Living It Up With Kerryjane Craigie

Living It Up With Kerryjane Craigie

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Hippodrome Casino's Head of Poker.

Hippodrome Casino Head of Poker Kerryjane Craigie most certainly did not take the traditional route into the poker industry. But then, nothing about her seems to be quite traditional.

After travelling the world and working for such varied companies as Disney and the Playboy Club London Casino, she decided to seek fresh challenges in the poker world, and was hired as a permanent staff member a mere four weeks after starting in December 2012.

March 2014 marked the one-year anniversary of the grand opening of the PokerStars Live Room at the Hippodrome Casino, supervised by Kerryjane, and from the sounds of it, it’s been a wild ride. I sit down with the lively lady herself to talk about keeping ahead of casino life.

Getting Into The Game

“I try to remember when I learned poker, and I really don’t know. I think it was around about 2005-6. I was a lady that lunched, living in San Francisco, and I stumbled upon PokerStars when messing about on the computer at home. I started playing online – mostly micro-stakes tournaments – to fill the hours that my partner was away on business trips. I learnt how to play live cash at the Vic. I understand my game a lot better now; but I still make ridiculous calls occasionally!

I don’t get a chance to play as much as I used to, partly because of work commitments. I don’t miss it, though, because it surrounds me every day. I love poker – I love the environment, I love the characters that you meet in it, and I just love being in the thick of it all. I think that fills the gap – the need to play.”


Casino Living

“I’m not a 9 to 5 woman. I couldn’t sit behind a desk. But that’s not the Hippodrome, and that’s why I love it here. If I went to Simon [Thomas, the CEO and Chairman of the Hippodrome] and said, ‘I want to turn all the tables pink,’ he would say ‘do you really want to do that? Do you think that’s the right thing to do?’ And if I said ‘yes’, he’d let me do it. I have the privilege of being absolutely trusted, which motivates me to work hard.

I don’t like mornings. I wouldn’t say you get used to working in a casino; it takes a certain type of person, and you either have it or you don’t. I’ve seen people come and go because they just can’t get their head around being awake and having their breakfast at midnight. There’s always loads going on, so it can be difficult to stop for a proper meal, but I make it work.”

Pulling The Crowds

“When the PokerStars Live Lounge first opened, of course we weren’t overflowing with people straight away. Having said that, growth has been consistent and steady month on month. I think there was a bit of an unknown element to it; PokerStars Live rooms are not something you see on every street corner. People were a bit like, “what is it?” From what I’ve seen, they love it when they’re inside. It’s just getting them through the doors that’s the tricky part.

We have a high percentage of international customers with around 10% of our daily business being a visitor to London, but mostly it’s the regulars and the first timers who become regulars. The characters are so varied, from the 80-year-old local to the 19-year-old poker player wearing headphones – and everyone in between.

There's something for everyone, including steak and lobster on the menu. You wouldn't think of a poker player tucking into such a dish between hands, but we serve hundreds a week on the poker deck. Who said poker couldn't be glamorous – it's whatever you want it to be here.”

Women In Poker

“We need more women in poker, who are really at the top of their game. Having said that, I think there’s actually a lot more women in gaming than people realise – we just don’t make a fuss about it. I wouldn’t say I’ve come across any challenges because of my gender, however; I spend a lot of time on the deck, and people get to know me. I can be cheeky, though. I actually think I probably get away with more than what the gents do.

We’ve got a number of great female staff actually dealing at the tables. But at the end of the day it all comes down to the individual. If you’ve got talent and ambition, then you’ll do well regardless of your gender.”


Mastering Tournaments

“I’m very critical of myself, and of what I can get done in any one time. I want to do it all, and I want to do it all now! At the moment, one of the reasons we’re launching the leaderboard at the moment is that, for over a year, we were a non-tournament location. My hardest job now is to change that perception outside of these walls – that we do have a great tournament schedule. So now if you come and play, you can win a sponsorship, seats into online majors, or even a UKIPT package. That’s going to be my next hardest job – to get the news out that we do have great tournaments, and they have great structures.

February 2013 was the first ever Winter Classic. We put a £25k guarantee on it, and I had an absolutely sleepless night the day before. It was our first tournament, and I was really worried that we had been too ambitious. But we smashed it and made £33k. We’re growing the market, and every Classic we get around 20% new people. So if 80% are returning, they must enjoy it. They know what it is, they know what they’re going to get, and they really like it. For the Winter Classic 2014, I even had four people fly over from Russia to play it.”

Poker Heroes

I like the local London heroes, like Steve Watts who just went out to fly the flag for us in Venice. I like the guys who have satellited in, or who have sat at the tables grinding and grinding and all of a sudden, they’re winning life-changing money. The only person I probably got nervous meeting with was Daniel Negreanu. I met him while I was working at EPT London – he remembered my name and I nearly fainted!

Sensational Staff

“I have a number of things that I look for in a dealer. First of all, a certain skill set. The technical ability to deal outstanding, flawless poker. Then personality. I lean towards people who have a slight quirkiness or eccentricity about them. Most importantly, I want a team that wants to be here, but that’s up to my management team and I to create an environment where staff enjoy coming to work. We’ve got a strong team, and I think our players notice that.
When it comes to me, I’m very determined. I’m a little bit wacky and out-there with my thinking; if I want to get from A to B, and tried and tested ways haven’t worked, I’ll think of another way to get there. I’m very self-motivated, and I’m strict with myself in order to get to the best possible results. This past weekend, we broke every record we had in terms of the turnout we got of people wanting to play cash. So, that was great. But now I want another one.

[At what point will you ever be happy and satisfied?] I will always be happy [laughs]. But am I going to be satisfied, if that means I’d stop driving for more? No. Probably never.

Tags: Kerryjane Craigie, Hippodrome Casino, PokerStars Live Room, Simon Thomas, Winter Classic, Daniel Negreanu