By Landon Blackhall
Ladies and gentlemen, meet Amanda De Cesare. She’s a 34-year-old speech pathologist and single mother of two living in Melbourne, who was plucked not-quite-from-obscurity to take part in Joe Hachem’s reality television show, The Poker Star.
From a field of 11 contestants, she was singled out as the best of the best by Hachem and his lieutenant, Lee “Final Table” Nelson, after a series of tournaments and real-life challenges to home the AUD $100,000 first prize, plus a money-can’t-buy experience of travelling around the world and taking her seat here today, as well as the next year’s Aussie Millions, WSOP Main Event and the PokerStars EPT Grand Final in Monte Carlo.
While she’s only just made her introduction on the world stage, De Cesare has quickly earned the respect from her peers – only a week after the final episode of The Poker Star was aired on Australian network television, she won the Joe Hachem Deep Stack Series III Main Event.
The 2005 WSOP Main Event champion was there to witness his apprentice’s first major tournament victory, along with family, friends and her long-time friend, ally and mentor, Peter Aristidou.
De Cesare had already scored a runner-up finish with Aristidou in the 2009 Aussie Millions Teams Event and last year she won the $500 No Limit Hold’em Event at the PokerNews Cup in Melbourne.
She didn’t think she was going to appear on The Poker Star to begin with: “I filled out an application form while I was playing a tournament down at Crown Casino (in Melbourne) one night. “I was surprised when I got the call to come in for a live audition and they said yes!”
De Cesare didn’t know what to expect when she went into the house with the other contestants, but she certainly wasn’t expecting to go swimming with sharks or walking on a plank between buildings. “I thought we would have constantly been playing poker – I’m not an adventurous person,” she said.
“But the most important thing I learned from those challenges was to overcome my fears. I knew that once I conquered my fears I could achieve anything, and that’s really helped me at the tables.”
When she was declared the winner of The Poker Star, her family and friends were over the moon, especially Peter Aristidou, who said he knew she had great potential: “After she won The Poker Star her whole attitude changed – the pressure was off and she was only playing to win,” he said. “Seeing her win that Main Event was more satisfying than if I had won it myself. Her future is very bright.” As bright as a shining star.