Although poker is a notorious boy’s club, Texas native Lacey Jones has found a way to reconcile her model looks with an ability to keep pace with some of the world’s best card players. Jones learned to play poker at a young age to earn candy money. She played throughout high school and college, scoring extra cash at nearly all-male tables.
After taking up modeling and acting, she began hosting poker events. But her poker skills didn’t go unnoticed. She landed in her first World Series of Poker in 2005, and became the official WSOP hostess in 2007. She’s been dubbed “Poker Barbie,” and has developed a unique style that plays to her femininity. When not participating in major events, or practicing at Caesars Palace or the Venetian, she works on her charity that helps soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. She’s about to embark on a USO Poker Tour.
Who taught you how to play poker?
The first person to teach me was my grandmother. I could get money when we would have our summer vacations, so instead of playing gin rummy with my mom I insisted on playing blackjack or something that would make money. It was never anything I took seriously and I never actually thought that it was a guy’s game, so in high school and college I would play home games with my guy friends and I would always be the only girl at the table that knew how to play. So it would be a bunch of guys, my jock friends. All my other girlfriends were doing shots and hanging out chatting and dancing at the parties and I was making money, which is kind of funny.
How does being a woman affect how you play poker?
A lot of people talk about being tight-aggressive or loose-aggressive. I obviously have those in my arsenal, but I also play fun and flirty, which I know a lot of females probably disagree with my take on, but I feel like if I make friends with the guys at the table and they like how I look, then they’re going to play a different way to me, they’re not going to want me to get off the table. They’re going to play a little bit softer. If I do take down a big pot they’re not going to be as angry with me because I’ve made friends with them already.
Who are some of your favorite players to play with?
I’ve been lucky to know a lot of these players and a lot of them are just a ball of fun. It’s almost like a family at this point, I’ve been playing with them for so many years. You have to love Mike Matusow, he’s always out there loud and obnoxious and talking, but that’s just his style and he’s really good at what he does. Gavin Smith … he’s probably one of my favorite people to play with; he’s just a ball of fun. He actually just won a bracelet last week, which makes me so happy that he finally got something like that.
Why do you think America is obsessed with poker?
I feel like in a capitalist society people always want to make themselves better. When we had [Chris] Moneymaker in 2003 win the [WSOP] Main Event from a $30 satellite, people said, “Wow, maybe I can do that, if he has a chance I have a chance.” It’s just a glimmer of hope that they could become a millionaire one day. It’s a game that everyone can play. It’s easy to learn. It’s very difficult to master, but at the same time anyone can really learn how to play hold ’em. I could never be a linebacker for the Dallas Cowboys—it’s just not going to happen—but I can have a chance at winning a bracelet if I try my hardest and try to play my best poker.
How do you get taken seriously and not just be “Poker Barbie”?
At first it kind of bothered me when I got the nickname. I got it at the Borgata [casino in Atlantic City] in a tournament where a guy kept saying he couldn’t believe he lost to the “Poker Barbie.” He made a really bad play and of course he didn’t assume that I knew how to play at all. I embraced it in a way that if people are going to underestimate me then I take full advantage and that gives me more power at the table.
Why don’t more women play poker?
I think it’s the intimidation factor. There are a lot of women playing online now, where you can act like you’re a guy on the tables. I used to have screen names that sounded like I was a guy so they’d be like, “Nice hand, bro,” and I would say, “Thanks, man.” I think a lot of people in this society in general, when they think of poker they think of a bunch of guys, poker night, smoking cigars and talking about their lives or whatever. But with women all they have to do is just step into a casino and realize that anyone can sit down and play this game.
Do you believe in luck?
I do. I think there are some people that are very lucky and I think that just putting it out there I try telling myself that I’m a lucky person in general with my life and I’m very grateful for the things that have happened to me. If you think you’re lucky then you will be lucky, and if you think you’re unlucky you’re going to be unlucky. I try to stay positive.