Like many people on the edges of the heart of the poker industry, I didn’t know who Danielle ‘dmoongirl’ Andersen was until I watched the 2013 documentary Bet Raise Fold: The Story of Online Poker.
I related to her immediately. I had a picture of what an ordinary poker life looked like, and Danielle and her family jumped right into my frame. I relate to her in a lot of ways. I’m a parent, I love poker, and I have the same uncomfortable conversations with my mind regarding the balance between chasing my dreams and being there for my son.
Her move to Las Vegas was brave; her split with Ultimate Poker damaging, but from what I can see, this girl is a fighter. Each choice she makes turns out to be the right one. So she will rebound from the loss of a sponsor.
Life goes on.
And Dmoongirl’s life is certainly one worth following.
What was life like for you in the wake of the Bet Raise Fold documentary?
“When I first signed on for the documentary I didn’t have any idea of the impact it would have, or the scope of its reach. Being recognized was one of the life-altering things that came from it. I had been an anonymous online player for so long. I’m so glad I did the project. A lot of things have changed for me since then. It was a huge stepping stone for my poker career.”
How did you manage to get on the documentary?
“It was quite random actually. I had never posted on 2+2 before but every once in a while I would browse the High Stakes forum. I woke up one morning and my Full Tilt account was locked. I tried to get hold of them and couldn’t. It started to freak me out and I thought I had been hacked.
“I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t have any poker friends to reach out to in that moment. So I decided to go onto the High Stakes forum on 2+2 where I introduced myself to everyone and asked for advice. That happened to be the day that Jay Rosencrantz was on 2+2 announcing the project. He saw my post, and I got a message checking with me that I was a female high stakes poker player. They asked me if I would be interested in being a potential subject, and it spiraled from there. I never did find out why my account was locked, it cleared up after 24 hours, and as you know I ended up on the documentary.”
How did the transition from being unknown to being in the public eye affect your ego?
“There was a learning curve and adjustment to being in the public eye. Most of the feedback was positive, but as you quickly learn in poker there will be public forums where people will hate on you. It was disheartening because I knew family members were reading this type of stuff. It doesn’t bother me personally, but it’s not great when you know your Mum has logged on and is now reading all these random people’s nasty comments about you.
“Apart from that, being recognized was flattering. I got a lot of good feedback. But I don’t think it went to my head too much. That documentary focused on the most difficult period of my life. People saw me at my worst. I don’t think I walked away from it with my ego inflated too much.
“I used to live in a small town, in a rural community. I have a lot of great things to say about my old environment. I learned a great set of morals; it’s a safe place to live and a great community. The downside to that are people who grow up in a small town start to believe that the world is a scary place.
“I have so many classmates who were bright, motivated people. But they stayed in that town, took the only job that was available, married someone within that town and never saw the world. If you step out of your comfort zone you can learn so much about other people and yourself. I am glad my son is getting that education. It is something that my husband and I value a lot and we are proud he is getting that experience.”
Something must have changed for you when you started traveling?
“It was surreal. I was going to Ireland, which is like an amazing place. To give you an example, my Mum didn’t see the ocean until she was 54 years old; and that’s just because I took her to see it. If I hadn’t played poker she might not have ever seen the ocean. This game has brought me to freaking Ireland. It was a pinch me moment. I was thinking: ‘This can’t be my life?'”
I believe you once played with Manny Pacquiao – tell me about that.
“I was playing in Commerce when word got around that he was coming in for a private game. I was having a conversation with one of the head people in Commerce at the time. Then a friend came to me and said that they were willing to invest in me, if I could get into the game. I spoke to that head person I was talking to previously, asked him if I could get in the game, and it was arranged.”
Is he a fish?
“Let’s just say that Manny is a gambler. We’ll put it that way. He’s very nice and has a lot of gamble in him. It was the biggest live game I have played. It was a minimum $20k buy-in and I sat down with two bullets. I thought I would play really tight and see how it goes, then four hands in I got it in for a $20k pot with Manny Pacquiao…we ran it twice and chopped, but it was kind of funny.”
