She glanced around the table, searching for familiar faces. Years of preparation had brought her to this moment. Diana Radford had finally made it to the final table in the Wildhorse Casino Women's Poker Championship.
One-hundred and seventy women had been battling for over nine hours and now the top ten had been decided, including Radford. Familiar with many of the players from years passed, she felt the pressure to prove herself and to represent her fellow dealers.
“As poker dealer, you get to see the highs and lows of poker, but the emotion behind it is so much more magnified when it's your money, your future, on the line,” says Radford.
Over the span of her five-year poker career, Radford has experienced the thrill of winning, as well as the shock of losing, thousands of dollars at a time. She understands the important role that money plays in her profession and how she cannot afford to play recklessly with it.
As a former dealer, Radford was used to seeing people turn a few bucks into small fortunes. This evening however, was her night to shine in the spotlight.
Having studied human psychology in college, Radford had an advantage in her ability to read people. She sat back in her chair, folded her arms, and began observing her nine opponents, trying to figure each of them out.
“Poker players have different patterns they generally stick to, just like in everyday life,” explains Radford. “If you can figure out those betting patterns you can figure out what cards they are probably holding.”
After about forty minutes into play at the final table, Radford was dealt a hand that she was willing to risk it all with. Carefully covering her cards, she glanced down at her hand to find a pair of twos, a considerably weak hand. However, she was running low on chips and knew she had to gamble with any pair she was dealt.
As she pushed her chips in and proclaimed “All-In,” the crowd rose to their feet. The five community cards fell, giving Radford a full house.
Winning this hand propelled her to third in total chips and significantly boosted her confidence. She now felt like an actual contender and strongly believed she could win the tournament.
In what seemed like no time at all, three players were knocked out of the tournament. That’s when Radford moved through the table like an unstoppable force, knocking out the last remaining six players to win the championship in unforgettable fashion.
“I guess this is it,” Radford bantered to her final opponent. “This is the hand that decides it all.” Once the two women revealed their cards, Radford's friends erupted in celebration as the dealer declared her the winner. Radford breathed a long sigh of relief and smiled sheepishly. She had won her first major tournament.
After winning the Wildhorse Casino Women's Championship, Radford knows she needs to focus on her next big battle. She takes pride in how far she's progressed and looks forward to a bright future.