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Ohio woman balances passion for poker with love for her job

7 Jul 2015

By Dan Podheiser
LAS VEGAS – Annette Wood is a lot like many other recreational players who entered the 2015 World Series of Poker Main Event.

The Akron, Ohio native earned her $10,000 buy-in to poker’s premier event by winning her home poker league, a 17-week tournament series played by 15-20 friends at the local VFW.

Annette Wood plays in the Amazon Room at the Rio during Day 1B of the 2015 World Series of Poker Main Event.

Annette Wood plays in the Amazon Room at the Rio during Day 1B of the 2015 World Series of Poker Main Event. (photo by Dan Podheiser/Casino City)

But Wood stands out from her fellow Main Event players for at least one reason. If she wins the tournament and several million dollars, she’s still going back to work.

Wood is the director of day services for Midwest Innovations, an Ohio-based company that provides developmental services for disabled adults. As Wood describes, the adults come in and are taken out into the community to learn life skills, while earning minimum wage in the process.

The job is Wood’s passion. Poker comes second.

“I love my job,” Wood said. “It’s the best job in the world.”

Playing in her first World Series of Poker event, Wood said walking into the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino for the first time was a little nerve-wracking. But once she sat down, she wasn’t intimidated seeing pros like Phil Galfond and JC Tran sitting near her table.

“They’re just regular people playing a game they love,” Wood said. “I love my job and I’m good at it and they’re good at what they do.”

It’s that ability to put things in perspective that gave Wood a calm demeanor on Day 1B on Monday afternoon. Of course, she’s no slouch at the table, either. Wood says she plays three or four times a week at home, either at the VFW or at local card clubs. She also reads a lot of poker books – Jonathan Little’s books are her favorites – and watches videos by training sites Poker on Air and Crush Live Poker.

Wood has come a long way since learning poker only seven years ago, when she started going to local “Vegas nights” with her father. But she belongs in the Main Event with pros and amateurs alike.

“I had a little butterflies at first but I was OK,” Wood said. “I was ready to play.”

Back home in Akron, Wood says she has family and friends cheering her on, from her husband, Derby, to her daughter, Noelle, and the rest of the VFW gang.

“They’re all kind of living through me,” she said.

In the last level of Day 1B, Wood fell short of her ultimate goal when she finally busted from the Main Event. She says she plans to stay in Las Vegas until at least the weekend.

Wood said that even if she had won the Main Event, she would still have gone back to work. She planned to donate some money to charity, and she’d build a gym for kids who need a place to go after school.

She’ll still play poker. But it will always be her second passion.

“I get up every morning and I love to go to work,” Wood said. “Just like the pros love to play poker.”
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