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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

(continued from page 2)

To a professional poker player, the nascent Atlantic City poker scene was a dream come true. Cyndy Violette decided to move there permanently and set up shop.

Now 39, Violette travels around the world, wherever a good game can be found. But she still calls Atlantic City--Absecon, a nearby suburb, actually--her home.

Cyndy Violette has made a living confounding expectations. So it probably shouldn't come as a surprise that during a meal at Taj Mahal's steakhouse, she confesses that she's a macrobiotic vegetarian. And a dedicated astrologist. And an aromatherapy junkie. "The casino lifestyle can be unhealthy," she warns. "But only if you let it. I work out regularly, eat well and try to get plenty of sleep. Of course," she says, laughing, "when the game is good you've got to stay up."

Unlike many of her poker-playing brethren, Violette works only on the weekends, when the games are filled with visiting celebrities, household-name businessmen and assorted multimillionaires willing to blow tens of thousands of dollars in search of a good time. "I usually play in the one-fifty-to-three-hundred or two-hundred-to-four-hundred games," Violette says. "Sometimes it gets as high as four-hundred-to-eight-hundred. These games produce swings as high as thirty thousand in a night. For me, that's plenty."

The rest of Violette's week is devoted to working on her house (which has a lagoon pool and a duck pond), spending time with her now teenaged daughter, and attending lectures on health and wellness. "Someday, I'd like to open my own health food café," she says.

The capital she's amassed recently will go far toward those goals. Last December, Violette won the seven-card stud event at the United States Poker Championships, conquering 207 opponents and earning $26,000. She also "cashed" in three other events, making the final table (the remaining eight or nine players) each time.

"It was a good tournament," she says, modestly.

Good, indeed, considering that the competition in tournaments like the U.S. Poker Championships and the World Series of Poker, where Violette is also a familiar face, consists of the best card players in the world--almost all of them men.

"Sometimes it's an advantage to be a woman poker player," Violette confides. "Seeing a woman across the table seems to trigger something in a lot of male egos. They either want to beat you hard or take it easy and soft on you. Either they don't give you any credit for your ability or they give you way too much credit. Women get much more action than men, a lot more hands get paid off." Violette smiles.

Is it just her sex that puts men on tilt, or is it her appearance? "Being attractive is a productive distraction, I guess," Violette admits. "But I think it would work the same for a good-looking man."

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