Kristen Bicknell has been playing poker for more than a decade. She reached SuperNova Elite status on PokerStars back in the day playing 24 tables at once, but transitioned to live poker two years ago. She has won two WSOP bracelets: the 2013 Ladies World Championship and the $1,500 Bounty Event in 2016. Even though Bicknell did not win a third bracelet in 2017, she came very close finishing in 6th place of the prestigious $10,000 6-Max Championship Event for nearly $100k. In December 2017 she won an event at WPT Five Diamond for $200k. The Canadian poker player has more than $1,200,000 in live tournament cashes, and her great run last year won her the title of best female player in the world.
We caught up with Kristen to hear more about what keeps her motivated. Her perspective on the future of online poker. Her strengths and weaknesses as a player. How it was like playing on “Poker after Dark”, her transition to live poker and much more.
Congrats on winning the best female player of the year title. What does it mean to you?
“To me this accomplishment is a symbol of recognition of all the work and progress that I have made throughout my journey in poker. When I first learned the game, I would have never imagined that I would be receiving an award like this. Throughout the years, my passion for the game has had me so focused on whatever current poker goal or game that I have going, I have in a way lost appreciation of realizing how far I have come. Thinking back to 2005 when I first started playing to now receiving the award of 2017 GPI Female Player of Year feels surreal.”
Have you been following the rankings, and did you take the possibility of winning the title into account when planning your tournament schedule?
“When I decided that I would play a large amount of live tournament in 2017, I was somewhat aware of the possibility of winnings this award. I sometimes would follow the rankings, but I would say that in general, I really feel that I am constantly trying to compete with myself more than with the rankings or other players. I am certain that if I do this, the results will come.”
It’s been an awesome year for you. What have been some of the highlights from your perspective?
“The funny thing about poker and being a competitive person, is that when I look back at the year, it’s difficult to not think of all the deep runs where I came up short. I have a lot of exciting memories of deep runs – the final table of the WSOP $10k 6 max standing out in my mind – however, I wasn’t particularly proud of my performance on the final table or the outcome of that. Overall, the highlight of the year is all the experience that I gained from all the high pressure spots I got to play in, the overall experience of going to amazing poker events and sharing these moments with others in the poker community.”
It was first around 2016 that you started playing a lot of live tournaments. Before that you were primarily an online grinder. What made you decide to play more live? And how have you experienced the transition?
“The transition to live poker happened as a result of the online poker landscape changing combined with becoming closer to other poker players who themselves were playing more live poker. Once I won my bracelet in 2016, and started having more success with live tournaments, I really started to appreciate the complexity that comes along with tournament poker and felt more passionate to compete more in tournaments myself. I have been enjoying the transition to live poker. I really enjoy the social aspect to the game and am grateful to have been able to travel to so many different places and have made many new friends along the way.”
How do you look upon the online poker world of today? Players are complaining that the games are getting tougher and tougher, and almost impossible to beat. Do you share this point of view, and do you think that online poker will still exist in five years from now?
“I think that online poker is of course different than it used to be, mainly because of the regulations with the US market. I have myself been enjoying playing online a lot in over the past two years. Partypoker has amazing online series like power fest, and I feel that they are actually on the rise and not a decline at all. I don’t think poker is “unbeatable”. Poker is and always will be a game where you have to keep learning and staying ahead of your opponents and if you are looking to make money in the game, things like game selection is a huge factor. I am pretty confident that online poker will still exist in 5 years and I hope that the market will continue to grow.”
What would you say are your biggest strengths as a player – and your weaknesses, if any?
“I think my biggest strengths as a player is my work ethic, combined with my love and passion for the game. I really am in love with poker so much, that it allows me to have a positive attitude towards playing and an interest in constantly improving. I am pretty good at not letting “bad luck” get me down as I realize I have so much control in other aspects that there is no reason to focus on unfortunate outcomes that I have no control over. My biggest weakness is kind of the opposite side of this coin. My high level of passion for the game makes it difficult for me to accept anything but my best performance, which can sometimes be emotionally difficult.”
How would you characterize yourself as a player? Do you take a GTO and math approach? Are you playing an exploitative strategy? Or are you more of a feel player?
“I’m not sure exactly how I would characterize myself as I am definitely not a “gto focused player”, but not solely a “feel player” either. I try to adjust to the opponent I am playing – so sometimes I might make decisions that are from a gto standpoint and sometimes I will play in a completely exploitative way.”
You have been playing poker for a decade now. How have you experienced the evolvement of the game? And how have you been able to stay at the top for so long?
“The specific games that I have focused on have changed a lot throughout the years. I think a big reason why I have been around for so long is the ability to adapt and change as the game evolves. I love playing, and will do what I need to do in order to stay profitable in the game.”
You have won two bracelets. Are winning bracelets something that motivates you? Or is money more important to you? I guess, what I’m asking is how do you keep yourself motivated?
“Winning bracelets/tournaments is something that motivates me mainly because the experience is just so much fun! Money of course is important, and it would be great if I was able to make enough money in poker to be able to invest in other things as well and be able to also pursue other interests. I don’t have a hard time staying motivated because I do have a high level of passion for the game and that it is very clear to me that there are great opportunities in poker if I just work for it.”
Even though women poker players have enjoyed a lot of success in recent years, there are still not many women playing poker compared to men. How come? And what can we do to change that?
“I’m not sure I entirely know the answer to why the population continues to be so heavily male dominated. I think that in order to change this, it is important to market more towards women, as much of poker advertising has been in the past male oriented. I do also think, and hope that by women having more success in poker, that it will empower others to compete as well and show that poker does not have to be a “man’s game”. Something that does motivate me is the thought that my success can have an impact in paving the road for other woman as well.”
Looking 10 years ahead? Are you still playing poker professionally?
“10 years from now, I hope that poker is still a main focus of my life and that I will still play on a high level and have poker be a source of income. I’m pushing myself very hard for the next couple years, with hopes that I can accomplish a lot and that when I do play in the future it won’t be as much of a “grind”.”
You really seemed to thrive on the “Femme Fatale” edition of “Poker After Dark”. How was the experience? And which player stood out to you the most if you had to pick one?
“The experience on “Poker After Dark” was a lot of fun. I did feel very comfortable amongst that lineup, as the game had a friendly yet competitive vibe. The element of the game being streamed with hole cards adds an element of pressure that I quite enjoy, and it felt good to book a decent win. The player that stood out the most to me in that game was Kathy Liebert. I didn’t know she was such a character, and her style of play was pretty exciting to watch as she is pretty unpredictable.”