Poker’s (Un)Happiest Couples!2 years ago
The recent happy union between Jason MercierandNatasha Barbour brought together two of poker’s brightest talents, but they are far from being the first poker-pro marriage – so let’s look at some of the others and how pledging undying love worked out when the green felt was the common bond.
1. Erick Lindgren and Erica Schoenberg
A stranger couple you’re unlikely to meet in many ways. Erick ‘Edog’ Lindgren was at one point the face of modern poker, his early noughties rampage through the tournament circuit bringing him multiple titles and millions of dollars in prize-money and endorsements.
Erica Schoenberg was equally talented, a pro volleyball player and model-turned blackjack pro before finding poker – and Lindgren. But first she met and fell in love with another poker pro, David Benyamine – the couple getting engaged before the romance fizzled out.
Lindgren and Schoenberg married in Santa Barabara just one month after the Black Friday poker disaster, and not much has gone right for him since.
Well-documented financial problems, including an alleged $multi-million loan from Full Tilt which was mistakenly sent twice and which Lindgren refused to repay, coupled with a serious gambling problem which saw lengthy spells in rehab, hastened the end of their marriage.
Now an Ambassador for the Sands Poker Room, Schoenberg still plays poker regularly while Lindgren is still trying to recover from his multiple bankruptcies and financial woes.
2. Jennifer Harman and Marco Traniello
Jennifer Harman has long been considered by far the best female player in poker ever, at least until Vanessa Selbst broke onto the scene, and in this ‘poker coupling’ she was definitely the one who wore the trousers.
Her tournament earnings of $2.7million are dwarfed by her cash game prowess over the years – a regular in the biggest games in Vegas for many years – and it was at the Bellagio (in the parking lot of all places) that she first met hairdresser Marco Traniello. A whirlwind romance later, they were wed and even appeared on ESPN as the happiest couple in town.
Traniello even managed to get his own Full Tilt contract, and amassed over $700,000 proving he was a very good player himself, but when Black Friday hit the happy couple had lost a very lucrative part of their income, with a subsequent house sale sparking rumors of financial trouble. With Harman still playing the biggest games against the biggest players, however, it’s unlikely there was much to be read into this.
Anyway, nothing lasts forever as they say, and 13 years and twin boys later, Harman revealed on Twitter that she and Traniello were divorced – and still, or again, single a couple of years later apparently when she tweeted:
"I’m looking for a 95 year old billionaire. If anyone is interested, please DM me. Hahaha I’m drunk.”
3. Chad Brown and Vanessa Rousso
“Not a bad day for me. I won a quarter of a million dollars and met my future fiancée. Does it get any better than that?” stated Rousso, having just final tabled the WPT $25K at the Bellagio, finishing 7th while Brown went out in 9th spot.
According to Bankrollmob.com:
"The couple got engaged back in 2008 and in 2009 they tied the knot. When they married they became the first couple to be sponsored by the same poker team - Team Poker Pro. Both have earned around $3.5 million from live-tournaments during their careers."
On January 12th, 2012, Vanessa Rousso announced on Twitter that their marriage was over, one year after Brown was ‘diagnosed with liposarcoma and had a ten-pound tumor removed from his abdomen’. Shortly before his death in 2014, the World Series of Poker honored Brown’s achievements in poker by awarding him an honorary bracelet.
Rousso is still an active professional poker player, and has since found love with her long-time girlfriend Melissa Ouellet, their engagement being announced last year as Rousso left the Celebrity Big Brother house.
4. Kara Scott and Giovanni Rizzo
Kara Scott is the well-known host of numerous poker TV shows, but she can also play a fair game of poker herself – 2nd in the 2009 Irish Open for €312,600 being her biggest win to-date.
Her better half since their wedding in 2014…
I do have a pretty good excuse for being late to WSOP this year though ... pic.twitter.com/JC4F1dYsVm
— Kara Scott (@KaraOTR) May 31, 2014
… Giovanni Rizzo is best-known as a cash game player in his native Italy and proved that romance is certainly not dead when the duo got engaged ‘in Venice, Italy at the exact same spot where they shared their first kiss’, according to Gambol.com.
Rizzo has also done his fair share of TV poker work, and their shared interests in poker and media seems to be working out well, although Scott still has to fight off her admirers from time-to-time. Back in 2009, Norman Chad infamously referred to her repeatedly as Kara Scott Chad, the commentator smitten by the charms of Scott as she ran deep in the Main Event.
The multi-talented Canadian Scott signed for 888 this year as a brand ambassador, a role she once shared with husband Giovanni at Tilt Events. Perhaps they can buck the trend and live a long and happy life together in their new Slovenian home!
5. Phil Laak and Jenifer Tilly
One poker couple who seem to have little difficulty in overcoming whatever marital problems have beset our other couples is that of the indefatigable comedian Phil Unabomber’ Laak and actress-turned-poker pro Jennifer Tilly – mainly because they have never actually tied the knot officially!
Their 12 year relationship almost never began when Tilly asked for Laak’s number and then…didn’t call! He finally relented and asked for hers and romance was soon in the air.
Laak is one of the easiest-going of all the top names in poker, regularly seen laughing and joking in TV’s biggest games, but beneath that comedic exterior is a very sharp poker mind - $3.5million in tournament earnings proving he knows his way round the green felt.
Likewise Tilly, despite receiving huge criticism and embarrassment from her famous televised ‘Full House Fold’ in NBC’s 2007 ‘Poker After Dark’ series, has close to $1million in cashes, which – though not exactly world-class – is a very decent share of the poker spoils.
Still together after 12 years? It would seem do if today’s tweet from the ‘UnaBomber with his UnaBombshell’ is anything to go by!
— Phil Laak (@PhilLaak) November 29, 2016
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