This is part two of Poker.Org’s interview with Nikki Limo, the actress and comedian who made an incredibly deep run in a WSOP event this year, winning $116,568. You can read part one of this interview here.
“You know, I thought the whole reason we were here was to talk about your final table at the WSOP, but this has been fascinating and we haven’t even gotten to the deep run. I guess we should go there.”
“I played a tournament at the MGM Grand and cashed for $12k. Well, Professional Nikki told Poker Degen Nikki that she could have $4k to go play the WSOP. The bankroll could afford it, and hey, it’s the WSOP, right? I busted one event, but then signed up for event #11 – the $600 Deep Stack. I immediately ran into pocket kings, and got crippled. But I battled back, won blinds here and there, won a couple of flips. Then I was back at 30 BBs and could play some poker.
“Once we got to the end of late registration and were in freeze-out mode, I just had to get through oh, only 5,000 players – we’d started with 5700. I was patient, and waited for the right spots. Obviously, I had to win some flips, but I was ready to die with the right hands.
“We got toward the bubble and I had 20 BBs. But it was grueling. We ended up playing until 2:00am, which was a couple of levels after the bubble. This is where preparation, a healthy lifestyle, and discipline take over.
“Then we got a hand where a guy at the table had a coupon for a free massage. He said he’d give it to the next person who busted somebody out. Well, somebody shoved into me with KJ and I woke up with QQ on the button and shoved over him. The board ran out clean, I busted him, and got a free massage.”
“Right? But I just used my best judgment. Some spots I folded AQo, and some spots I called off with AQo. It was all a function of the situation. One turning point hand: we were past the bubble, but still had two more levels to play – it was one frigging A.M. Somebody opens, there’s a call, and now the cut-off, who’s plain crazy, shoves 5 BBs in front of me. I have ten BBs. I find 77. Am I willing to die with this hand? Yes. I reshove. Everybody else folds. The cut-off has Q3, nothing bad happens. I bust him and collect all that dead money, blinds, and antes. It was basically a triple-up.
“Then I started catching cards and destroying short stacks. KK, QQ, AK. Big hands catching small stacks that had to shove light. Basically caught the positive end of variance, and ‘ran like a god.’ I ended up bagging 40 BBs going into Day 2.”
“That’s quite an accomplishment right there.”
On Day 2, we got down to three tables – there was $13k guaranteed, and obviously, I was over the moon. But I was down under ten BBs. I got Q♣T♣ and was never going to make the final table folding a hand like that. So I shipped it in and ran smack into kings. The guy had a stack just a hair bigger than mine. Well, two clubs on the flop, third club on the turn, and he had red kings, so was drawing dead. Again, you gotta win some flips. And some not-so-flips.
“In fact, I tried to keep count – I think I won 17 flips during the last stretch of the event.”
“Shocking, I know. I mean, I was the favorite in most of those, but I certainly wasn’t a favorite to win 17 of them. But that’s what you have to do to make the final table – you have to win flips.
“There was another hand – I was in the small blind with QQ. The button limped, which was weird from this player. I raised, and he shoved with AK. Again, the board ran clean and I busted him.
“We got to the final table, and I was really playing to win. Yeah, I laddered up some, but it wasn’t because I was trying to ladder up. It was because I didn’t get hands to die with, but other people did.
“And there’s something else I need to mention: at some point, I heard all this shouting on the rail when I won a pot. I turned around and there were all these people rooting for me. It was a combination of so many people I’ve met over the course of the last few months – my coach Jesse Sylvia, my neighbors (who are also very successful professional tournament players!), Hand History Lounge members, people I’d played cash games with, people I’d met through tournaments, and of course, my amazing husband. Man, having that support meant the world to me. It felt like the end of a movie. I felt – and feel – so fortunate to be part of a community like that. The money is great, but the feeling of support was even better.”
Eventually, I ran A6 into a bigger ace, and I was out in 4th place for $116,000. But when I shoved that hand, I was happy to die with it, so I was content with the outcome.”
“And you promptly set aside $10k for the Main Event?”
