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Poker News | People in Poker | Poker Superstars

Jennifer Harman – Through the Good and Difficult Times

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People often say that when you start out young at something then the possibilities are endless. Well if that’s the case then the possibilities were certainly endless with poker for a young Jennifer Harman. Born in 1964, Jennifer started learning the game at the tender age of eight in her hometown of Reno, Nevada. Her father frequently held home poker games at their household and Jennifer was often a spectator of them.

Eventually though, Jennifer would shed her spectator status of the home games and start participating in them herself. It all happened when her dad was experiencing a miserable poker session with his friends and decided that even thirteen year-old Jennifer could do better than him. He was definitely right as she not only did better than he was doing but also was able to pull him back to even in the game. She would go on to participate in more of these home games as well as poker with her cousins too.

However, with the good times that came along with the early poker games also came the tough times of a kidney disease that Harman developed as a kid. The disease was bad enough to the point where she would need a kidney transplant or die within two months. So the decision was made to put her on a dialysis machine until a donor was found for her. Jennifer would get her kidney but it was especially hard for her since her sister needed one about the same time.

Harman recovered from her transplant and mental anguish though and when she did Jennifer made the drastic decision to gamble in casinos at the age of 16. Growing up in “The Biggest Little City in the World” (Reno), she had plenty of options to choose from and was lucky enough to never get caught in any of them. Harman always carried a fake I.D. with her in the casino though she never had to flash it since no one ever carded her.

And while Harman was definitely lucky enough not to get caught, she was not so lucky at the casino tables. It is in this scene that she quickly discovered how tough the gambling world was as she was outclassed by much older people who had been playing a lot longer than she had. It was clear to Jennifer that she wasn’t at her daddy’s table games anymore. But she remained undaunted by the fact that she had run into some better players and stuck with the game. That is until she graduated from high school and decided to further her education.

The University of Nevada-Reno is where she chose to do so and biology and math were her subjects of choice. Unfortunately, being a fulltime student also meant that Harman would have to give up her regular casino visits in favor of getting a normal job…well, sort of normal anyways. Jennifer was a cocktail waitress at a casino and she also played a little poker after her shift was over when she had time.

After a few years, Harman completed enough coursework to graduate from the University of Nevada-Reno with a degree in biology. But studying cells under a microscope or examining insects in some tropical rainforest for a career was the furthest thing from Harman’s mind as she had other plans. The bright lights of Los Angeles was her destination and bartending at a Japanese hotel would be her new job.

This would turn out to be the shortest job she ever had though after she ran into a friend from Reno at a L.A. grocery store. This friend told her how she had to try out the poker games at the Bicycle Casino and she immediately took his advice. She began playing cash games at the Bicycle Casino and quickly exited from the bartending world. However, contrary to what many people thought, she didn’t quit her job to take on poker as a profession. She was just having fun and decided to play poker for a while until she had to get another job.

But despite her original intentions, poker would become her job and Harman was soon making enough money to pay the bills after her sessions. And her dad wasn’t too happy about her current career choice either. After seeing Jennifer graduate from college, he wanted her to put the degree to good use but she was dead set on making her own decisions. Sadly, this would cause a rift between Harman and her father for years which drove her away from poker for a while.

Dissatisfied with the game and hurting because of her disassociation with her family, Harman once again made a bold move. This time is was to Maryland where she went with the intention of opening up a small business. She did open her business but it was short lived and she was broke after just a year. Stranded in the East and with no money, Harman knew that she had to go back to doing what she had been since childhood: Poker!

So Harman borrowed some money from a friend and went to Sin City to play Limit Hold’em. Her typical limit was $50/$100 and she had a rough go of it in the beginning. She was finding out that Las Vegas brought some very fierce competition and Jennifer would eventually end up having to borrow more money.

But despite her early struggles in Vegas, Harman would find her game and start making a living again in cash games like she had in Los Angeles. And although she had yet to make any significant marks on the poker world as of yet, she would prove to her dad that she could hang in the poker world and make money doing it as well.

Now reconciled with her family, Harman starting becoming more and more successful at cash games and she decided to hit the tournament trail to see where her luck would take her. Though not a seasoned tournament player Jennifer was still able to experience some success early on and even took 6th in a $2,500 Hold’em Pot Limit WSOP event in 1996. However, Harman was decidedly a cash player as she enjoyed the freedom these games offered her vs. the more orderly tourneys. So she disappeared from the tournament scene for a while and didn’t really resurface for quite some time. But when she did return, Harman did so in a big way!

In 2000, Harman entered her only event of the WSOP that year (and just her fifth since 95’) in the $5,000 No Limit Deuce-to-Seven Draw. Amazingly, despite not being considered a traditional tournament player, Jennifer achieved what many tourney players fail to do their whole lives in winning a WSOP event. After capturing the WSOP gold bracelet and the $146,250 to go along with it, the story came out that the only No Limit Deuce-to-Seven Draw experience Harman had was the 5 minutes of coaching that Howard “The Professor” Lederer gave her beforehand.

After her big victory, Harman would only have to wait two more years to get her second WSOP bracelet. At the 2002 WSOP Jennifer took first place in a $5,000 Limit Hold’em event where she also earned $212,400 for the performance. But while this was a lot of money, it would be nothing compared to the stakes that Harman was about to play for.

That’s because Texas billionaire Andy Beal started involving himself a lot more in the high stakes poker scene that Harman was accustomed to around this time. Beal had started visiting Bellagio where the “Big Game” occurred since 2001 and wanted to play at limits professional poker players couldn’t afford. So the pros formed a collective group called “The Corporation” that, over time, has included players like Harman, Doyle Brunson, Ted Forrest, Gus Hansen, Phil Ivey, Barry Greenstein, and more.

Eventually, The Corporation called upon Jennifer Harman in 2004 to compete against Beal even though she was just a week away from having a second kidney transplant. This was especially tough for Harman since she had lost her mom to a kidney disease when she was 17, had already went through the painful surgery herself, and was carrying about 35 pounds of extra water and waste in her body. Nevertheless, Harman battled on against Beal for the team and was able to keep even with him for The Corporation.

After taking some time off of poker to heal from the surgery, Harman once again started mixing tournaments in with her usual high stakes cash games. And though she hasn’t won any bracelets or had any other huge wins since the WSOP victory in 2002, Jennifer has made some very large cashes. She finished 4th at the 2004 WPT Five Diamond Classic which netted her $299,492, placed 2nd at the 2005 WSOP Circuit Rio tournament in which she cashed for $383,840, and took 3rd at the 2008 WPT Bay 101 Shooting Stars event and this made her $330,000.

All of her great tournament finishes and cash game exploits over the years have landed Harman on Team Full Tilt and has also earned her a spot on the television show Poker After Dark. Jennifer is still recognized as the only female who regularly participates in the Big Game at Bobby’s Room and has transcended the gender barriers to become known as one of the best all-around poker players in the world.

In her life outside of poker, Harman is married to fellow pro poker player Marco Traniello whom she tutored to play the game herself. The two have twin boys and reside in Las Vegas where Harman still remains active in poker though not as often as she used to. But no matter how often Jennifer puts herself in the poker limelight from now on, it will always be clear that she has braved many struggles to get to achieve all of her amazing accomplishments.

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