Liv Boeree: Powerful, Ambitious, Admirable Poker Queen

You have to admire any woman who cuts it in a man’s world, just as you can’t help but be impressed by someone who, having single-handedly worked their way to a cool $2 million by the age of 30, then sets out to make the world a better place. Olivia ‘Liv’ Boeree – science graduate, model, TV presenter, professional poker player and philanthropic activist – is just such a remarkable woman.

Boeree’s story is unusual in a number of respects, not the least of which is that she comes from the sort of leafy suburban English background that is about as far removed as you could imagine from the competitive world of professional poker. It goes without saying that is an arena where women have to fight doubly hard to succeed.

Boeree was born in 1984 and grew up in the south of England in the quiet town of Boreham Wood, 15 miles outside of London. A straight A student at school, she went on to complete an honours degree at Manchester University. She emerged with a first class degree in astrophysics. A keen admirer of Professor Brian Cox, Boeree is anything but a wide eyed star-gazer. It was during her studies that the still-fresh-faced Boeree first began to explore the world of serious card play. Neither the bright-eyed astrophysicist nor the game of poker has been quite the same since.

One chance

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The undeniably photogenic Boeree was picked up as a 19-year-old contestant on a reality TV poker show on the UK’s Channel 5. From that tiny opening, she has since chiselled out a career that has put her at the forefront of the professional poker circuit. But Boeree was anything but an overnight success.

From that first TV exposure, her on-screen poise as well as her rapid grasp of the complexities of the game saw her start to pick up work as a TV presenter covering poker in the UK. As she began to apply herself to the mathematical foundations of the game, Boeree moved on to playing seriously herself. By 2008 – at the age of just 24 – she was making more from playing poker than her regular job. That was the year she claimed her first tournament victory. The European Ladies Championship first prize of $42,000 was just the first of many such big pay days all around the globe.

Poker A-lister

Today, Boeree is amongst the poker elite. She is one of the most followed and most successful players on the professional circuit. Boeree ranks 173rd on the Global Poker Ranking index, among the tens of thousands on the list and she even finds time to prepare for tournaments in unique fashion…

That first notable European tournament victory in May 2008 was just the first in a string of conspicuous successes. And, in competitions involving over 1,000 contestants at a time, her serial ability to be at the head of the race indicates a keenly competitive spirit. After a string of profitable and impressive top-ten finishes, Boeree made an irresistible splash when she claimed the $1,688,300 first prize in the European Poker Tour San Remo €5,000 Main Event in April 2010. Shortly afterwards, in September of that year, her string of successes saw her become a member of team PokerStars – widely regarded as the elite of the poker world. She has since gone on to enjoy continued and impressive success.

Boeree is a doer as well as a player and she is now turning her attention to matters that extend beyond the specifics of winning at poker.  Boeree is making serious moves to put her principles into action. “Making money is fine,” she has said, “But it is time to give it back”.

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A broader vision

What makes Boeree so remarkable today is something beyond her ability to accrue riches though little more than her own wit and will to succeed. Over the past six months, Boeree has applied her energies most conspicuously to campaigning on behalf of what she calls effective altruism.

A summer retreat at Nevada’s Burning Man festival last year in the company of friends is credited with bringing about a change in her outlook. Boeree has emerged as a deeply ethical campaigner on a range of issues, from the place of women in poker to more general concerns with the environment. Recreational late nights and the following morning headaches are pursuits the undeniably down to earth Boeree has never had much time for.

With her ability to command a TV audience and her enormous fan base both within the game and beyond (she has 110,000 twitter followers) the feisty Brit is intent on making an even greater public mark than she has already.

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