Despite living in a town named Boring, Jacki Burkhart is anything but dull. She’s a snowboarding, skateboarding mom who loves to play poker.
Now she’s the owner of a PokerStars’ Platinum Pass after her tale was named the winner of #MyPokerStory. The promotion was designed by rising poker star Maria Konnikova in mid-October.
“I still can’t believe it,” she told USPoker before heading to the Bahamas. “I was actually going to do a couple of those other PokerStars’ challenges to have a better shot at winning a Platinum Pass. But as it turned out, I put so much time into the story that it took all my free time. It took about three weeks, so I ended up putting all my eggs in one basket – and won.”
The effort paid off and the $30,000 Platinum Pass includes a $25,000 buy-in to the PokerStars Players NL Hold’em Championship at the PCA in January, six nights’ accommodation at the Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas and travel expenses.
Telling her story
Poker isn’t Burkhart’s full-time job. She also works as a dental hygienist and only plays poker part of her time. Not a writer by training, though she enjoyed some creative writing as a youngster and teenager. She journaled a lot and even attended a creative writing summer camp.
Her interest in writing faded as she grew older. Obviously, with the recent win, her talent remains.
“I wasn’t sure I was going to do it or not because I knew there were going to be hundreds of entries, and I didn’t really think I had anything exciting to say,” she said. “But I thought maybe it would be nice to write the story anyway just so I’d have it later in my life — something to look back on.”
She was soon pounding on the keyboard.
“Shuffle Up and Deal” chronicles how Burkhart learned the game from relatives at an early age and what it means to her.
The story begins when she’s 9 years old. Her family’s get-togethers often involved card games, but after dark, the adults broke away and played US poker for real money.
Burkhart longed to play with them but faced one hurdle in order to earn a seat at the adult’s table.
“I must learn to shuffle, riffle, cut and deal if I want to play with the adults,” she writes. “And I must learn in the next few hours. I don’t know if it was middle-child syndrome or just my innate gambler that craved this, but the urge to play was stronger in me than my sisters or cousins.”
For Burkhart, poker meant more than a chance to make a few bucks. Like many Americans who grew up playing with their moms and dads or grandparents on card tables and in basements, poker was about spending time with loved ones.
“Cards and games were an integral part of my family life growing up,” she writes. “We didn’t play every night, but if there was a get together of any kind, we always played something. Michigan Rummy, gin rummy, hearts, dominoes, dice or dealer’s choice poker. Poker nights were my favorite and I always clamored for it, but usually, I didn’t even need to — it was automatic.
“My dad kept a huge change jar on his dresser. Every day, he would empty his pockets and toss the change in there. Then when we’d play poker, he’d cash people in and out from their paper money via the change jar. We never used poker chips and we never played big stakes (except very occasionally a pot would get out of hand and top $50).”
The story brings warmth and humor to the game. It describes how important it can be in bringing families together and coping with life’s highs and lows. Her love of poker continued to grow and she now teaches the game to younger family members.
“Shuffle Up and Deal” also tackles a bit about her mother, who has developed early-onset Alzheimer’s. Her mother even still plays in those games with help from other family members.
For them, poker is about being part of the family and still brings them together. Burkhart has pledged to donate 10 percent of any winnings in the Bahamas to Alzheimer’s research.
“Jacki, a huge congratulations and I’m looking forward to meeting you in the Bahamas and congratulating you in person,” Konnikova said in announcing the winning writer.
Anything but boring
Boring is a town just outside of Portland, Oregon. A walk in her backyard reminds visitors that the Burkharts don’t fit the unique name. On their 3-acre property, they have built a skate park and a bicycle track. The 37-year-old and her husband, Adam, and 9-year-old son, Zane, who competes in BMX racing, live together on the property.
“We live in a little boy’s dream,” she said.
Burkhart grew up in Northern Idaho but has lived in Oregon since she was 18. She moved there originally in hopes of becoming a professional snowboarder. She still snowboards and also loves to camp and hike with her family.
A regular on the Oregon poker scene, Burkhart has $79,000 in live tournament winnings including finishing fifth in the Ladies Championship this summer at the World Series of Poker.
Fittingly, Burkhart was at the poker table playing a $200 tournament when she learned she won the competition. A friend told her the news and the tournament became secondary.
“I wanted to have some beers to celebrate, so I kept trying to bust out and putting my stack on some big draws,” she said.
“I just kept hitting, and before I knew it, I was at dinner break and it was like, ‘I guess I actually have to try now.’ I wanted to celebrate and go hang out with my friends, but I had to hunker down in the tournament.”
That run eventually ended with a min-cash and the celebration commenced the following day.
It’s her family story and regular-Jane approach that set her story apart from the other entries.
“I decided to not try and fake being some kind of pro or serious player, and just talk about my real life,” Burkhart said.
Friends and family were thrilled with her win. Adam Burkhart and Zane said they would be making the trip. The family planned to head to the Caribbean a few days early for some vacation time.
All along, they had a bit of a premonition about her win.
“When I told them I was a finalist, I had to explain that when you’re one out of six that usually means you’re not going to win,” she said.
“They were convinced and have been planning the whole trip ever since I was a finalist. When I told them I won, they were like, ‘Yeah, we know. We already knew you were the winner.’”