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Weisner regaining poker ‘passion’ in Main Event

Melanie Weisner was going to perform on Broadway. That was the plan, anyway.

Poker was only supposed to supplement Weisner’s income and allow her the freedom to attend auditions.

“But I was just so into it, it was like anything else that you want to be really good at,” Weisner said. “I ate, slept, breathed it, and everything else just kind of moved to the side.”

Weisner, who studied vocal performance at New York University, spent four years traveling the European tournament circuit and was touted as one poker’s next female stars until she stopped playing full time in 2014.

The 29-year-old resident of Los Angeles was one of the chip leaders throughout Day 4 of the World Series of Poker’s $10,000 buy-in No-limit Texas Hold ’em World Championship on Friday at the Rio Convention Center.

Brazil’s Rafael Moraes was the unofficial leader with 380 players remaining when play resumed at 8:40 p.m. following the 90-minute dinner break. The Main Event continues Saturday at the Rio with Day 5.

“Doing well in the series, and especially the Main Event, kind of re-ignites your passion for the game,” Weisner said. “I’ve been a little bit disillusioned with it lately just because I’ve been finding it difficult to be as motivated as I was in the earlier days of my career to stay at the very top of the game and get better.”

Weisner, a classically trained vocalist, discovered poker after her younger brother won close to $50,000 in an online tournament. After graduating in 2009, she became a regular on the European Poker Tour.

Weisner won the EPT Monte Carlo women’s event for more than $30,000 in April 2010 and managed several five-figure cashes, but she never had a major score and now plays only a few select tournaments each year.

“The combination of traveling to new places and getting to play in these prestigious poker tournaments is a big draw, and I think once I had already been to all the places and poker was getting much, much harder every year, it just wasn’t as exciting for me anymore,” Weisner said. “I wanted to have a home base and a normal, boring schedule.”

Weisner said she spends much of her time now training in the pole vault — “I really want to do 3 meters this year” — and has started to get back into singing. She also coaches poker when she’s not playing in cash games around Los Angeles.

“It’s interesting because (coaching) kind of satisfies me in that way that I think I wasn’t getting from being a tournament pro,” Weisner said. “I get to see them have success, and they’re excited and they have that passion I originally had.”

Weisner won PokerStars’ Sunday 500 tournament in February for more than $58,000, the largest cash of her career live or online, and made the money in three other WSOP events this summer to bring her career live tournament earnings to more than $735,000, according to Global Poker Index’s Hendon Mob Poker Database.

Weisner was the overall leader at the second afternoon break Friday, putting her in line to be the last woman standing in the Main Event.

“I would like to be one of, if not the last, person standing,” Weisner said. “Women just make up such a small percentage of the field still, even though it’s increasing, that I think women having success in poker, speaking well about poker, I would like for it to encourage other smart women to play poker, and I think that kind of thing does do that. It would be cool to represent that.”

Contact reporter David Schoen at dschoen@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5203. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidSchoenLVRJ

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