- Facebook: Jennifer-Harman-Poker
- Twitter: @REALJenHarman
- Website: www.jenniferharman.com
- Birthdate: 29th November 1964
- Birthplace: Reno, Nevada
- Residence: Reno, Nevada
- WSOP Bracelets: 2
- Biggest Win: $383,840
- Total Winnings: $2,689,156
- Sponsored by: Ex Full Tilt Poker
Jennifer was born and raised in Reno, Nevada and encouraged to play games like Scrabble and Monopoly from an early age. At seven years old, barely able to see onto the table, she watched her father and a group of friends playing poker whilst on a road trip. She asked her mother to teach her the game and soon Jennifer, her sister and cousins began to play regularly and also very competitively. Her mother was always on hand to sort out any disputes and act as dealer to make sure they played properly.
Apart from a love of games, Jennifer and her sister were unfortunate to inherit a kidney condition from their mother too and in her early teens Jennifer was put on a dialysis machine and given two months to live. Luckily, an organ donor was found for her and after the transplant operation, her young healthy body made a rapid improvement. However, her mother was not so lucky. She took a downturn needing a transplant a couple of years after Jennifer and with their father working away, the sisters took it in turns to nurse her.
To take her mind off of her mother’s condition, Jennifer got hold of a fake ID card and began visiting the local casinos. She started on a losing streak and then when she was seventeen, her mother passed away. After high school, Jennifer studied biology at the University of Nevada, working as a cocktail waitress to pay her fees. She would take her tip money to the casino and began to build up a small bankroll.
Jennifer passed her degree and moved to Los Angeles where she became a bartender. She lasted three days and then she discovered the Bicycle Casino. She did well enough to make a living but at the expense of her relationship with her father who stopped talking to her when he found out she was playing poker full-time. In part to appease him, Jennifer quit Los Angeles after two years and having enjoyed being her own boss at poker decided to start her own business on the East Coast. A year later, she went bankrupt, borrowed some money from a friend and then went to Las Vegas.
Initially, Harman didn’t view herself as a professional but she played cash games full time, generally with $50/$100 blinds. Although she built her bankroll and for a time played at $200/$400 levels she struggled with consistency, having to drop back down to the smaller cash games. 1992 proved to be an especially bad year and, almost bankrupt, she borrowed $50,000 to get herself up and running again. Her bankroll would never be so diminished ever again.
In 1996, she decided to try her hand at tournament play and finished a very creditable sixth in a World Series of Poker Pot Limit Hold’em event. Though she developed a fondness for the WSOP, Harman’s focus remained on the ‘bread and butter’ of cash games. She has said that there is so much to think about during tournaments ‘like conserving chips, avoiding marginal situations, playing aggressively against short stacks’ yet her results show that she is more than capable of thinking about these things.
In 2000, she entered the WSOP No Limit Deuce to Seven Lowball, despite having never played the variant before. She borrowed some handwritten notes on the game from ‘the Professor’, Howard Lederer, and five minutes later took her seat at the table. Some fifteen hours after that, at five in the morning, Harman was the proud owner of her first WSOP bracelet.
Two years on, she would win her second WSOP bracelet at Limit Hold’em. During this time, Jennifer promoted herself through every blind limit, without missing a single level, until she was playing in ‘the Big Game’ at the Bellagio, sometimes with blinds of $4000/$8000 though usually at a meager $2000/$4000.
Then in 2004, she required kidney transplant surgery again but, just a week before the operation was due, Jennifer found herself playing for ‘the Corporation’ against multi-millionaire banker, Andy Beal. ‘The Corporation’ was a group of poker’s finest who pooled their money to play a series of heads-up matches against Beal with the starting blinds at $10,000/$20,000 and rising to $100,000/$200,000. Jennifer, just about broke even despite the $1.7 million pot win through the group, took Beal for an alleged $9 million.
The following week Harman received a gift greater than all that money; a new kidney from her niece Aunnie. Since recovering, she has had three big cash finishes with a fourth and third place in World Poker Tour No Limit Hold’em events and a second place on the WSOP circuit. Together, those three tournaments over three and a half years netted her around $1million, the same as her average annual earnings from the Bellagio’s ‘Big Game’. But, it’s not just the money that makes cash games more attractive than tournaments for Jennifer; it’s also the fact that she doesn’t have to set her alarm clock.
As a regular on the television shows ‘Poker After Dark’ and “High Stakes Poker,’ Harman is a recognized celebrity. However, rather than let fame go to her head, she has used it to found and promote CODA, the Campaign for Organ Donation Awareness. She has also put her name to an annual charity tournament which raises money for the Nevada Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
She has written a chapter on Limit Hold’em for the book ‘Doyle Brunsen’s Super System 2,’ sequel to perhaps the most influential poker instruction book of all time. Closer to home, she has tutored her Italian husband, Marco Traniello, who is also beginning to enjoy some success at the baize. She is mother to twin boys.
Jennifer Harman has been described as the ‘best female player in the world.’ Were she to have primarily played in women only tournaments it might be a distinction worth making but not a single cent of her tournament winnings have come from single sex events. And to sit in Bobby’s Room at the Bellagio in the ‘Big Game’ and rake in the sort of money Jennifer makes, simply makes her one of the best poker players in the world and truly part of the elite.
Jennifer Harman prefers cash games to tournaments. After facing Corey Zeidman in a hand during the 2005 World Series of Poker main event, it’s not hard to see why. It was early in the tournament and Harman was holding a Q♦ Q♣.
The flop was 10♠ J♦ Q♥ and Zeidman with 9♦ 8♦ bet 2,000 chips. Harman called and calmly chewing gum, watched the 10♦ appear on the turn, making her a full house. She bet and Zeidman called, not realizing that only one card in the deck could win him the pot.
Jennifer put him ‘all in’ on the river and Zeidman called with the last of his stack. He had hit his only ‘out,’ a 7♦ and though Harman had outplayed him, she had lost and with a depleted stack did not remain long in the tournament afterwards.
Compare this to a hand in a private cash game against Andy Beal. The blinds were staggeringly high and Harman held a King and Queen while Beal had K♠ 10♠.
The flop was A♠ J♠ and a 10 sending Beal into a betting frenzy hoping to catch the flush or the crowning glory of a royal flush. He hit nothing though and Harman’s Ace-high straight won the pot, a record $1.7 million.
At almost the same amount as her total tournament winnings, it is no wonder that Harman prefers cash games.
Last updated May 2013