Kristen Bicknell spins in her chair and takes a break from her cash game to explain why she finds poker appealing.
“I guess the competitiveness,” she said after searching for a response.
A few moments later, Bicknell offers an alternative hypothesis, one that explains her attraction to the game as a product of nature rather than nurture.
Turns out, the quiet Canadian has a need for speed.
“My dad’s a racecar driver,” Bicknell said, “so maybe, like, the risk aspect of it.”
Bicknell, a 29-year-old from Ottawa, Ontario, is a two-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner and one of two women to win an open event this summer.
The student and part-time professional poker player is expected to be part of the field for the $1,000 buy-in Ladies No-limit Hold ’em Championship that starts Friday at the Rio Convention Center. Bicknell won the Ladies Championship in 2013.
“I feel excited and confident,” Bicknell said this week. “It’s a really fun tournament, and knowing that I’ve won it before, I feel like I can do it again. And I hope so. It’s probably one of my favorite tournaments to play, I would say.”
Bicknell, who grew up in St. Catherines, Ontario, raced go-karts at the local track as a child and was introduced to poker by her then-boyfriend during her first year of college.
By 2010, Bicknell built a bankroll and achieved Supernova Elite status online at PokerStars, playing as many as 24 cash-games tables at a time.
In 2013, Bicknell had her first six-figure tournament score, as she topped a field of 954 players to win the WSOP Ladies Championship and a $173,922 payday.
“I’ve always come here and played some tournaments with no success and then just kind of got lucky in that one,” Bicknell said. “It’s just fun. I try not to let tournament wins boost my ego too much because I think there’s a lot of luck.”
Bicknell stayed out of the poker spotlight following her WSOP victory and continued to play cash games online until PokerStars announced changes to its VIP Club in late 2015 and eliminated Supernova Elite status. She studies nutrition at a school in Ottawa and has spent most of the past six months traveling to live cash games.
“I can’t really do it too much at home, so it’s been a cool way to see different places of the world,” Bicknell said. “If you follow the tournament stops, you get good cash games and you get the chance to enter a couple of tournaments that are really good, too.”
Bicknell didn’t cash during the 2014 and 2015 WSOPs, but outlasted a field of 2,158 entrants to win the $1,500 buy-in Bounty No-limit Hold ’em event June 30 and collect the largest cash of her career ($290,768 plus $9,000 in bounties).
The victory, three years to the day after her win in the Ladies Championship, continued a streak of women winning at least one open WSOP bracelet every year since 2012.
“I try not to categorize myself as a girl or whatever,” Bicknell said. “I just want to do my best. That’s what’s important to me. It would be nice to achieve great things in poker and have respect for my success, and that’s what I hope for. I try not to get too involved in the politics of it all.”
Bicknell has cashed in two other events and has $511,725 in career live tournament earnings, according to Global Poker Index’s Hendon Mob Poker Database.
In addition to the Ladies Championship, Bicknell said she is looking forward to trying for her first career cash in the WSOP Main Event, the $10,000 buy-in No-limit Texas Hold ’em World Championship that begins Saturday.
“I like knowing I have the experience, being able to play under the pressure of hundreds of thousands of dollars and playing for four days on little sleep,” Bicknell said. “I think it’s really nice knowing that I have that experience in me. It does boost my confidence. And so the next time I play in a pressure situation I’ll feel like I can handle it.”
Contact reporter David Schoen at email@example.com or 702-387-5203. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidSchoenLVRJ.