In a matter of minutes Sunday night, Danielle Andersen’s 2016 World Series of Poker Main Event went from enjoyable to emotionally draining and it had absolutely nothing to do with the cards. It had everything to do with one of the, if not THE central Black Friday villain, Howard Lederer.
Andersen, whom many in the poker world were first introduced to in the documentary Bet Raise Fold, plays a fairly light tournament schedule, instead choosing to focus her time energy on the lucrative cash games year round in Las Vegas. One event she simply can’t pass up each year is the Main Event.
On Sunday, Andersen took her seat in the Amazon Room and played the first four levels at a fairly fun table – even by Main Event standards, where recreational players tend to fill the tables more than any other event on the calendar.
“There was this woman who just sat there all day and she clearly was an amateur player and didn’t know anything about poker. She told us in the last hour that the only reason she was there was because it was husband’s birthday and he wanted to play the Main Event,” said Andersen. “She goes ‘my butt hurts, I’m tired. I want to go home and go to sleep’ and she’s like ‘Can I just give my chips to everybody and they can be equally dispersed?’ And we all kind of laughed about it, but she was dead serious, she really just wanted to go home.”
The woman seemingly did everything she could to lose her stack as quickly as possible. After accidentally doubling up with K-4 against pocket eights, the unknown woman eventually managed to sent the last of her stack to another player after calling an all in with just to pair against a set of fives. Her departure was met with a hug from Andersen and smiles and kind words from the other seven players at the table.
“She was just a breath of fresh air at the table, it just got super fun. it was the most fun I’ve ever had at a Main Event table in my life. It was hilarious – it was great entertainment,” said Andersen. And then, with a little over an hour left in the day, all hell broke loose as the former Full Tilt Poker executive Lederer filled the empty seat.
“The table was having so much fun and the air just got sucked out of everybody – particularly me,” said Andersen. As those who have seen Bet Raise Fold, the documentary which followed the poker industry in the months leading up to and aftermath of Black Friday, can recall, prior to Black Friday, Andersen was patiently chasing a lucrative online poker sponsorship and the most likely suitor was Full Tilt Poker.
“Everything was euphoric prior to Howard sitting down. I think, obviously the woman that unfortunately busted before he sat down created a very unique atmosphere, unlike anything I’d ever experienced at the WSOP Main Event,” said Garry Gates, who sat on Andersen’s right. “There was laughter, there was joking, there were drinks, there was camaraderie and when Howard sat down it was like the storyboard nobody could have ever dreamt of. You went from one extreme to the other.”
Seeing Lederer at her table flustered Andersen and had her revisiting her emotions on Black Friday over five years after the fact.
“I just admittedly got really rattled and I wish that I didn’t. I wish that he didn’t have that power over me,” said Andersen. “To be honest, at first, I was just like speechless. It took me a little. Then I was like ‘I have to say something’. And I’m not the type to be like you’re a scumbag and you’re .. whatever … that’s not my style. Other people can be angry, but like it just brought me a profound sadness and I felt like I had to say something.”
Me: ‘does it not bother you it’s physically painful for people to see you? Like I actually am sick to my stomach right now bc you’re here?’
— Danielle Andersen (@dmoongirl) July 11, 2016
Howard nods & quietly says ‘yeah it bothers me.’ Me: ‘then why are you here? The least you can do is leave us alone.’ No response.
— Danielle Andersen (@dmoongirl) July 11, 2016
“I was respectful, I didn’t yell at him, I didn’t do anything like that,” said Andersen, who doesn’t think Lederer recognized Andersen or her back story at all. “My read is that it sincerely does bother him, that everybody hates him and I don’t know the whole story, maybe he’s not as guilty as everybody thinks, maybe he’s a scapegoat but the fact is no matter what, he played a major role in what was for a lot of people the most painful time in their life, a very difficult time.”
Not long after saying something to Lederer, Andersen had to leave the table to help compose herself to be able to make it through the end of Day 1B.
“Shortly after I said something to him and he didn’t really respond I had to get up and walk away and I walked over to my friend and I told him I was just really rattled right now and he just said ‘the more control you give him, the more he wins and it doesn’t really do any good’, and I get all that,” said Andersen. “So I just took a little walk because I wasn’t focused anyways. The people at the table were nice and supportive, the guys next to me were like ‘hey, that was really well spoken, glad you said something. Are you okay?’”
Gates was one of the players asking Andersen if she was okay. Watching another player struggle wit the emotional and physical pain brought on by Lederer’s presence was difficult to watch.
“It actually affected me personally, I lost a big pot kind of playing mindlessly just watching Andersen’s reaction to it all. She looked physically pained by the situation, his presence. You could just tell,” said Gates. “The whole table was silent, there was not one word said for a while, Danielle actually spoke up after about ten minutes. But it took things from a very fun, enjoyable feel to a zero in my book.”
“Nobody else talked to him, but after I said it a couple of guys said ‘that was Three people spoke out in support of what I said,” said Andersen. “it is what it is, and maybe some day I’ll be able to not be bothered by it. It still feels raw.”