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Jacqueline Burkhart Details Her $0 to $86,400 Poker Story

jacki burkhart over a million

Jacqueline Burkhart is a poker player from Portland who has built an impressive resume in just a few years of side-hustling poker. Her biggest scores include a deep run in the WSOP Monster Stack for nearly $30k and a final table in the WSOP Ladies Championship for $28k.

Most recently, Jacki reached the final 5 tables of the PokerStars Player’s Championship (a $25k buy-in tournament for which she got a free entry), eventually finishing in 38th for $86,400.

In this interview, Jacki talks about preparing for the tournament with our Winning Poker Tournaments course, how it felt to battle versus big name poker pros, and more.

First of all, congrats on the score!

Thanks! 🙂 My Hendon Mob more than doubled in a day! lol

Before this $25k, what was the biggest buy-in tournament you had played?

I played the 2018 WSOP main event for the first time. It was a “bucket list” item and the stars aligned — I had the time off work and I had interested backers after a decent summer. Previously $1,500 were my highest events, maybe only 2 of those per year.

How often do you play poker and what’s your main game? 

I only play NLHE and I work full time and I’m a mom so I don’t play much. I play live maybe 3 times a month on weekend nights, which might equate to 20 hours a month, and I play online many (but not all) Sundays.

All my poker friends try to convince me to learn PLO and BigO but I know with all my other responsibilities I only have time to be decent at 1 game right now. And even then “decent” is a relative statement.

(Want to upgrade your poker skills? Get our free preflop charts and start playing like a pro before the flop. Download now!)

How did you win your PokerStars Player Championship (PSPC) Platinum Pass?

I entered one of the PokerStars challenges. I found it on Twitter — it was Maria Konnikova’s #mypokerstory challenge.

I wrote the winning story out of 86 entries. I was shocked the number of entries was so low. I thought for sure there would be hundreds so I almost didn’t enter figuring I was a long shot. I ultimately decided to write it because I used to really enjoy writing as a teenager and I was curious if I could rise to the challenge.

As the story started to take shape I became more motivated by doing my best work and less motivated by winning the contest….but it was nice to have a deadline to push me along. Here it is if anyone wants to read it:

Warning: it’s 5 pages and contains no strategic content whatsoever!

How did you prepare for the PSPC?

I’ve been studying poker for a couple of years, but with no specific goals or deadlines to really push me. Once I won the pass, I had just under 3 months to prepare and I knew I needed to step it up.

I asked my coach what system/training videos or site he would suggest to bring my game up to speed as fast as possible. He recommended 2 separate (and competing) comprehensive MTT courses, 1 of which was Nick Petrangelo’s Winning Poker Tournaments course. Since I had already purchased and been pleased with some other Upswing products, I chose that option.

jacqueline burkhart poker and nick petrangelo

Jacki got to rub elbows with Nick after the PSPC tournament in the Bahamas.

I knew I had a lot of leaks to plug and skills to hone if I wanted to do well in the Bahamas. So, essentially I spent all my free time going over the course. I’d watch videos after work and take notes. I’d watch videos on my lunch break. I’d watch videos in the bathtub drinking IPAs and trying not to get my laptop wet to pause and rewatch tricky concepts.

On weekends I’d play 4 tables online attempting to apply everything I had just learned during the week….then I’d go back and review those hands and check them against the preflop charts and the postflop concepts. As I got nearer to the event I stopped trying to implement anything new and just reviewed the spots I had identified as weaknesses: late position vs blinds, BB defends, and blind vs blind spots.

As the final week approached I halted all poker training and just focused on mindset, yoga, and meditation. I’m a novice at all these things but I think they really helped get my mind and body in the right place to play my personal best, especially the daily yoga.

What advice from Nick’s courses proved most valuable during your PSPC run?

The Preflop Mastersheet proved to be the most useful for me based on where my skills were at in October. Though I still badly need to develop my postflop skills, I think I was able to plug the most leaks most efficiently by dialing in my preflop ranges.

