QueenBee902: Mother of Four, Student of Languages and Killing it in Online Poker


Even though online poker has been around for approximately 15 years, the stereotypes of the online grinder still thrive. The typical players is a man in his early twenties. He’s an introvert nerd with a hoodie, who plays poker nonstop surrounded by large computer screens and empty pizza boxes.

While any preconception contains a grain of truth, this is of course far from the whole picture. Behind the anonymous screen names we find a lot of women. And not all players are in their twenties.

Take Deborah Vanneste, known on PokerStars as QueenBee902. She is a 47 years old online grinder from Prince Edward Island in Canada. She’s a mother of four and currently a student of modern languages at the University of Prince Edward Island. Besides studying languages Vanneste is a hardworking student of poker, and this year the many hours in front of the screen playing MTTs or watching training videos really paid off.

Besides final tabling The Big $33, The Big $55, The $109 rebuy and many others MTTs on numerous occasions, Deborah Vanneste won PokerStars‘ MicroMillions Event #14, a $3,30 NLHE rebuy for around 11k. Vanneste’s impressive run aroused our curiosity, and we caught up with the Canadian grinder to hear more about her poker life.

How did you get into poker?
When I was a young girl, I would save all my pennies and go to my grandfather’s twice a year and play various games of stud poker. I loved it and was pretty good at it. As far as online poker I was introduced to PokerStars in 2007-08, but didn’t play much. Around Christmas/New Years 2010 I decided as a gift to myself to load money on Stars and give it a go for real!
Right away I won a seat to Vanessa Rousso’s boot camp at the PCA. This was an incredible surreal experience for me. I got to attend Vanessa’s boot camp, sit down at a live poker table for the first time (which was terrifying) and meet Daniel Negraneau, Vanessa Selbst and Dwight Pilgrim. It was the best first poker month anyone could hope for!

Do you only play online?
I do mostly play online. I love the convenience and the challenge. It’s easier to study the online game from the comfort of my home, with Canadian winters and a very limited cash game and MTT’s on Prince Edward Island. Though recently I have played some 1/2 and 5/5 cash games with huge success and found that playing live has helped me find a balance in my online game. I see things much more clearly now online, since I have incorporated more live into the mix. In fact my online game has seemed to have gone up a level. I’m very happy with my progress online and the success I am having at the moment.

What do your family and friends think about you playing poker? What kind of response have you got?
I have just recently shared my poker experiences with my children and parents. They seem ok with it and are more curious now, when I play. They ask me questions and are very supportive. Overall it’s not been all rainbows and butterflies. It’s a tremendous amount of work to get a good online game and to get a supportive team around you.

What have you done to improve your game? On Twitter you call yourself a “student of poker”
I watch a lot of videos that discuss strategy, position, hand ranges and all the standard stuff. I also watch countless replays of final tables both live and online, and I have seen all of the videos on PokerStars’ Poker School Online, from the very basic to the more advanced. I also read a lot of blogs. To be successful online you have to continuously work on your game. Also chatting with poker friends helps you to see things from a different perspective.  I don’t use tracking software as it creates too much traffic for me visually. Maybe, if I were shown how to properly use a hud, I would find it helpful to my game, time will tell.

You seem to have a knack on rebuy tournaments. Do you have any advice for playing this kind of tourneys?
The rebuys I enjoy, because it allows you to have a larger starting stack to work with, and that seems to bode well for my style. I definitely thrive with deep stack poker tournaments, though with any tournament you got to have a ton of patience. This is a part of my game, I have also had to work hard on as I am a high energy person and sitting for hours feels like work. Well, really it is work.

How do you approach the rebuy period? Do you play loose and aggressive and try to build a big stack early on or are you more patient?
I pick my spots, and I am aggressive close to the end of the rebuy period to double up, so I can have the maximum stack possible moving forward. This can backfire though, so I don’t play loose or any two, I wait and pick my spots. Overall, until the rebuy period ends, I play pretty tight aggressive. I don’t enter the rebuys for a lot of rebuys, but for the increased chip stack.

Do you decide how many times to max rebuy or do you just rebuy, when needed? When starting to play, do you immediately take the rebuy?
With the smaller rebuys I usually buy in once and build my stack and rebuy and add-on at the end of the rebuy period, but that also depend on the tournament. Some tourneys only allow you to rebuy, when you have lost all of your chips or when you have the initial starting stack. In the larger buy-in MTTs like the 33+ or the 55+, I rebuy right away to have the best chip stack I can moving forward. There’s a lot more aggression at the upper buy-in tourneys, so I make sure I have a stack that allows me to play to my maximum potential.

Do you always take the add-on?
Yes I do.

Other things to consider, when playing in this kind of tournament?
I think you still need to be patient and build from the extra starting stack you have. I don’t think you should think “oh well, I can rebuy and rebuy so I will play marginal hands out of position or just shove shove shove until I have a big stack”. I’m not in favor of bingo poker and leaving it all to flips. You really need to be patient, till you get an hour or two into the tourney and all these players get weeded out. This is a test of patience as it is very easy to tilt in rebuy MTTs and end up spending a lot of money, which I feel defeats the purpose of playing them.

You recently won a MicroMillion event at PokerStars, Event #14, $3,30 NLHE rebuy with 9,444 runners. Can you tell us about it?
Well, I love the MicroMillions tournaments. They make the average poker player have the bank role to play a lot of the events and reap the rewards of a significant prize. There are many players though, so be prepared to sit for many hours.
On this particular evening I had just got my youngest son settled and decided to play Event #14. I started about 8:30 PM and was in bed with my sons iPad. I made a few missteps along the way, but when there was maybe 200 players left, I got a huge triple up to have my stack over 14 million. At that moment, I really felt, I would make the FT. Normally I will not think that far ahead, but I just said “Deb you got this!”
The blinds compared to stack size were increasing fast, so I felt I had to be aggressive and put everyone I was up against to the test for their tournament life. It worked in my favor, but I was also lucky to catch cards that had a piece of the flop. I have studied a lot of shove fold hand ranges and understand that shorthanded the ranges must widen and adjustments need to be made.

Down to to the FT there seem to have been some confusion about making a deal. You were on your tablet and could not find the deal button? What happened?
I was on the iPad and there was no deal button anywhere! I have bought a new iPad air and there is still no deal button that shows. I guess I will have to get someone to show me where it is. We eventually got the administrator to pause the tourney. It was a good time to deal with my chip stack, but I was glad we had the other thousand and the title to play for. I like the incentive. It was also 6 AM in the morning and I had to work that day, so I was feeling a bit rushed to get the tournament over with. After the deal I used my experience and huge chip lead to push the other players into making tough decisions with marginal hands.  It worked in my favor and of course the board worked out as well. As Vanessa Selbst said during her PCA win: “I’d rather be lucky than be good”, so you do need to win the flips!

You seemed to dominate the FT completely. Was that your experience too? And entering heads-up play you had a giant lead over grecin011
Yes, that was great to have such a chip lead. I really felt it was just a matter of time before it was over. He had a tough hill to climb, so I just found a spot and went for it. Again the board fell in my favor, but I was always in ahead and it worked out.

What are your poker plans for the rest of the year?
My plans are to build my bank role and continue to learn and develop my game. I need to work on my post flop game especially at bigger buy-in levels, which I am giving a try at the moment – and with success. I would also like to satellite into an EPT event and play more live poker. All in all my plans are to continue to evolve my game and become a better overall player. I am also interested in representing PokerStars Women online someday soon!

Photo: Private.

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