Ruth Graham Was Diagnosed with Breast Cancer Right Before the WSOP, But Decided to Play Anyway

Ruth Graham2Ruth Graham is a 38-year old poker pro from Denver, Colorado. She mainly plays cash games, but also a few tourneys each year at the WSOP and the WPT. Until 2005 she worked as a system engineer for Sun Microsystems, but decided to quit her job as she was making much more money online playing Limit Hold’em and multi-tabling $1000 Sit N Go’s.  She has made some TV appearances on the Ultimate Poker Challenge and the Monte Carlo Millions in 2004.

Apart from poker Ruth Graham is an advocate on breast cancer awareness being a survivor herself. She volunteers and donates part of her poker winnings to various charities. PokerWomenNews caught up with Ruth Graham to hear about her summer at the WSOP.

How many years have you played at the WSOP?
I have been going to the WSOP since 2004, when all the events but the final table of the Main Event was at Binion’s. I won my seat that year playing a single table $60 satellite, that got me into a $220 rebuy and add-on satellite. I did not have enough money for the rebuy or add-on and still managed to finagle my way in.
I remember that Chris Moneymaker was at the final table of the satellite. He had just won the Main Event the year prior. With one more person to go out before we all had seats, someone open-shoved in late position with AQ. Chris, who was chip leader and in the Big Blind, woke up with aces and called. Thanks Chris for fulfilling my dream of playing in the Main Event!

Why did you decide to play the WSOP this year?
For the last decade, I have been mostly a cash game player. I have only played in the Main Event that first time back in 2004 and busted out the first day. This year I decided, I was going to focus on a part of my life, that I felt was missing and revisit playing tournaments.
Right before I was going to the WSOP, I found out I had breast cancer.  At first I didn’t think, I was going to go, and I missed most of the beginning. Luckily I was able to make it to the WSOP later, and I’m happy that I did not let another year go by without playing the Main Event.

What expectations did you have at the start of the series? And were they fulfilled?
My biggest goal was to get into the Main Event. I do not have a bankroll to support a $10,000 buy-in, so I entered in a $1060 satellite. I won my seat along with 82 others in a field of approximately 860 players.

How many events did you play and how did you run?
I played in the $1500 Limit Hold’em event, the Monster Stack, the Ladies Event and the Main Event. I only cashed in the Main Event and made it to day 5, placing 280th with a payout of $38,600. However, I did make it to the dinner break in all of the tournaments, I played in, Ruth Graham says with a smile.

What’s your view on women-only tournaments?
I look forward to playing the Ladies Event every year. Ladies-only tournaments provide a comfortable environment for women, that might be intimidated by entering an “open” event. The WSOP Ladies Event has done a fantastic job keeping men at bay the last couple of years by a high price entry for males. Other ladies tournaments are not as fortunate. For instance this year, I was knocked out by a male in the Poker Queen tournament at the Golden Nugget. I would think that a certain level of shame would keep these men from playing. Unfortunately, this is not the case.
I think men should have the class, courtesy and respect to keep out of the very few ladies tournaments offered during the year, and for the most part they do. I have heard many stories on why men still choose to enter. One is sexual equality. In most cases though, I believe this is an excuse, so they can play what they believe is a soft field.

Thinking back at the WSOP, is there a special hand you recall – and can you tell us about it?
I remember the hand I busted out on in the Main Event, since this was the most devastating, even though it was a coin-flip. I had only 22 BB early in day 5. Under the gun +1 opens for 2.5 BB, and I had AK suited in middle position. This was a perfect 3-bet shove stack and with a premium hand, this is what I opted to do. In late position a guy woke up with QQ and re-shoved all-in. The blinds folded and the initial raiser folded. The window brought Axx, but then the dreaded queen came on the turn, sending me walking. Drat.

What was the most fun this summer?
It was when my brother came out from the Philippines and played the Monster Stack with me and we were going on dinner break together.

What was the worst?
The worse was finding out I had breast cancer and flying back and forth to Colorado for radiation treatment every day during the Main Event. I believe, when you really want something, like I did to play in the Main Event, you can’t let adversity stand in your way! I learned a lot about being a survivor.

You are among the 4-5% women at the WSOP. How is it often to be the only woman at the table?
By now, I’m used to being the only woman at the table, and I feel being a woman gives you an edge.

What are your plans for the rest of the year poker wise?
I’m planning on practicing and enhancing my tournament skills. I will play medium size tournaments to try to increase my bankroll for bigger tournaments. I will also continue to play 30/60 limit at Ameristar Casino in Black Hawk Colorado and other cash games around the world and donate a portion of any poker earnings to charities.

This is part five of our series “My Summer at the WSOP”. Check out the first four interviews with Jamie Kerstetter, Maggie Morris, Nancy Birnbaum and Jackie Glazier.

Photo: WSOP

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