Jessica Dawley CardsChat Exclusive Feature:  Sponsored Poker Star Gives Her Take on Women in Poker, the Military Life, and Building Bankroll

7 min read

The good news for the guys out there is that 888poker pro Jessica Dawley is single. The bad news is, she’s probably a better poker player than you are. In fact, she’s probably a whole heck of a lot better.

Dawley, a 32-year old residing in South Florida, has some serious game. She competes at a high level in cash games and tournaments, and had some interesting life experiences to share with CardsChat.

Jessica Dawley CardsChat feature childhood
A young Jessica Dawley had a passion for playing softball. (Image: courtesy Jessica Dawley)

Originally from Louisville, Kentucky, Dawley grew up in Southern Indiana and learned how to play poker from her uncle at a young age. But, unlike many of the great players in the game today, poker hasn’t always dominated her life.

In high school, she played softball and waited tables at Pizza Hut, while scraping up some extra cash in a local poker game. She had hoped to receive an athletic scholarship, but an injury long before graduation all but ended that dream.

Operation Iraqi Freedom

After high school, Dawley joined the military at a time where the thought of actually having to be shipped overseas into combat seemed unlikely.

Jessica Dawley CardsChat feature military
Graduating from Air Force Intelligence School. Dawley served in the Middle East. (Image: courtesy Jessica Dawley)

Then, 9/11 happened, and the world changed. Thousands of American men and women were thrown into combat to fight in Operation Iraqi Freedom. And 20-year old Dawley was one of the free and the brave.

Stationed primarily in the United Arab Emirates, thousands of miles away from her local poker games, Dawley still found ways to get some action. To pass the time, she played cards with her fellow soldiers. Did any of those soldiers give her much competition?

“Some of them were pretty good,” she said. “But I mostly crushed the games.”

Jessica Dawley CardsChat feature air force tarmac
Jessica Dawley learned to be fearless while serving her country in the Air Force. (Image: courtesy Jessica Dawley)

She wasn’t playing high stakes poker games during the war. Her main focus was on the task at hand and staying safe. But poker clearly provided a nice release from the stressful Air Force lifestyle during wartime.

Off to College

After returning home from the war in 2003, Dawley headed to college, and she made an interesting decision. A die-hard University of Kentucky sports fan, Dawley did something very few Kentucky fans would be brave enough to do:  attend the University of Louisville, studying marketing and management.

The Louisville Cardinals are the hated, in-state rival of the Kentucky Wildcats. In the Bluegrass State, a basketball hotbed, fans pick sides and rivalries are heated and taken very seriously. UK fans mostly wouldn’t dream of stepping foot on the UL campus unless their team was playing there, and vice versa.

When asked how she could attend college on “enemy” territory, Dawley chuckled. Then again, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that someone brave enough to defend our nation feared not those rabid Louisville fans.

Vegas, Baby!

Nearly every American poker player dreams of living in Las Vegas someday. Jessica made that a reality after college. She came to Sin City to begin what she hoped would be a long, successful poker career, but she was, shall we say, short stacked.

Jessica Dawley CardsChat feature 888 sponsored pro
Living the dream: Dawley is now a sponsored pro and living in South Florida. Seen here, she is at the final table in a tournament at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Florida.(Image: courtesy Jessica Dawley)

“I only had a $3,400 bankroll when I moved to Las Vegas, so I had to grind the low stakes games and build up my roll,” she said.

There are dozens of popular poker rooms in Las Vegas, but Dawley had an obvious favorite.

“When I lived in Vegas, I played about 85 percent of the time at [the] Wynn,” she said. “I played $2-$5 no-limit hold’em at first and moved up from there.”

After grinding in Vegas for a few years, Dawley was ready for a new chapter in her life. This time, she traded in the bright lights of Sin City for the white sandy beaches of South Florida.

Living the Dream in Palm Beach

In 2011, Dawley moved to Palm Beach, Florida and continued playing poker for a living. During her time in the Sunshine State, Dawley has put together quite an impressive poker resume.

She signed on as an ambassador at both the Seminole Hard Rock Casino in Hollywood, Florida and with the online site 888poker. Representing a pair of popular poker rooms is only a small part of what she has going on right now.

“I’ve been playing mostly $5-$10 or bigger no-limit hold’em or $5-$10 pot-limit Omaha/hold’em mixed games,” Dawley told us.

She travels all over the world to play poker and loves it. Dawley said she could travel every day of the week if she had to and it wouldn’t bother her. Recently, she competed in the Aussie Millions in Melbourne, Australia, and plans to head back to Vegas this summer to play in numerous World Series of Poker events.

Dawley has been quite successful on the tournament circuit recently as well. She’s scored a few big wins since September and now has accumulated nearly $400,000 in live poker tournament winnings.

She’s come a long way since moving to Las Vegas, literally and figuratively. The risk, heading out West with a miniscule bankroll, paid off. She now has money, sponsorship deals, an exciting career, and lives in a city most people from her Southern Indiana hometown would die just to visit.

Women in Poker

Women are in the minority at the poker table and the problem, according to Jessica, isn’t just a numbers issue.

“Women are treated differently at the poker table,” she opined. “I wouldn’t say we are treated unfairly, but definitely differently.”

Jessica Dawley CardsChat feature in ice
Dawley has been all over the globe, and loves to travel. (Image: courtesy Jessica Dawley)

She wants women to be treated the same as men at the poker table by poker room staff and players. Dawley suggests men get too sexual at the table around women and that women aren’t taken seriously. But which gender is better at poker?

“I would say women, overall, are better poker players than men,” she claims. “Women, in general, are more analytical, and that helps them at the tables.”

Dawley isn’t the first, nor will she be the last, female poker player to agree to the above statements. So, Jessica, who are the best female players around?

“It depends on cash games or tournaments,” Dawley said. “For tournaments, I would say Vanessa Selbst and Loni Harwood. For cash games, my choice would be Danielle Andersen.”

As for Dawley’s pick on the greatest female poker player ever, one would assume Jennifer Harman’s name would come up. But, she believes Selbst’s tournament results prove she is the best ever.

Perhaps one day, Jessica Dawley will unseat Harman, Selbst, and others as the best female player of all-time. Until then, she’ll just continue crushing South Florida cash games.

Oh, and to all the single guys out there that would love to date an attractive, intelligent, talented female poker player, Dawley recently split from her boyfriend of three years when their lives started moving in separate directions. You’ll have to bring your life A-game to impress Jessica though, because she’s already seen a lot for her time on the planet so far.

Related Posts

Did you know about our poker forum? Discuss all the latest poker news in the CardsChat forum

Popular Stories