For anyone who hasn’t seen them, it might sound like an eye-rolling statement. “Preflop charts, really?” But these are extremely complex and interactive charts that cover 6 varying stack sizes (from 15-100bb) and address many more situations than the simple raise first in (RFI) charts I’ve seen on a lot of other training sites. These include playing vs an RFI from each position, squeezes, defending vs 3-bets, a short stacked limping strategy, and a comprehensive blind vs blind strategy — all of these from every stack size.

I was surprised at how studying these charts against recent tourneys in my database showed me so many leaks:

  • I wasn’t RFI enough suited garbage in late position.
  • I wasn’t defending enough suited garbage in blinds.
  • I wasn’t 3-betting enough out of the blinds.
  • I learned how widely we can defend against small 3-bets, which in turn taught me to make my own 3-bets bigger.
  • I realized I had been overfolding to 3-bets for years.

The insight was overwhelming at times, but priceless and desperately needed.

I’m sure you got to play with a bunch of big name players during the event. Who stands out? (and why?)

Yes, there were so many impressive players and famous players. I’m chatty and a recreational player at heart, so the fun players are who stand out to me.

Upeskha de Silva and Chance Kornuth both played great, aggressive poker and were tons of fun at the table; but especially Mustapha Kanit stands out in my mind. We battled a bit (which was unwise of me) and though I never won a single pot off him we were joking and friendly and needling each other and when I tried to bluff him yet again (and failed again) he snapped so fast with bottom pair and said in his accent “I like you. You are aggro-donkey” then we laughed and high fived.

That might be my proudest poker moment ever. KANIT called me aggro….I mean….he also called me a donkey! haha

Did you learn anything (about poker, yourself, or whatever else) during the event? So much.

Even if I busted pre-bubble, this experience would have been absolutely worth it just for the chance to play against so many players better than myself and observe them and see what they are doing and why it works, what makes me uncomfortable and why? Is that something I can implement into my own game?

I know I’m not a world class player but, when I play my normal $80-$500 local tourneys, I am used to being one of the best players at my table. This was never the case at PSPC. I can think of maybe 2 tables early on where I wasn’t outclassed too badly but mostly I was the fish. I was the target at each table. I understood this and did what I could to make it work for me. Observe them, pick my spot, cultivate my image and then when the moment came, be fearless. I have the same number of cards as they do. The math is the same for me. It’s just as hard for them to hit a flop as me. Except I have nothing to lose…and they have $25,000 to lose.

So yes, I learned that I can develop a customized plan even at the toughest table and execute it fearlessly. I’m proud of that. I also learned to not really worry about my stack swings. My stack went up and down a lot but I figured out that as long as I’ve got fold equity I can find a good spot and still be a contender.

I’m itching for some hand histories. What were some of your most crucial/notable PSPC hands?

I played plenty of hands well, but those aren’t fun to share. Here is one from the stone bubble:

I’m at a table with Christoph Vogelsang and I’ve assessed over the last couple of hours that my entire table just seems to want to min cash. I’ve chipped up on the bubble to the point where Vogelsang just barely covers me and I cover everyone else.

It folds to my CO and I open 2.3bb with J8o into Vogelsang’s BB. This might be too wide but I’m positive the 9bb and 11bb stacks (platinum pass winners) in between us will NEVER jam light.

As predicted, they fold and Vogelsang defends. Flop 689 rainbow.

He checks and I c-bet 2bb. Vogelsang tanks for literally about 3-4 minutes then check-raises me to pot size.

I realize pretty quickly I should have checked back that flop! Now, to navigate the situation I’ve gotten myself into. I’m gonna be ahead a lot on the flop as I think he’ll check-raise any 7x and all gutshots with overs. Possibly even just some 2 overcards with a backdoor type of hand as well. But the problems are I won’t know which cards I want to dodge, he’s gonna barrel, and I’m crushed by his value. I know I don’t have it in me to hero this hand all the way down to the river. It’s the bubble and I’ve been finding easier ways to make chips, so I let it go. Nothing too exciting.

