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Kevin Smith

The Last Woman Standing

3 June 2004

Her last name isn't Moneymaker, but her story might be just as remarkable as that of the 2003 World Series of Poker champion.

Lost in all the excitement over this year's champion, Greg Raymer, was little known Rose Richie.

The last woman standing typically gets a little more press than men that go out in the top 100. But if all Richie had done were finish 98th, tops among all women who competed, her story wouldn't have been all that interesting.

Actually, her finish is only where her story begins. Richie, 48, took up online poker while staying at home recovering from chemotherapy treatment for breast cancer.

Since Moneymaker's remarkable run last year from online qualifier to world champion, online players have grown to represent nearly 40 percent of the entire field of poker's biggest tournament. But again, Richie was more than just the average online qualifier.

As if winning the battle against breast cancer wasn't enough, Richie took part in the 2004 WSOP while trying to keep another illness in check. Richie has lupus, a chronic disease in which the immune system, for unknown reasons, attacks healthy tissue. About 1.5 million Americans have the disease, most of them women. The disease is seldom fatal, but often causes severe pain.

"For me it's joint pain," Richie said. "And I have seizures, stomach problems and sleeping disorders."

At one point, she was taking 16 different medications. But what helped the most was her computer. She surfed the Internet to take her mind off her pain, and it wasn't long before she discovered online poker and became a regular at

"It was just something to do because I had a lot of sleepless hours," she said. "I had never played very much before that."

Her impressive run in Las Vegas--her first ever land-based tournament--ended last Tuesday, but not before she beat out more than 2,400 other players, including some of poker's most respected professionals. Richie outlasted Phil Hellmuth, Phil Ivey, Annie Duke and defending champ Chris Moneymaker.

For her 98th place finish, Richie took home $20,000 in prize money to go along with her all-expenses paid trip, courtesy of, where she qualified for the tournament.

The best showing to date by a woman came from Annie Duke, who finished in 10th in 2000. Richie, who lives in Florida, was hoping to become the first woman ever to reach the final table, but is nonetheless proud of her accomplishment.

"My family was so excited," Richie said. "Most of the pros were out when I was still playing."

Richie started the action Tuesday (day three) with more than 200,000 chips. Her stack dwindled until she went out at 11:15 p.m. Not trying to make excuses, Richie said her lupus was starting to take a toll on her after three days of sitting at the poker table.

"My health was a big factor," she said. "I was in a lot of pain. That's what contributed to me not focusing as well as I should have."

The Road to Vegas

Richie knew she was onto something when she took first place in her first real-money tournament at PrimaPoker. She followed her hot streak by winning $2,100 in prize money twice in the same month. That gave her the courage to sign up for the satellite tournament with a berth in the WSOP on the line.

"It was amazing," she said. "Sometimes me and the whole family sat around the computer and watched."

Just like Moneymaker last year, Richie had never played in an offline tournament before taking the stage in the world's biggest poker event.

She had a clear strategy going into the event, but it relied on her ability to keep her illness in check.

"I played very cautiously, and I knew there'd be a lot of players like myself who were not as experienced," she said. "I wasn't reckless. I paid attention to who was playing and how they were playing."

Richie believes Internet play helps women get an edge on men.

"Poker has always been a gender-oriented sport," she said. "But woman are finally coming around. We have an advantage online because we don't have to listen to all the griping and whining from the men."

Seasoned pros tend to overlook both women and online qualifiers, something Richie said is a big mistake.

"I think women have an advantage because the guys don't think we can play," she said. "I'm not a meek player. I won't let the guys roll over me."

To cap off her story, Richie hit the casinos after the tournament to take part in some other gambling action because it was her first time to Las Vegas.

She poured $13 into a dollar slot machine and quickly found luck was back on her side when she hit the $1,000 jackpot.

The Last Woman Standing is republished from
Kevin Smith
Kevin Smith