Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Kimpton Poker Night

So Kimpton Hotels called. Could we do a poker night for 60 women? (God yes Kimpton, where have you been all my life? This is What We Do.) Attendees would be members of their InTouch Loyalty group and the poker evening would be a thank-you event. So InTouch members would have a fun, inspiring experience and also get to do a little networking & friend-making with each other. In the lovely Hotel Monoco in Union Square of course.

Some of the women might be advanced players, some will be complete beginners. Yes, yes; we're good at this. Hand-value cheat sheets, tables by ability, $300 in starter chips, check. Yes, yes, we explain the sequence of play, the blind, the double-blind, the flop, the river. (Please...don't be so impressed. One poker class and you'll have it.) Yes, this will be no limit Texas Hold'em.

Q: But, I thought you were a sports company? Poker, really?
A: Let me just say that we've been teaching poker since before ESPN figured out it was a sport. And since our whole brand is about accelerated skill development for busy people - why not apply that to poker too?

But back to Kimpton. Fortunately for me, this concept is the brainchild of Aileen De Luna. Aside from having one of the more romantic last names since the Renaissance, Aileen is a new transplant to Kimpton HQ, having recently moved from their Washington DC location. The woman has vision; and she's also a delight to work with, which is an unusual combination.

So Poker Palooza is a go! 5 tables at various levels. The women might be getting up & down; there will also be a drink mixologist and hand massages. Strategies for how to track each woman's chips if she chooses to get up and socialize around the room. We'll start w/ $5 & $10 blinds (initial betting levels) and go over the mechanics of play at each table, appropriate for each level.

We pull in 5 very different and amazing female poker instructors. My favorite ringer, Janice Kim, is the first recruit. Not only does she look great on paper (Vegas competitor who also happens to be a Korean Go Master), she's also a delight in person. She's been with Adventurous Sports for years now.

Then Sue Barrows, who used to run her own card room; Julie Chendes HR professional, Sue Irwin speaker & life coach, and finally Eileen Milligan who has a large poker table in her home living room as a permanent fixture. All great communicators, teachers and motivators who have been playing and winning for years in tournaments, card rooms and casinos.
(below are each of their Adventurous Sports Bios)

Julie warms up the crowd with a 10-min Intro covering hand values (explaining we have cheat sheets at every table place)

the basic concept of assessing your hand and folding frequently (all those hands in green? fold!) , and why being female is definitely an advantage, Then everyone hits the tables.

Q: Why is being female an advantage at poker?
A: Well, once you get over the initial discomfort of being The Only Woman at the Table (which you will usually be), you can use the men's surprise and natural inclination to underestimate you to your advantage. You're bluffing just by showing up. They'll be so distracted by the fact that you're there at all, that you'll have the advantage in assessing their positions and enjoying their inaccurate assessment of you and your cards.

The women pick their tables, while choosing another cocktail and getting another buffet round. The Kimpton chef has made an Amazing Kale Salad - oh my. Seriously. I did not know I was willing to eat kale and I had thirds it was so scrumptious. I've been promised the recipe by Stacy, their delightful PR head and strategist of the Kimpton women's Intouch program. That woman (on the right) can charm a crowd let me tell you.

And...the play goes on for two hours. People are transfixed. They're into it. Table departures are measured in nano-seconds to get a quick drink, as no one wants to miss a hand. The Kimpton folks are surprised, though I am not. I've seen it every time over the years. The fun of learning poker - or learning new strategies - just completely pulls people in. And the energy at each table makes the time fly.

Kimpton was very smart to set up prizes for each table winner and a Grand Prize winner. So 5 women went home with free nights at a Kimpton Hotel and restaurant meals at the Grand Cafe (steak tartare all around!)

And the hotel GM is so happy with the results that he wants Women's Poker Palooza at all the Kimpton's around the country. Newfound Poker savvy, lots of winnings, fab cockails and scrumptious kale salad; I'd call that a good night.


  1. Kimpton poker night seems fabulous. I am sure it was enjoyable for everyone. At the indoor San Francisco venues we too attended a casino birthday bash and enjoyed it to the fullest. This bash was organized by professional planner and I was amazed.