Cookies on the PokerWorks Website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you continue without changing your settings, we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies on the PokerWorks website. However, if you would like to, you can change your cookie settings at any time.

Continue using cookies

Poker News | World Series of Poker | WSOP2009 | Poker Personalities

Having Fun Now, Nichoel Peppe Making A Deep Run In The Main Event

Share this
I had seen Nichoel Peppe the previous few days of the Main Event and each time I walked by her table, I noticed her chip stack growing. I watched one hand on day 4 where she check raised her aggressive male counterpart and got him to fold. I thought to myself, “I need to keep an eye on this one.” I'm a shy person by nature so it took me a little while to approach her and start a conversation. One day to be precise. I finally got up the nerve to start a conversation with her shortly after Day 5 began.

I tapped her lightly on her shoulder. She turned and looked at me.

“Hi,” I said. “Can I ask you what your name is?” (I knew what it was but I figured it'd be a good way to start a conversation with her)

She told me her name and I'd seen it in the chip counts with an unusual spelling so I asked her to spell it for me.

“N-I-C-H-O-E-L P-E-P-P-E,” she answered.

“That's a different way of spelling Nichoel,” I said.

She laughed. “Yea it is... the other day they had me in the chip counts as Michael.”

She definitely wasn't a Michael I thought to myself.

“Where are you from?” I inquired.

“Long Beach,” she answered.

Nichoel was busy playing so I didn't want to take too much of her time so I introduced myself and walked off. As I was heading back to my laptop, Nolan Dalla stopped me and asked what I knew about her since he had seen me talking to her. I told him I didn't know much but that I'd go back and find out later.

About fifteen minutes later I headed back towards her table and saw that the ESPN cameras and sound crew were hovering over her table and the camera was pointed directly at her. “It's starting,” I thought to myself. The inevitable media rush to the potential last woman standing. It happens every year about this time. The ESPN crew (and the rest of the media, err including me) find the two or three women with the most chips and start following them like a hawk. It's smart business. There aren't a lot of women that make it deep in the event and showing the successful females can help draw in some female viewers in addition to keeping the attention of the heavily male dominated poker community. I knew it was only a matter of time before Nichoel was besieged by media requests, poker agents, and people begging her for money. It's the life cycle in the poker world.

I wanted to get to know Nichoel before all that happened and from my initial brief chat with her, she seemed like she was a talkative person and would be a good person to have a conversation with. I walk up to her and say “Nichoel, you're becoming famous, the media director was asking me about you.”

“Really?” she said, giving me a slightly curious look.

“Do you play much?” I asked her.

“Yea,” she said. “I'm a professional.”

“How long have you been playing”

“Five years.”

“Cash games mainly?” I asked, guessing that was her specialty.

“Yes, 5-10 No Limit mainly.”

“You play online or live?” I asked.

“Mainly live at the Bicycle Casino in L.A.”

“The Bike,” I said.

“Yea,” she smiled.

“How did you get started in poker?”

“I moved to L.A. to try and get into acting and my roommate told me I should watch the poker that was on ESPN because she knew how much I liked games because I was always wanting to play with her. I watched Chris Moneymaker's win and I was hooked. I knew I wanted to play. I put in some money online and starting playing really low limit games and then went to the Bike and started playing 2-4 limit.”

“2-4? How long did you play at that limit?” I asked, knowing how hard it is to make a living at that limit because of the rake.

“Well, shortly after I started playing I won this tournament at Hollywood Park for like 18K and it was no limit and I liked it so I started playing no limit games. That money gave me some breathing room.”

Nichoel went on to tell me that she had won her seat into the Main Event in a mega satellite. At this point, Nichoel has about 1.2 million in chips which is upper middle of the pack. I walk off to check what else is going on in the tournament, it was a crazy first level, but I checked periodically on Nichoel to see how she was doing.

Shortly after the first break I saw a crowd of media and the ESPN cameras gathered around Nichoel's table with the camera and microphone squarely pointed in her direction. I hurry over there to see what is going on and see that she is stacking a massive amount of chips. I wait for the commotion to die down.

“What happened?” I ask.

She turns to me, an excited and happy look on her face, her smile beaming from ear to ear. “I had 9-7 of clubs and called a raise pre-flop in position. The flop came 10-9-7 and he led out.” She pointed to Tom Lutz in the five seat. “I raised and he re-raised. I thought he had an over pair or something like A-8 and I wanted to protect my hand so I moved all in. He started thinking so I knew I was good and he made the call with 10-8. The turn was the four of clubs which put two clubs on the board and made me feel a lot better about the hand and the river was a blank.”

“Nice,” I say. “Were you nervous?”

“Oh my God, I thought I was going to have a heart attack. My heart was racing so fast.”

Just then I hear a woman screaming for Nichoel in the background.

“Who's that?” I ask.

“Oh, that's my aunt, Lisa,” she said.

“I'll go talk to her,” I said, and started to walk over there.

“Lisa,” Nichoel yelled. “This is Aaron.”

I walk over to Lisa, who is smiling perhaps even bigger than Nichoel was moments earlier.

“Hi,” I said, not needing to introduce myself since Nichoel had.

I find out Lisa is from Las Vegas and ask if Nichoel is staying with her.

“No,” she answered. “They are staying here at the Rio.”

I pick up on the fact that Lisa said “they” so I figure Nichoel must have a boyfriend or husband nearby watching. I don't see him standing next to Lisa so I go back to Nichoel and ask her if anyone else is here watching her.

“My husband, Tad, is,” she said.

“Where is he?” I asked.

She points up to the Jacks Links stands and waves to him.

