Mikiyo Aoki: “I Think Ladies Playing Styles Can Be Very Polarized”

Mikiyo+Aoki4Before the World Series of Poker not a lot of people in the poker world had heard of Mikiyo Aoki from Bozeman, Montana. That all changed this summer, when the 24-year old Demo Architect, who works for Oracle, finished runner-up in the Ladies Event to Haixia Zhang and in 83rd place in the Main Event for a total of $167,169.

You can watch the two final hands of the Ladies Event here:

Aoki feel in love with the game, when she watched Greg “Fossilman” Raymer win the Main Event in 2004. Soon after she played in her brother’s home games – and got crushed! Aoki says the experience just made her more motivated to keep practicing and learning. She started to play on Full Tilt, but after Black Friday she had to find another outlet and she began to play in local cash games and home game tournaments.

PokerWomenNews caught up with Mikiyo Aoki to hear more about her incredible summer at the WSOP.

How many years have you played at the WSOP?
This was my second year playing in the WSOP and first time playing in the Ladies Event and the Main Event. My friend started a local poker game a year or two ago, so I applied for a dealer license to deal at his game. Since it was still valid last summer, I got to play in the Dealer Event in 2013.

Why did you decide to play the WSOP this year?
I had some vacation days saved up and decided to road trip down to Vegas from Montana. I stopped in Salt Lake City and Los Angeles to visit some friends, then headed down to the Ladies Event.

What expectations did you have at the start of the series? And were they fulfilled?
Coming into the Ladies Event I intentionally tried not to set expectations. However, I hoped my style would play well within that field. My hopes were not only fulfilled but exceeded, and as a result I was able to buy into the Main Event, a longtime dream of mine!

How many events did you play and how did you run?
I only played the Ladies Event and the Main Event and ended in 2nd and 83rd place. I wouldn’t say I ran especially hot or cold throughout. I think for any tournament that size you need to get lucky to run deep. Fortunately I was able to amass enough chips through blinds and antes to survive the inevitable coolers.

What’s your view on women-only tournaments?
The Ladies Event was the first women-only tournament I’ve played in, but my initial impression was very positive. It was an interesting exercise to observe the game flow in a ladies-only event and try to adjust my play accordingly. Outside of strategy, I thought the tournament was one of the more enjoyable tournaments I’ve played in because of the atmosphere.

What was the most fun this summer?
I can’t imagine anything being more fun than getting to play in the series this year! Also, the 30 hours I slept after the main event got done were pretty spectacular.

What was the worst?
Driving home to Montana after busting out of the Main Event … way too much time to second guess hands!

You are among the 4-5% women at the WSOP. How is it often to be the only woman at the table?
I actually like the dynamic. I think ladies playing styles can be very polarized and its interesting getting to sit at a new table and see the lines people take towards you. As a result there are cases, where I get called down way lighter than I imagine a man would, and conversely at times was given more credit.

What are your plans for the rest of the year poker wise?
Keep trying to practice and improve. Hopefully hit up some events somewhere warm. If I can pet a dolphin the same day I play in a poker tournament … that would be ideal!

This is the final interview in our series “My summer at the WSOP”. Check out the previous interviews with Jamie Kerstetter, Maggie Morris, Nancy Birnbaum, Jackie Glazier, Ruth Graham and Christina Lindley.

Photo: WSOP

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