I can’t remember specific details of too many hands but here is the hand that took me over 1 million chips for the first time:

Middle position (MP) opens to 2.1bb with a 1 million stack, which is approximately 40bb. I have 750k for about 30bb and flat J 9 on button. BB comes along with an approximately 20bb stack.

Flop is 8♠ 4♦ 2. MP c-bets 80k into a pot of 200k. I decided to float in position with 2 overs and backdoor diamonds. BB flats as well.

Turn A both players look dejected, especially the BB. both players check to me. I bet 225k and they both fold.

 I don’t know about that turn bet. I think if someone jams on me I’m in a really tough spot with my stack. And while I had a bit of a live read….it wasn’t a rock solid read. I wonder if I should either bet bigger essentially pot committing myself, or check back the turn (which feels dumb after floating and picking up equity). I think a lower diamond is a better barrelling card as I still have an overcard or 2 I can hit in addition to any diamond? Also if I get called in 1 spot and I brick out what am I supposed to do? I think I have to jam river to get 8x and like 99-KK to fold.

Anyways the turn bet worked in this instance, so yay!!

You final tabled the WSOP Ladies Championship last year for $28k. Can you talk a bit about that experience?

That is just a really fun event unlike anything else and I wish we could bring some of that energy to more tournaments. I hope to play it every year.

So my day 1 was actually pretty tough considering all factors. I’m in a sea of soft looking tables, and yet I had Kelly Minkin, Lexi Gavin, Cherish Andrews, Natalie Hof, Katie Swift, and a gal that final tabled it the year before (Alexis Sterner) at my day 1 table. It was NOT a soft table especially for early on a day 1 and I had to play very well to bag a paltry 17bb.

I was simply hit by the deck on Day 2 and I managed to not screw it up. Most people would have done well with my cards, but at least I stayed focused and brought it to the bag.

Day 3 was the final table and I was a short stack so I was just concerned with not making mistakes. I think I played my stack as well as I could. I had Jessica Dawley on my direct left with a mountain of chips the whole time. Jessica repeatedly showed that she wasn’t afraid to make proper call-offs versus short stack jams. So, I was a bit handcuffed but I’m proud of my 5th place showing.

One thing is for sure, I had the biggest, and loudest, and drunkest rail. (Roll the tape!) Northwest Poker players always come through to support each other.

How long have you been playing poker, and how did you get started?

I’ve understood how poker works since I was a child (which #mypokerstory centers around this topic) but I only started playing in casinos and card rooms 10 years ago….and playing terribly for several years 🙂

I started actually studying and using training materials about 4 years ago and hired a coach 2 years ago. Now, I’m at that stage of development where every few months I cringe when I look back on the way I “used” to think and “used” to play only 6 months ago….and it will be the same again 6 months from now I assume.

What are your poker goals for the rest of 2019?

I have kept the same modest and attainable poker goals for many years. I love the game. I love learning the game. I want to play mindfully and learn something from every session. I want to continue to have free poker vacations. Breaking even after expenses is fine with me. Everything else is gravy but I’m not trying to be a poker pro.

I like the challenge and thrill of going deep in big events….of course, I want the money. We all want the money, but I mostly want it because that’s how we keep score. I love my job and I don’t plan on leaving it, but only working part-time does sound pretty sweet.

To be more specific; I will play a few local tournaments. I will probably make 3 WSOP trips planned around my work schedule and maybe 1 other destination spot later this year.

Plug time: Where can people follow your poker journey?

I’m on Twitter @jackiburkhart81.

(Want to upgrade your poker skills? Get our free preflop charts and start playing like a pro before the flop. Download now!)

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About the Author

Mike Brady

I used to play a ton of poker. Now, I'm the Vice President of Upswing Poker and only play a decent amount of poker.

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