What do you think about when you are alone?
“I have just turned 30 this year and it’s funny. I’m not sure if something has switched, and there is this big deal because I have moved out of my twenties, and aging, but I am going through this realization that you only get one life. You get one shot and what are you going to make of it? In some ways that’s scary, but it’s also exhilarating. I guess I am trying to figure out what my end goals are?”
Do you read a lot of self help books?
“I do read a lot, but it’s mainly fiction that I read. I did some work with Tommy Angelo, for the Raise Bet Fold documentary, but that part got cut. I have read his books and done some stuff with him. I am a believer of the power of positive mentality. I haven’t got into yoga and meditation but it’s on the horizon for me.”
What’s bothering you in the world right now?
“There are lot’s of things that are bothering me. The world is a crazy place right now. I wish we could all be happy and love each other.”
Are you the type of person who thinks about contribution?
“I try to make the world a better place in my own way, but I haven’t actively signed up for anything specific. I think this is part of the enlightenment process that I am going through? I keep thinking: ‘Ok, what am I going to do about this? Could I use my voice? I am somewhat of a public figure.’
“I had a chat with Kara Scott the other day. She was writing on her timeline about gender-related issues. I have always been outspoken, but when I went to put out a tweet to support her, I was nervous. Kara wrote that it was against her nature to speak out about things that are controversial. That’s funny because it’s very much in my nature. But I had this hesitancy when I wanted to speak out against the issues she was raising. So I thought what the hell! Who are you! Of course you should speak out against this because it’s wrong.”
What was it that you really wanted to get off your chest in respect of gender equality in poker?
“The second that the word feminist comes up people go insane. The second any gender issue is raised people are so quick to accuse you of being that dirty feminist word. It’s narrow-minded and misogynistic, but we should all consider ourselves feminist. It’s a word that’s at the core of the fact that men and women should have equal rights. If you’re not on board with that you are an asshole. If you don’t believe blacks and whites should have the same rights, then you are an asshole. If you don’t believe that humans in general should be given the same opportunities then I don’t have any time for you – you’re an asshole.
“I was on a live stream the other day on Twitch. Poker players were broadcasting their play and I was in the chat because I was playing against one of them at the same time. The chat went nuts. It went insane. People were saying terrible things. They were writing about what they would do to me sexually; that I was a whore; telling rape jokes – awful things that you shouldn’t say to women.
“Lance Bradley from Bluff went on to Twitter and wrote something to the effect of: ‘if you want to know why more women don’t play poker then get onto Twitch and see how Dmoongirl is being treated right now.’ People got so defensive about it. They were saying that males get the same level of harassment, and it’s not about being female. Bullshit it’s not about me being female. You’re full of shit and delusional if you think a male in chat is going to get a tenth of the type of sexual harassment that a female gets. It’s completely inaccurate and delusional to think that. But for some reason there is this swarm of defensiveness, and statements that I am just being a feminist.
“There is this defensiveness that comes up. I am not saying that you, and you, and you are sexist assholes. But I am saying that the person in the chat who is saying he is going to rape me and kill my children is an asshole. I’m not saying everyone in the poker community is like that. Am I saying that overall the 2+2 is a misogynist environment? Absolutely, it is. I don’t know how anybody can argue that. But I am here defending the overall poker community. It is full of enlightened wonderful people, but there is this offset that needs to be fixed. It needs to be improved if you want more women in the game.
“My son loves Minecraft and we were on a long car trip. He was having a play date with a girlfriend of his, and I told him he could play Minecraft with her. He said, ‘Oh no Mam, girls don’t play video games.’ I was like ‘Where the hell does that come from. I’m a professional poker player!’ My husband jumped all over it and was like, ‘No buddy. Do you know who the best video game player is in this car?’
“Because I wanted to make a point to my son I told him, ‘I want you to teach me to play Minecraft so I can play with you.’ He said, ‘No Mam, I don’t want you to play Minecraft because I like having a girlie Mam.’ I was thinking, ‘What the hell is going on here?’
