The poker world lost one of its greats last month. No, it wasn’t Doyle Brunson (Why do sick people keep making fake reports of his death?) or another player with bracelets and millions in tournament winnings that you’ve seen on TV. This player wasn’t quite as well known as some others, but anyone who had the pleasure of meeting and playing poker with her would never refute the title of “great.”
Rachel Kranz was one of the most passionate poker players I’ve ever met. She was constantly smiling and it never seemed the least bit contrived. Her excitement to be playing the game she loved shined through in such a way that it reminded me why I love the game so much on multiple occasions where I’d let myself slip and become bored or jaded with it. Her attitude and approach to life taught me a lot and I won’t forget those lessons. I’d like to share a couple of the stories from my all-too-brief interactions with her that will stick with me.
A memorable hand came up against Rachel in a Borgata event years ago when I first met her…and the reason I remember it had nothing to do with the hand itself. The board was KQ378 and I had AQ for a fairly strong bluff catcher given the way the hand played out. With about 6k chips in the pot Rachel threw out a 5k chip and said “four.” I was probably going to call whether the bet was 4k or 400, and if I knew for certain that it wasn’t an angle I would have just said “call”, but since I didn’t know Rachel at the time I decided to get a floor ruling to clarify the amount of the bet and protect myself against any possible angles. The floor ruled that it the bet would be the lowest legal amount, 400 (a rule that has since been modified FYI). I called 400 and she showed A-10 for a bluff.
What made this hand memorable was Rachel’s reaction to the situation. Many players would be upset that the ruling didn’t go in their favor, especially in a situation where they were bluffing and wanted the intended larger amount to stand in order to increase the bluff’s chance of success. Rather than get upset with me or the floor person who ruled the bet as 400, Rachel humbly thanked me for teaching her a lesson and went so far as to apologize for making an unclear bet while promising to always verbalize the full amount of her bets in the future. She often joked about it whenever we saw each other again. Given what I know and have seen of human tendencies, I was floored by the way she handled this and learned something from her level of humility in that moment.
Another conversation I had with Rachel that I’ll likely never forget happened at the 2015 World Series of Poker. I ran into Rachel on a break and she said “Hi Matt, how’s it going?” to which I replied with a smile “Life is good, aside from these recent pesky poker results.” Since I post my +/- dollar amount after each event during the WSOP, Rachel knew exactly how much of a slump I was in for the summer. Rachel replied by saying, “I hope you don’t take this the wrong way, but seeing that you’re having such a rough summer has made me feel a bit better. Knowing that a player of your caliber can go on such a downswing helps me realize how tough tournaments can be and not get too down on myself…no offense!”
Well, Rachel, not only did I not take it the wrong way, but I drew inspiration from your kind words at a time when I needed them most. In a world full of poker players who seem to think this game owes them something, Rachel humbly and happily accepted whatever the result was. She had no idea that 2015 happened to be a time when my lackluster poker results paled in comparison to the problems I had going on in my personal life. I found a strange sense of consolation in my losses and being reminded that people like her look up to me meant a lot.
I do have one major regret, though. Rachel asked me to find time to do dinner with her at some point and I never got around to it. Part of that is due to me spending almost every waking moment at Borgata playing either online or live (or both) and part of it is due to me being more of an introvert than most people who casually know me would think. I’ll never get the opportunity to do dinner with Rachel, but I am going to make a conscious effort to make time for people outside my normal circle and encourage you to do the same. Make time for people you care about sooner rather than later because you never know when you’ll lose that opportunity forever. I never even had a chance to thank Rachel for the ways that she helped me
Players who didn’t know her are probably surprised at the outpouring of love and support for a woman they’d either never heard of or only seen in passing. On the other hand, those of us who were fortunate enough to get to know her, even briefly, aren’t the least bit surprised to find out how many people felt her impact and will miss her deeply. Thank you for your constant positive impact on our game and our community. We’re going to miss you dearly.