Jennifer Harman-Traniello is an American professional poker player and is considered by many as the best female poker player in the world.
Born (and raised) in Reno, Nevada, on November 29, 1964, Harman was first involved in card games when sat next to her father during his home games when she was only eight-years old. She learned by watching the cards, the players, and the strategies used. Jennifer was always plagued by chronic kidney problems and underwent a kidney transplant at an early age. She never saw this as a burden or an impediment. Kidney problems also afflicted her sister and her mother, who died from a kidney-related illness when Harman was 17.
By her teenage years, her passion for poker ran deep enough to get a fake ID to play in poker rooms. She later went to the University of Nevada, Reno to study biology, and put herself through school by playing poker and working as a waitress, one of the few regular jobs that she would ever hold. But after graduation she decided to play poker on a full-time basis. Her decision to play professional poker made her estranged from her father. For a few years they had of little contact, but eventually reconciled after she was finally able to convince him that she was supporting herself and that the game of poker required a great deal of skill and training.
She didn’t start playing poker for a living until she was about 21. Back then, she played mostly $10-$20, then moved up to $20-$40, and then $30-$60. She spent about seven years playing $20-$40, and no higher than $50-$100, then about another eight years playing from $75-$150 to $200-$400. She would build her bankroll and take shots at the bigger games and eventually move up to $3,000-$6,000 games. When she would lose, she would go back down in limits.
For some poker players, the road to becoming a professional is an easy one. For others, such as Jennifer's case, it wasn't so easy. In 1993, after a losing year and close to being broke, Jennifer considered quitting playing professionally. She was playing $50-$100 hold’em at the Mirage at the time, and, just to be safe, she borrowed $50,000 from a friend so that she could have an adequate bankroll to continue playing in that game. She started to do much better after that, and paid the loan off pretty quickly. Since then, she has stuck to limits she could afford and hasn't had to any more bankroll management issues. Her perseverance to get through those tough times just made her stronger.
During late 1990's she played cash games with a group of other poker players who were also climbing the rungs of the professional poker ladder. Among these players were Daniel Negreanu (who Harman became good friends with), Doyle Brunson, and Chip Reese. It was because of these games that she was able to hone her skills, increase the limits she played at, and learn to play a wider variety of games. This was important because Harman played mostly Hold 'Em and didn't play too much of other poker games.
Harman won her first World Series bracelet in 2000 at the prestigious No-Limit Deuce-to-Seven Lowball Event. Prior to the event, she had never played the game before, and didn't even know anything about it. She only received a five-minute tutorial from a fellow pro before playing. The victory gave her some much-needed confidence in her ability to be successful at games other than Hold 'Em, as well confidence that she could succeed in tournaments. She won her second WSOP bracelet in 2002 at the $5,000 Limit Hold 'em event. She is the only woman to hold two bracelets in WSOP open events.
At the height of her success, though, Jennifer was again confronted by health problems with her kidneys. She noticed that she was getting very fatigued during preparations for the 2004 WSOP, and she sought medical attention. She got another kidney transplant and was forced to take a year off from poker in order to recover. She has been doing well since her return.
Even though poker has been her only source of income since she was 21, she has been investing her money the whole time she has been playing - unlike a lot of other professional poker players.
All of her accomplishments are impressive enough; the fact that she has had to do it in what traditionally has been a man's world makes it even more impressive. She has said that it probably helps her poker profits to be a woman because male players underestimate her and think that they can bluff her. This bias is reinforced by her stature, at only 5 feet 2 inches tall and around 100 pounds. But her un-intimidating physical presence and personal charm at the table belie her toughness and resourcefulness. What has been more difficult for her is earning respect as a player. But she is also an inspiration for countless female play pokers.
Harman has made the final table of the WPT and PPT. She has appeared on the GSN series "High Stakes Poker" and on the NBC series "Poker After Dark", where she won the tournament during Week 8. In 2007, Harman finished as runner up in the inaugural World Series of Poker Europe. She came in 2nd place in the HORSE event to Thomas Bihl.
Harman authored the chapter for limit hold'em for "Super System II". Harman is a member of "Team Full Tilt" at Full Tilt Poker. As of 2009, Harman's total live tournament winnings exceeded $2,300,000 with 24 cashes at the WSOP.
Harman is known a cash game specialist and she can regularly be found playing in the biggest live-action game in the world. She is the only female regular player in the "Big Game", the high-stakes cash game at the Bellagio with fellow high-stakes poker players, Doyle Brunson, Daniel Negreanu, David Benyamine and Barry Greenstein, at the $4000-$8000 level. She was rumored to have been involved in the largest cash game hand at 1.7 million. She was also an active member of "The Corporation", a group of high-stakes poker players (including Todd Brunson, Phil Ivey and Ted Forrest) who played Texas billionaire Andy Beal at limits of up to $100,000-$200,000.
She has, at times, tried to improve her tournament play, playing a few more than usually events at the World Series, rather than the cash games she normally plays. She has also specifically worked on improving her no-limit play, because she would like to win the Main Event someday.
Harman found the non-profit organization Creating Organ Donation Awareness (CODA), and has raised money for the cause. She also donates time to raising money for the SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals).
Harman is a frequent charity poker tournament host. In 2009, she organized a number of poker celebrities including ESPN analyst Lon McEachern and Howard Lederer in a two-day event that raised $111,000 for the National Kidney Foundation. She has also raised hundreds of thousands of dollars through live tournaments and online tournaments at Full Tilt. In 2009, she hosted the 3rd annual Jennifer Harman Charity Poker Tournament at the Venetian poker room in Las Vegas. The tournament has raised over half a million dollars.
When she isn't playing poker she likes to stay home and playing with her dogs as well as going to movies and hang out with friends. She is married to stylist Marco Traniello, who has since become a professional poker player as well. She says this has made it easier on her, since he how understands how she feels after suffering a big loss and lets her vent her frustration without taking it personal. He has been extremely supportive of her career.
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