NEW ULM - Danielle Andersen, 28, leads a seemingly innocuous life: she's a stay-at-home mom who works a few shifts as registered nurse every month. But, due to her modesty, few people know this New Ulm resident is an international professional poker player who has played with Hollywood stars and been featured on major documentaries about poker. Her hard work in poker has turned into a lucrative career, and her skill has earned her praise as "one of the world's top female online poker players" by top poker players and organizations.
Humble beginnings, surprise success
Andersen said she started playing poker in college when she felt left out of the many games her boyfriend, who later became her husband, would play with friends. She surprise everyone by quickly learning the ropes and surpassing everyone in skill.
Professional poker player Danielle Andersen is pictured above and at left playing poker.
A pivotal moment came when her boyfriend encouraged her to try her abilities at online poker. She was initially against it, feeling it was a likely way to waste the $50 investment. She eventually agreed to try on the terms that she would quite forever if she lost the initial funds. But, instead, she proved so skillful that her significant winnings over the course of her career have all gone up from that initial $50.
The turning point in her poker career came when she decide against the career she was pursuing and realized she could make much more online than her $8-per hour shoe store job. With the support of her family, she dropped out of college to pursue a full-time career in poker.
"I wanted to see how far I could go in poker. I wanted to see how far I could push myself and how good I could be," said Andersen.
Later in life, she returned earned a nursing degree to set a good example for her child.
Andersen described her online poker career as a self-employed "dream job" that paid to play the game she loves. She said she got set her own hours, allowing her to schedule her poker around her family's schedule.
Her typical days involved spend the day with her son, with a quick nap mid-day due to her working hours. Later in the evening, she would play several hours of continuous poker on her laptop. The later hours, which often could run from midnight to 4 a.m., took advantage of when the highest density of players were available, allowing her to play as much as five tables at the same time. She ends days by finishing playing and going to sleep. Variations in her routine are based on her schedule with her family. She plays a few more random games during downtime and can take days or weeks off if she feels like it.
Andersen emphasized her preference for the "grind" style poker over highly variable tournament poker is due it being dependant on her hard work and skills. The key to her approach is being skilled enough to guarantee at least a 60 percent win rate. This allows her to statistically pull ahead into profitability over a long enough timeline, even in events as extreme as a month long losing streak.
Andersen said one skill poker players have over most of the public is the ability to not become emotionally attached to either winning or losing money. She said its matter of simply sticking to the raw statistics and letting skill win in the end.
"It's crazy how much money you can lose in the process of making money," said Andersen, "The problem with players that are not professional is they get too attached. They get too upset when they lose money."
She explained this leads to a phenomenon called "tilt." It is the situation when a player becomes too emotionally attached to a loss, leading to sloppy play and further losses.
Andersen made a point of criticizing stereotypes about professional poker players, particularly in movies or television, where they are shown to be "degenerate gamblers" or luck playing a part in their winnings.
"For me, I'm skilled enough that poker is work instead of gambling," said Andersen, "I'm totally against all kinds of luck gambling. I don't like lotto tickets and Blackjack. There's no way for me to make money with them."
She said its the work, skill and respect for statistics that allowed her to have her job. She added that it has helped her make critical thinking decisions, such as the best option to encourage while she is coaching softball.
Andersen's current poker career is radically different due to a day etched in the minds of all online poker players: Black Friday. The date signifies when the U.S. Justice Department unsealed indictment against the top online poker companies on April 15, 2011, seizings their funds and shutting down their sites. The Justice Department accused the companies of violating the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, bank fraud and money laundering. The resulting complex legal cases lead to debates about online gambling that are unresolved to this day.
But, for the online poker players caught unaware on that day, it was simply logging into the site to find their online funds gone and online poker now illegal in the U.S.
Andersen declined to share how much she lost, but stated it was sizable sum of money. She has still not yet been returned the funds.
"I went to sleep one night with a good job. I woke up without one and my money gone," said Andersen.
Faced with a dramatic and potentially life-changing event, Andersen consulted with her family about whether she should try to continue her career. After a few months, she settled on keeping with her "dream job."
Her routine now involves six weeks at home with her family, then flying to places like Los Angeles for seven to 10 days of continuous poker with up to 10 hours of play each day. The real-life limitations have increased how much work is needed for her to turn a profit. She can only play one table at a time and the hands only go at the speed a human deal them out.
The change has not been entirely negative for her: she gets to travel for work, including to exotic places like Ireland when a poker company sponsors her trip. She has been able to occasionally play against famous people in Los Angeles, such as Don Cheadle, James Woods and Michael Phelps. She joked that famous people tend to play worse at poker because they do not value the money the put into the game.
Future and film
Andersen said her current career is largely a waiting game of online poker's return. She said she believes it will return due to states like Neveda legalizing it and the tax revenues the government could gain from it. She said it would be bizarre for just one popular game to be excluded indefinitely.
When asked about her future if online poker does not return, she said she is unsure.
"It's a lot of work to travel for [my job] at this point. I can't see myself doing that forever. If [online poker] doesn't come back, something will have to give," said Andersen.
Anderson is currently focused on helping to promote the film "Bid Raise Fold," which featured her as one of the subjects. The film originally focused on professional poker player during the online boom, but shifted to include recent events when Black Friday occurred during filming.
Andersen said she is working on organizing a local showing in New Ulm or Mankato, and hopes to make an announcement soon. A trailer is available at www.betraisefoldmovie.com
(Josh Moniz can be e-mailed at email@example.com)