“Haha no, I hadn’t ever planned on playing the Main Event, and Professional Nikki still did not see that being smart for our bankroll, but then StakeKings reached out to me. After that deep run, I had a lot of people, in and out of the poker world, who were asking if I was going to be playing any more events and if they could buy a piece of the action. So it made sense to include anyone who wanted to in this poker journey, and for the experience of playing a huge event like the WSOP main, I think it’s absolutely worth it. I decided to sell 50% of my action, which I was surprised ended up selling out within a few hours of making it public. So now people have a stake in the game, and I get to play the Main at a discount – it’s win-win! I’m not saying that was a bucket list item for me, but it’s the Main Event, right?”
“Going back to my therapist, I have struggled with ‘Imposter Syndrome.’ It’s this idea that no matter what you achieve, or how trained, educated, or qualified you are, you always suspect that you’re really not supposed to be there – that you’re an imposter.
“Well, my first live tournament was on March 28th of this year. Less than three months later, I finish 4th in a 5700-runner tournament for $116k. That’s pretty crazy for me. So I plow right back into the books. 80% of my free time is studying and trying to get better at poker. I know there is still so much to learn, and that’s truly what I love about it.
“I do have fun, and I think it’s really important to have a life you love away from poker. We have lakes near our house, and I have a morning routine where I go out and walk around those, look at the turtles, rollerblade to our beach lagoon. For sure, I have it pretty good, and I’m really grateful regardless of an upswing or downswing.”
“So, I don’t want to bring you down, or bring the conversation down, but I think you’re uniquely qualified to discuss this. And I know you’ve brought it up in the Hand History Lounge. Can you talk briefly about misogyny in poker?”
“Well, I did stand-up comedy for ten years. There’s a lot of stigma about women in comedy. Like only men are funny. There were so many times I’d be the only woman in the line-up when I felt I had to be particularly funny because I was representing all the women in comedy (which is ridiculous). Sometimes, when someone at my table is particularly misogynist, it can feel like I have to represent all the women at poker when I’m at the table. It’s really silly, and it shouldn’t be a thing.
“But all those years in stand-up truly helped me. I got good at slicing up some heckler who was coming after me because I was a woman, and I do the same thing at the table. It makes everyone else laugh, and lightens the situation. And here’s the thing: there are more good people than bad. Quite often, if somebody comes after me at the table, somebody else will step in. It’s not that I can’t handle it myself – I can – but it just feels good to have a good soul tell some jerk to back off.”
“So you’re okay with a decent human saying something when there’s a bad actor at the table?”
“Yes, for sure. Look, we all know that when somebody is doing that, they have their own issues. They’re trying to tear you down because they don’t feel good about themselves. So I just remember that and it makes it a lot easier to deal with those folks.”
“I appreciate that perspective. Any final thoughts you’d like to add?”
“Yeah, huge shout-out to my coach, Jesse Sylvia, for getting me this far. And thanks to Andrew Neeme for getting me into the Hand History Lounge community to study cash game hands. I wanted a solid theory coach, but also a community to bounce around hands, ideas, and emotions. Now I have both and even got a final table rail in the deal.
“I’ve always been a fan of following your passions full force and seeing what happens, life is just more interesting that way. So, I hope, if anything, stuff like this influences people to go after whatever passion or dream they have, because life really is so short, and so many people spend it doing things they hate because they think they’re supposed to. There was one point in my acting career when I was waitressing at three different restaurants at the same time but swore that I wouldn’t take a 9-5 job, because then I couldn’t go to auditions, or do stand-up gigs. I was going to do whatever it took so I still had access to my dream.
“Whatever your dream is, don’t settle for something that gets in the way of it.”
“Whoa. I think we should pretty much end with that. Just tell us where we can find you.”
“Sure. My husband, Steve Greene, and I have a podcast called, ‘Shit They Don’t Tell You,’ which you can get at Apple podcasts, or wherever you shop for podcasts. Or find me on Instagram.
“Thanks, Nikki. I’ve so enjoyed this. And congratulations on everything. I wish you many opportunities to find a hand you can die with.”
“Thank you so much.”