Breaking Points – How Aubrey Williams lost her bankroll in a night but saved her life

Paul Oresteen
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Posted on: January 12, 2024 9:05 pm EST

“Going broke is what made me come out. I lost a hand – I still remember it – a guy rivered me in a $1/$2 game at Parx for most of my life bankroll. I went home, and I was either going to kill myself or come out.”

Stunned, I held eye contact with Aubrey Williams as we sat in the back corner of Bread & Butter. It’s as hard to write as it was to hear. All around, slot machines sang, a short-order cook called out orders, and pop music blared as we talked about her life.

The Friday night party crowd was just arriving at Borgata, but our conversation starkly contrasted our over-lit corner and neighboring coffee house conversations.

Hitting her lowest

“I made a super strong drink and came out to my mom that night,” Williams said. “I was broke; I was at my breaking point. I’m either killing myself or coming out – I’m glad I didn’t.”

Williams’ journey through life hasn’t been easy. The 31-year-old poker pro went through a lot to find happiness. That night she sat and talked with her mom. Williams stayed with her mom while she worked on introducing the world to her new self.

“Before I came out, poker was the only thing that gave me happiness,” she said. “Beating other people in poker felt good. I was like, ‘Fuck this guy, but at least he has money.’ I was dead inside.”

“Now, it’s not like that, I love poker,” she said. “I have to deal with way more shit outside of poker.”

Williams had her family’s support from the night she came out. Then, she went through the process of transitioning, which comes with problems no one really thinks about. Just changing her name became a three-month process.

The anger she felt in poker before transitioning doesn’t show itself today. In fact, Williams wants to bring her recently retired mom to the Poker Power brunch on Sunday for the Ladies Championship.

Spinning it up while waiting for her new life

While she was waiting for her name change, she put her last $150 online.

“I turned it into $10,000 in three months and haven’t had a job since,” she said. “I’ve always been kind of a degenerate. I’ve never been good at talking.”

“I’ve been fired a couple times from different jobs. I’m not very good at talking to managers,” she said with a smile. “I’m not good at not being a smart ass, especially when I know I’m right.”

When she started playing after she came out, Williams had to deal with hostilities found too often at poker tables.

“Creepy old guys would hit on me,” she said. “I guess I was less passable then, and I got a lot of shit that first year.”

She felt some things began to change in 2020.

“Everyone gendered me correctly, but then the world shut down,” she said. “I play higher stakes, and (players) above $1,000, if they have shitty opinions, they’re smart enough to keep it to themselves.”

Living as an outlier

Live poker is a challenge for Williams. Despite claiming not being good at talking, Williams didn’t hold back when asked about playing for a living.

“Some players shouldn’t be using money towards poker in smaller buy-in . They’re way more depressed in their own lives, so they’re going to be ridiculous at the table,” Williams continued.

“Poker is so day-to-day,” Williams said. “It depends on the day. Some days you play one hand well and you’re like, ‘I’m the fucking best!’ Then you play a hand bad and you think you suck.”

Williams finds her edge in the game from her mathematical approach. She said, “poker is hard if you make it hard.”

“In poker, you’re playing other idiots – people from American school systems,” she said. “No one can do math. Yesterday there were two guys on a penalty because one accused the other of cheating by watching a YouTube video with a chart. There’s no chart in the world for a six-way, limped pot.”

Poker math is simple math

“People don’t take responsibility for the fact they’re horrible. They don’t spend any time looking shit up,” she said. “People just complain that poker is rigged. I can’t play more than ten days of live poker. I don’t know how people play the whole World Series.”

Williams loves the freedom that comes with poker. “I like being able to wake up and if I don’t feel like playing, then I don’t have to. It’s my choice if I want to play,” she said.

Williams meant to dedicate the first two months of 2024 to playing more live. But there’s a good chance she hits the snooze button in the morning. She said, “that’s what I like about poker – I don’t have to do anything. I hate feeling like I have to do something.”

But what she wants to do is win. She’s never won a tournament. She lamented that she’s had deep runs that all fell short of the final table. “I haven’t won a live poker tournament since I was playing in basements as a kid,” she said.

Tournament poker is a constant fight. A fight against players, the rake, and yourself. It can be really hard when you know you’re a target.

“Some rich guy doesn’t give a fuck – I see that most rich people aren’t racist or discriminatory, they just hate poor people,” Williams said. “A lot of these old guys respect me, but they’re still going to vote against me being alive.”

All photos by 8131 Media – Alicia Skillman