A guy wearing a red baseball cap waves back.

“I'm going to go talk to him,” I said.

Nichoel literally stands up and yells at him from across the room (he's at least 50-100 feet away). “Tad, this is Aaron, he wants to talk to you.”

Let's just say Nichoel isn't the shy and quiet type.

Tad jogs down the stairs and heads over towards an empty section of the rail.

I shake his hand and he tells me his name is Tad Jurgens. I've heard that name before but I can't remember from where so I ask him.
“I took 2nd in the 1.5K H.O.R.S.E. event this year,” he told me.

“That's it,” I say. “I knew I'd seen that name somewhere.”

I ask him how he's feeling.

“Great,” he said. “This is exciting!”

“Do you get more nervous watching her play than when you play yourself?” I know the answer to this question before I ask it, but I always like asking it of another poker player.

“Way more nervous,” he said. “My heart was pounding during that big pot she just played.”

We talk a little bit more and decide we'll talk more at dinner that night. The break comes soon after and Nichoel is in the top 5 in chips (as high as 2nd at one point) with over 2.5 million in chips. She is snagged for an interview right away and I walk out with Tad and Lisa and am talking with them as Nichoel gets interviewed. I had mentioned to Nichoel that she was soon going to get bombarded from poker agents wanting to represent her. Don't do it, I warned her, telling her she could get as much doing it herself. Sure enough right after her interview, an agent from Poker Royalty came over to her and started giving her his canned spiel about how they represent the biggest names in poker and would like to help her out. The conversation is brief and I look at Nichoel and say “See, I told you that was going to happen.” She laughs and puts the card he gave her in her purse.

Nichoel loses a big pot right after the break when she called a large bet on the river with 2nd pair only to see her opponent had top pair. I had thought her opponent looked weak so I asked her if she had thought he was. “Yes,” she said. “I thought he didn't seem comfortable so I thought I'd make the hero call. I was wrong, oh well.” She shrugs her shoulders and even though she lost nearly a million in chips in the pot, she's still in great chip position with well over 100 big blinds. The rest of her day is pretty uneventful. She doesn't play many hands the last three to four orbits but does pick up a small pot right before the end of the day to put her at just over 1.6 million which is good for 35th place out of the remaining 185 players.

As she is bagging her chips, an agent from Poker Icons comes under the ropes and starts talking to her. He's wearing a red media badge and I think that's a bit unusual. It's one of the reasons I'm not a big fan of most poker agents and I know for a fact that he's not supposed to be doing that. I revert to my 5th grade self and tell the Director of Media Operations. I'm such a tattle tale. Wicked Chops, the uber cool blog that covers all things regarding hot women in poker, wants to interview her. Before she can go get interviewed by them, however, ESPN asks if she could sit down with them for 15-20 minutes. The big time!

As she's getting interviewed, I sit and talk with Lisa and Tad. I ask Tad how the two of them met.

“She was playing at the table behind me. There was tennis on television and it looked like she was watching it so I leaned over and asked her who she was rooting for. That was my pickup line.” He laughs as he says this.

Tad tells me how he asked if she wanted to meet for drinks later but he was playing in a juicy 400/800 Mixed game that was going so good that they decided to postpone it.

“Ahhh,” I laughed. “You blew her off for poker. Way to make a good first impression.”

Tad laughs. “No, no, no.”

He goes on to tell me how they went out for sushi on their first date. The day was November 19th. I tell him he should lie and say the date was November 9 because that would be so much more fitting and marketable. Lisa loves that one. They moved in with one another only a month after they started dating, lived together for two years, and got married this February in Maui.

Nichoel finally comes out of the interview and we head to dinner. It turns out the couple are friends with Tom Schneider, who I know pretty well, and he agrees to join us. We drive over in my car to the restaurant and I ask Nichoel what really got her into poker besides just seeing it on television.

“I love games,” she starts. “I always played them as a kid and I wanted to win every game I played. I still do. We were playing Boggle at home with my Dad and I won every game and put the scores up on the fridge. That was two weeks ago, not when I was two. I also used to kick my Uncle Tom's ass at concentration when I was just a little kid.”

She laughs and reads a text message on her phone (she's been answering a ton of well wishers texts since we sat down). “In fact, my Uncle Tom just sent a text message saying just that.” She hands me the phone and I read the text.

Wow... and now on to day six! I often told people of how you dominated me at age 3 (myself, 18) in the card game of concentration.

I ask Nichoel about the acting part of her moving to California. She told me that it didn't work out. She had been an extra on a few shows including House (Tad chimes in and tells about a time they are watching House and he sees Nichoel briefly on the show and how cool that was for him) just so she could get her SAG card but then ended up getting into poker.

“How are you feeling about all of this so far,” I asked.

“I didn't think I'd ever make it this far,” she answered. “I was just happy to cash.”

Tad tells me a story of how Nichoel bubbled the first mega she played in. “I walked into the hotel room and she looks as if she had been ran over by a truck.”

Nichoel adds to the story. “It had been such a rough year for me in poker. I hadn't won much, barely broke even, and I was beginning to think that I was going to give poker up because I wasn't having fun anymore.”

Nichoel played another mega satellite the next day and won a seat.

I'd venture to say that she's having fun now.

News Flash

The IRS Scores Big at 2015 WSOP ME Final Table

The IRS managed to snag 34.13 percent from the payouts of the 2015 November Nine, totaling $8,467,091.

Read more

Quick Room Review

Bonus Room review

Subscribe to the Nightly Turbo

Be the first to know all the latest poker news, tournament results, gossip and learn all about the best online poker deals straight from your inbox.

RSS Feed