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August 21, 2014

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Q&A with poker player Tiffany Michelle

Michelle hoping for another good run at this summer’s World Series of Poker

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SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Tiffany Michelle competes at the 2008 World Series of Poker Main Event. Michelle finished 18th in the event, the highest of all females, and earned $334,534.

Last summer was no ordinary three months for Tiffany Michelle.

Michelle — who rose to fame after being the last woman standing in the 2008 World Series of Poker Main Event and finishing in 18th out of 6,844 — had grown accustomed to spending her summers in the Rio ballrooms around the constant chirping of poker chips. But in 2009 she passed on the World Series of Poker life for the first time in four years to compete on CBS show, 'The Amazing Race.'

"It was weird being detached from the poker world," Michelle said. "This past summer, if you asked me to name three people who made the Main Event final table, I couldn't do it. I was out of touch with my industry."

Michelle is looking forward to her return to Las Vegas this summer.

She'll be playing in World Series events all summer and took the time to discuss it with The Sun.

Was it a tough decision to pick 'The Amazing Race' over the World Series of Poker last summer?

It was a really easy decision for me. Even though poker is very prominent in my life, I always like to surround it with everything else that I love. I know poker is there all the time — every day, any place, any buy-in you could want, you can find. I knew the World Series wasn't going anywhere.

So, what was harder: Outlasting 6,800 poker players in the Main Event or finishing sixth on The Amazing Race?

It was the Amazing Race 10 times over. It was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. I would do it again tomorrow, but it's a million times harder than it looks on TV when you are standing there in the Dubai Desert in 122 degrees weather searching for urns buried in the sand. The Main Event — I actually felt really confident in 2008. I think poker is much easier than pushing myself to the physical extreme.

How did you first get into poker?

I grew up in Los Angeles and was always involved in a lot of things with the entertainment industry. I got invited by a bunch of actors when Hollywood really jumped on the poker bandwagon to come to this $1/$2 cash game with a bunch of people for the industry just for fun and networking. I knew how to play, but I wasn't good by any means. I did that for about a year and a half before I really started to pick some things up.

You always hear people around poker say males have a tougher time playing against women and change their game around. Is there any truth to that?

I definitely noticed early on that I could get away with certain things. If I played a hand really strongly then I got a lot of respect at the table that I don't think a guy would have given normally. However, now I don't think my sex has anything to do with my game because I'm a recognizable player and people have seen how I play on TV. So, people actually want to target me instead of get away from me so they can have that "I beat Tiffany Michelle" story. But guys, for the most part, are a little scared of playing with women. It takes them out of their element.

What are you most looking forward to about the 2010 World Series of Poker?

I think it was a blessing in disguise that I didn't play last year, because there would have been a lot of pressure and eyes on me coming in to this past year's series. Even though it will be interesting to see how I do this summer, it's not like I have the last woman standing title. I'm going to go in there and play the best I can.

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