2016 was the year of Cate Hall. The former lawyer turned poker pro has been here, there and everywhere: making WPT final tables, on Poker Night in America, on Togel Online podcasts like “Fighting Chance”, engaging on Twitter and cashing in a bunch of tournaments around the world. It’s feels surreal to think that just eighteen months ago not a lot of people had even heard of Cate Hall. Now, it would be hard to find someone within the poker community that doesn’t know her name.
In January 2015 Cate Hall cashed in her first tournament. It was a $230 tournament at the Borgata, and Hall finished in 10th place for $621. Two days ago Hall played the $25,000 Challenge at the Aussie Millions, firing two bullets to take home $69,840 for her 13th place finish. Between January 2015 and now, Cate Hall has amassed poker tournament earnings of $877,592, and she was the single most successful female poker player in 2016.
But Cate Hall is not just another successful poker player grinding it out. She has been known for her strong opinions about gender, sexism in poker and politics (anti-Trump). She has been engaged in more twitter fights that I can count, and she seems to evoke strong emotions. Quite a polarizing figure; you either love or hate. One of the haters, Mike Dentale, recently criticized a hand Cate Hall played in the WPT Five Diamond, calling her “clueless”, and Hall responded by challenging him to a heads-up match.
I caught up with Cate Hall to hear more about her grudge match with Dentale, her WPT final tables, women in poker and winning the GPI 2016 Best Female Player of the Year.
First and foremost, congrats with winning the GPI Female Player of the Year. Is this something you take pride in, and has it been a goal of yours to win the title?
“It’s odd: It’s something that I take pride in, but also something I’m not entirely comfortable taking pride in. It means I had the best results among women this year, and that genuinely feels like an accomplishment to me on an emotional level. At the same time, it feels weird that my Togel performance should only be compared to those of other women, as though there’s something about us that means we can’t fairly be compared to men. There were 77 men who finished ahead of me in the overall GPI player of the year race, and I’m not really sure what it says for me to get an award when 76 of them don’t.”
Have you planned your schedule in an attempt to win? And has it been something that motivated you?
“Even though I had mixed feelings about it, there was still definitely a part of me that wanted to win the award, and it influenced my decision to travel to a couple of stops in the last quarter of the year. I’m pretty rabidly competitive, so when there’s an achievable goal in front of me, I tend to sort of throw myself at it and ask questions later. This character trait doesn’t necessarily lead to faster learning or higher skill, but it does yield a disproportionate number of trophies.”
You have only been playing poker professionally for one and a half year. In this span of time you have made four WPT final tables, and you have gone deep in several other events. Give us your take on your run so far?
“Honestly, so much of it is just luck. I work hard and am proud of how much I’ve improved in the last year and a half. But that improvement hasn’t really been the cause of a lot of my success — I think it would be more accurate to say I’ve improved despite my success. Poker has seen its fair share of people who crashed and burned after good early results because they didn’t appreciate the extent to which they were running good and got complacent. I think I’ve always viewed that as a much bigger danger than underconfidence and tried to keep my head down. One of my friends called this “earning your success after the fact,” and I thought that was a great way of looking at it.”
What has helped you evolve as a player so fast? Reading poker books? Watching videos? Discussing hands with other players or …?
“I think hands down the best way to improve quickly as a player is to talk over hands with other players every chance you get. Doing it with people at your skill level or even people quite a bit worse than you can be really useful for clarifying your thought processes, but if you can find a way to talk hands with someone significantly better than you, it’s a huge boon. If I could offer people one piece of advice, it would be that if you find someone like that, treat them as though they are doing you an enormous favor, because they absolutely are. If your response to questions or criticism is to become defensive or to lobby hard for your point of view, there’s a decent chance that person isn’t going to be interested in sharing their thoughts with you in the future, and if that happens you’ve basically just sabotaged your own career.”