“I think it’s so built into society. It’s really telling when a child that lives in an untraditional home, and has a mother who is a professional poker player – and he still has this message. It’s alarming. If it’s tough for him to overcome these barriers, living in the household he does, how the hell are the other kids going to get this?
“I also sometimes get defensive on behalf of the men. There are certain women who can take things too far. I have heard generalizations regarding the poker world, and how women are mistreated at the poker table. I play a lot of live poker and I can count on one hand the number of times a man has stepped over the line, but I can give you countless examples where men have been incredibly nice and supportive. I have had a wonderful experience as a woman in the poker world and it’s important that I say that. Overall, the men have been far better behaved as I would have anticipated as a minority.”
The media has a major role to play in gender equality. I believe that a lot of women think they have to be overly sexual in order to show their power, and this comes from the media. What’s your view?
“Of course the media sexualizes everything, particularly women. Be it right or wrong, sex sells. To be honest, I don’t worry so much about this. I just do me. On some days ‘me’ is a sweatshirt and yoga pants. Sometimes it’s a low cut shirt and a skirt. I don’t feel I need to do this to equalize any power disparity between men and women – I just like my boobs! If I want to bring them out, I will God dammit! I think some women get all up in arms about women showing cleavage and feel it’s backwards to the feminist movement. In my opinion, being judgmental about what a woman wears is just as backwards.
“I was recently on Poker Night in America Ladies Night. In the weeks leading up to the event one of the players did an interview and basically called out another player by saying ‘unlike some women who will be playing, I don’t use my sexuality to gain an edge,’ and also eluded to the likelihood that whoever showed the most cleavage would be the biggest fish in the game. I know for a fact this player wasn’t referencing me, and I don’t think I have a reputation for showing a ton of cleavage, but I took personal offense to this.
“It’s 2015; being sexy and smart are not mutually exclusive endeavors. If I want to wear a low cut shirt does that mean whatever I’ve accomplished at the poker table can be attributed to using my sexuality to gain an advantage? No, it means I wanted to wear a frigging low cut shirt because I felt like it. If someone is stupid enough to let that alter their decision playing against me, that’s their problem, not mine! Sometimes I think women are women’s own worst enemy. I’m sure I’ve been guilty countless times of doing things that set back the feminist movement but I do my best these days to be mindful.
“On the same Poker Night in America Ladies Night there was an instance where this girl I was playing with had an experience of blatant, unacceptable sexual harassment by some male acquaintances. She was wearing a low cut shirt, and she said, ‘I guess I bring it on myself by the way that I am dressing?’ I was like, ‘No way! You stop that right now!’ That’s the mentality that makes it acceptable and ok. It’s not ok for a man to think like that and definitely not for women. It was sad that an intelligent woman had a reaction that was repressed and she was willing to take the fault for something that 100% was not her fault. As women, we need to stop taking the blame for these things and we need to stop pointing the finger at one another.”
Who is currently influencing you and why?
“My son influences me to be a better person, and to do my best to make the world a better place for him.”
If you couldn’t leave your son any money, and was only able to leave him with a set of principles, what would they be?
“Be kind. Growing up in the Midwest, one of the core values I got from there was to be nice. I can be feisty, but there is something about growing up in Minnesota that teaches you to look after your neighbor. I would like to pass those values onto him.”
You are the sum total of the five people you spend the most time with. Choose five people you have met through poker who you would like to spend the most time with and why?
“I would say Kara Scott is one of them. She is an outspoken, strong, female and Kara and I can relate to each other in a lot of ways. I have a friend called Hank. He has been one of my better friends since the beginning of my online poker career, and I have spoken to him about hands more than anyone else. He also just has a really unique view of life and is one of about two people (other being my husband) who can get my head back on straight when I’m discouraged or frustrated with poker. Lauren Billings is someone else I just started getting closer to after the Vegas move but who I feel like I’ve known my whole life. She’s a fireball like me. Coincidentally enjoys Fireball as well. It’s a good combination. Those are the three I can think of on the top of my head.”