount of poker this year than I have for the past two years. I’m feeling the excitement to play again. It’s refreshing.
I felt an immense amount of sadness from the loss of my mom in July. I actually didn’t even get to play the WSOP Main Event last year. I decided to take some time off for myself. The past few months I’ve really grown as a person and I’m learning that life goes on after the loss of my role model. I’ve started traveling more and I have a full schedule ahead for this summer.”

You have started the year in style! First you had a deep run in the WPT Borgata and immediately after you won the Big Stax Championship at Parx Casino. Give us you take on your year so far
“Winning Big Stax was a great start to the year. It was local and my brother Scott and my boyfriend Phil were able to watch the final table. It was nice to have them share that moment with me.”

WSOP has revealed part of the schedule, including 11 new events. Is there an event you look particularly forward to?
I always look forward to the Ladies Event, but I’m yet to have a deep run. I’m also looking forward to the Main Event of course!”

In 2013 you had an incredible year at the WSOP! You won a bracelet and cashed for $874,698 over the summer. Do you have a specific goal for this year’s WSOP? Will we see you win another bracelet and how do you consider your chances?
“My goal is to finish the summer in the green. I’m going in with confidence and the most optimistic feeling that I could win another bracelet. I guess we will just have to see”, Loni says with a smile.

Last year you sadly lost you mother, Elissa. The two of you seemed very close. Not knowing you personally and looking at it from the outside, it feels like the loss has made you even more driven to succeed and win big tournaments – but now #ForMom as you tweet. How do you see it?
“My mom was my best friend and she’s with me everyday. My dad also is a big part of the reason, I wound up where I am today. Everything I do is for my parents. I’m driven to make them proud everyday. WPT has a clip of my mom on my Ones to Watch-video, where you can see my beautiful mom and how happy she was. #FORMOM.”

Your boyfriend, Phil Hui, is a professional poker player too. Do you consider the fact that you are both in the same “business” as an advantage or somewhat a disadvantage? I could imagine that the variance of poker, the bad beats, the stress etc. could also have a negative impact on a relationship?
“It can be stressful at times, but I think it’s an advantage to have someone who fully understands what you are going through all the time. Phil has been the man I always dreamed of finding. I honestly feel that we were meant to meet.”

How is it to travel the circuit together?
“Traveling to tournaments together is like constantly going on vacation with your best friend.”

You have won a bracelet. You have two circuit rings. You have been highly successful from an early age. Do you ever consider the fact that you’re a role model for other women playing poker?
“I just try to be the best version of myself at all times. If I inspire other women to play poker that’s awesome. Women should have more confidence. They have a huge advantage if properly manipulated.”

Women-only tournaments seem to be a hot topic at the moment. What’s your take on ladies events?
“I usually only play the WSOP Ladies Event. I’ll occasionally play one, but scarce. They’re fun to me.”

I would assume that you’re very often the only woman at the poker table. I heard Nancy Birnbaum, Maria Ho, Patty Baumier and many other women confess that they feel it’s an advantage to be a women at the table. How do you see it?
“I also agree, it’s an advantage.”

What are your plans for the year poker-wise?
“I’m going to play in the WSOP Circuit $1,675 Main Event in Baltimore Friday. In April I’ll be playing the WPT $3500 in Florida and the $15,400 WPT Championship at Bogata in April. In May I’ll be in New Orleans to make the one circuit stop, that I make every year. I will then be in Vegas late May-mid July.”

Photo: Loni Harwood, Twitter

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