Poker-playing grandma hopes to make history |

Poker-playing grandma hopes to make history

Rob Ryan
Summit County, CO Colorado
Mark Fox/Summit Daily NewsTinch throws in her cards during a game Monday evening

SUMMIT COUNTY, Colorado –There’s a card shark circling the waters of Summit County, though you may not know you’ve met her until it’s too late. That’s because Judyth Tinch of Silverthorne doesn’t look like your typical poker pro. Though she won’t reveal her age, Tinch will admit to being a grandmother, wearing glasses and having been retired for 2 years. The wiry-haired New York native also has another figurative ace up her sleeve.

“The fact that I’m a woman gives me an edge,” Tinch said with a sly grin. “No man expects a woman to be any good at poker.”

Tinch will be representing Summit County at the Denver Poker Tour Saturday, after winning the regional semi-final in Dillon June 13. Tinch said she’s been playing poker since she was in her 20s, though she only started playing Texas hold ’em professionally seven years ago.

“A lot more people played in home games back then,” Tinch said. “There were no organizations like the Denver Poker Tour. If you won $40, you thought you were rich.”

Tinch was turned on to poker the same way many people were: watching it on TV. Tinch said she got hooked after playing her first game of hold ’em in New York. It helped that she had a bit of beginner’s luck.

“In my first tournament, I’d never played Hold ’em before,” Tinch said. “I said, ‘I’m just gonna go and see what happens.’ And I won!”

Retirement plan

Since then, Tinch has been playing poker nearly nonstop. She said she’s played on the order of “hundreds of thousands” of hands.

“I’ve never gone more than a few weeks without playing for seven years,” Tinch said. “If I ever had to go a long time without playing, I’d miss it.”

Tinch said she worked previously as a teacher and corporate headhunter before entering the world of professional poker, adding that she did everything she ever wanted to do with her life. Now that she’s retired however, Tinch keeps her focus square on the poker table, not the conference table.

“I’ve been there, done that,” Tinch said with a dismissive wave of her hand. “If I have a choice between playing in a poker game and going out, I’ll play poker.”

Tinch says the mental challenge of Hold ’em is a large part of what keeps her playing. And it’s not easy to challenge a member of MENSA. Tinch says she has a near-genius level IQ and gets her mental workouts from playing Scrabble and doing crossword puzzles. She says she’s done The New York Times Sunday Crossword every week for 20 years.

“Even when I go on vacation, I get someone to save it for me,” she said. And to make it harder on herself, she does the crossword in ink.

In keeping with her competitive nature, Tinch is a fearless poker player. If she enters a hand, she stays in all the way to The River, the final card dealt by the dealer. Tinch’s tenacity is the source of her poker name, a nickname of sorts all pro poker players have. Her poker name: River Queen

“I don’t bluff,” TInch said with absolute confidence. “If I put money in the pot, you better have something to beat me with.”

Tough reputation

Tinch’s considerable skills have earned her a reputation among her fellow poker regulars as a player not to be trifled with.

“She’s dangerous,” said Robert Bengston, the dealer for the Denver Poker Tour games in Summit County. “Judyth’s never scared.”

Bengston says Tinch’s greatest strength is her ability to see the potential in a hand. Bengston was the dealer in Saturday’s semi-final game, a game Tinch came back to win after being down several thousand chips at one point.

“She just played amazingly,” Bengston said. “Judyth plays a good game.”

Tinch is not some heartless poker machine, though. She’s quick to point out she enjoys the social aspect of poker as well as the challenge and tangible benefits of playing. And her wit is as sharp as her mind. During a recent Tuesday night game at Lucha Colorado Cantina in Breckenridge, Tinch was having a rare off night when she decided to go all-in on The River. She was hoping for a straight while her opponent had 9s. When the players flipped their cards over, Tinch still had no straight and lost all her remaining chips.

“Thanks for playing Judyth,” Bengston said in a mock-apologetic tone of voice.

“Shut up,” Tinch snapped back. After a chuckle, she added, “If my legs were longer I’d kick you in the shins.”

That one bad game aside, if Tinch’s skill and luck hold out she has a chance to live out every Hold ’em players’ dream: playing in the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas. The winner of the final game on Saturday has the opportunity to get a $10,000 seat at the world series. No woman has ever made it to the final table, a barrier Tinch has her heart set on breaking.

“I want to them to see I’m as good as they are, if not better,” Tinch said in regard to the male pros who typically dominate poker tournaments. “I want the honor of being the first woman to make it to the final table. I want to make history.”

If you feel like testing your luck, you can find out more about the Denver Poker Tour and their games in Summit County by going to http://www.denver

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