Poker’s ‘femme fatales’
find WPT spotlight

Aug 14, 2006 2:33 AM

The World Poker Tour’s Ladies’ Night returns to the Bicycle Casino this year with an all-star lineup that includes an OSCAR nominee, a Duke University scholar, and the leading female money finishers from Season IV of the WPT.

More than 500 women are expected to fight it out on the felt for one seat at WPT Ladies’ Night IV. The Bicycle Casino will stage its Ladies’ Poker Party open tournament, inviting all women over 21 to play in the $125-buy-in event ($100 buy-in plus the $25 entry fee). Ten percent of each $100 buy- in is being donated to the Komen Foundation.

The victor from that event will earn the coveted seat in the televised WPT Ladies’ Night IV tournament on Thursday, August 31.

"We are thrilled that the Komen Foundation has come on board to join forces with WPT Ladies’ Night and the fight against breast cancer," said Robyn Moder, Co-Founder and Executive Vice President of WPT Enterprises. "We at the WPT feel this is a great opportunity to shine a spotlight on the importance of breast cancer awareness and to celebrate women poker players at the same time. Our goal is to make this annual program grow in stature and monies raised each year so that we can help in the quest to find a cure."

This year’s final table will include: Defending WPT Ladies’ Night III Champion and Academy Award nominated actress Jennifer Tilly, Joanne "JJ" Liu, Vanessa Rousso, Anahit Galajian, Erica Schoenberg; and the winner of the Bicycle Casino’s Poker Party Open, to be held on August 19-20 in Bell Gardens, California.

The selected women represent the leading female money winners on the WPT in Season IV, plus the defending champion.

WPT Ladies’ Night continues to be one of the most popular events on the WPT, highlighting the remarkable women of poker, whose ability to outwit their competitors (both male and female) has labeled them "queens among jokers."

Viewers will no doubt be intrigued to watch the ladies vie for a $25,000 seat in the WPT World Championship at the Bellagio in Las Vegas in April 2007.

Here’s a closer look at some of the femme fatales:

Jennifer Tilly: In her spare time over the past several years, Academy Award nominee Jennifer Tilly has played a lot of poker. Her interest in the game was piqued during the filming of the 1989 gambling comedy, "Let It Ride." Soon after, she became involved in a regularly played poker game with friends and began to develop her skills as a player. Having Phil "The Unabomber" Laak as her instructor and boyfriend sped up her learning curve. To date, Tilly has won more than $200,000 playing poker, including a WSOP gold bracelet in the 2005 No Limit Hold’ Em ladies event and the WPT Ladies’ Night III title.

JJ Liu: Joanne "JJ" Liu started playing professional poker in 1996. Before that, the former computer engineer was often the victim of her brothers’ home games and decided to take up poker in order to beat them. In 1996, Liu had made her first final table in a Limit Hold ”˜Em event at the World Series of Poker and has never looked back since. To date, she has cashed more than 30 times in major events, earning more than $800K. Last year, Liu placed fourth at Bellagio in the Season IV WPT Five Diamond World Poker Classic event and took home more $360K.

Vanessa Rousso: A dual-citizen of the United States and France, Vanessa Rousso earned a full scholarship to Duke University, where she finished in two and a half years, subsequently earning herself a full-tuition scholarship to the University of Miami Law School. Still a law student, Rousso, also known as the "Lady Maverick of Poker" (so named because of her quirky style), has amassed more than $360K in earnings. Last season, Rousso finished in seventh place (one seat away from the final table) at the WPT World Championship at the Bellagio in Las Vegas for take-home pay exceeding $260K.

Anahit Galajian: Anahit is relatively new to the world of tournament poker, but has been playing poker professionally since 2000. This year as a tournament player, she has amassed more than $275K in winnings in a short amount of time. To date, Galajian’s biggest finish was in Season IV’s WPT LA Poker Classicâ„¡, in which she finished in seventh place for a payout of $166K. Galajian also cashed four times at this year’s WSOP in various Limit and No Limit Hold ”˜Em events.

Erica Schoenberg: This former model and professional blackjack player says she has always participated in card playing to some degree, having wagered all kinds of bets with family members and friends since childhood. Schoenberg has always had an affinity for math and logic, which most recently translated into a 16th place finish for $117K in last year’s WPT World Championship at the Bellagio.

Women interested in playing in the Bicycle Casino’s Ladies Poker Party on August 19-20 should call (562) 806-4646 or go to