Subscribe to Cigar Aficionado and receive the digital edition of our Premier issue FREE!

Email this page Print this page
Share this page

Big Hand for a Little Lady

Cyndy Violette belies the stereotypes and Makes Sexism Pay in the macho world of High-stakes poker
Michael Konik
From the Print Edition:
Ernest Hemingway, Jul/Aug 99

Cyndy Violette plies her trade at a major Atlantic City hotel and casino. Given her line of work, it's the ideal place to do what she does best. She comes in only on weekends, sometimes toiling around the clock on Saturday night, when business is booming. Her prize customers--and there are many of them--are men. So many men she can barely remember their names or their faces. An anonymous blur. They do, however, have one thing in common: they have money. Lots of money. Money to throw around in search of entertainment, money to spend on a pretty lady, which Cyndy Violette happens to be. Many weekends she comes home from the casinowith $10,000 or more than she had when she arrived. On a great weekend, sometimes much more.

You've probably guessed what Cyndy Violette does for a living. Most people, sexism firmly entrenched, reach that conclusion easily. Most people, however, are mistaken. * Which is fine with Cyndy Violette. She doesn't mind that most people are misled by their sexism. Because it's this same sexism that often allows her to succeed in her profession far more richly than an equally talented man might.

Cyndy Violette is a high-stakes poker player. And she is a nice-looking woman. That combination, as far as many of her less enlightened opponents are concerned, is something that should not exist, not if they have anything to do with it.

Which is also fine with Cyndy Violette. Because she is delighted to teach them an extraordinarily expensive lesson.

Twenty-two years old. Pregnant. Dealing blackjack and poker at a downtown Las Vegas casino. She was nearly broke, or as near to broke as a gal can be while still managing to find the necessary funds to play $1 and $4 poker.

Thanks to those little poker games in the early '80s, Cyndy Violette didn't stay broke for long.

She says of those early days, when a $50 windfall was cause for a riotous celebration, "I honestly had no idea what I was doing. I just always seemed to get lucky. I always seemed to win." This dumb luck--or undiscovered innate skill--gave Cyndy Violette the preposterous idea that she might actually make a living playing cards, that she might actually quit her punch-the-clock job and go into business for herself.

She knew such thoughts were crazy: after all, how many dozens of gamblers had she seen go broke trying to make the transition from amateur to pro? Even more discouraging, how many women could she count as role models, members of the "wrong" gender doing everything right at the poker tables? Sure, there was Betty Carey, a great no-limit player; Terry King, an accomplished seven-card stud player; and, subsequently, Barbara Enright, the only woman to make it to the final table at the World Series of Poker World Championship. But at the time these women were an anomaly--just as Violette is one today. The truth was (and still is) this: women generally don't play high-stakes poker, and when they do they don't last in the big games for very long. For many, the competition is too tough and the pressure too great.

But Cyndy Violette didn't know her place.

As her bankroll grew, so did the stakes at which she gambled. In less than six months, Violette was playing $15-$30 poker, where wins and losses in the thousands are not unusual. Shortly after her daughter, Shannon, was born, Cyndy Violette played in her first poker tournament, at Lake Tahoe. It was supposed to be a fun, little vacation. She finished in the top five.

1 2 3 4 >

Share |

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Log In If You're Already Registered At Cigar Aficionado Online

Forgot your password?

Not Registered Yet? Sign up–It's FREE.


Search By:



Cigar Insider

Cigar Aficionado News Watch
A Free E-Mail Newsletter

Introducing a FREE newsletter from the editors of Cigar Aficionado!
Sign Up Today