Last year Jennifer Carter achieved what seemed like an impossible dream when she overcame more than 21,000 competitors in a PokerStars freeroll to win a Platinum Pass. She and her family took their first vacation in many years this January, and Carter herself met and played against poker players she’d only seen on live streams or TV up to that point.

“I watched all 60 hours of coverage when I got home,” she told us this week by phone from her home in Toronto, Canada. “It was thrilling how often I was mentioned on the stream. It was so special, you have no idea. I think about it every day.”

Nick Walsh, Ben Spragg, Carter, and Tyson Apostol together at the PSPC in the Bahamas

Unsurprisingly, there was a distinct sense of sadness when Carter’s Bahamas trip was done. Not only did she get to play in the PSPC and meet lots of new friends, but she met players who travel for poker tournaments. “Going to the Bahamas really gave me a bug for traveling for poker,” she said. “I knew people did it, but I didn’t realize how tight-knit the poker community is.”

How did Jenn Carter get Jason Somerville to slow down long enough to take a selfie?

She indulged that bug in April with a trip to Run It Up Reno, but since then it’s been back to her standard routine. She still works at the yarn store. She still loves to knit. She still plays online poker on her phone with the PokerStars mobile app. And since there’s another installment of the PSPC coming up in Barcelona next year, she still plays Platinum Pass satellites — and wins them.

You know. Regular life.

Carter’s method of choice for getting to PSPC 2020 was the Mega Path. “I must have tried that first step for $2 about 50 times,” she said. “I got four or five tickets to Step 2 and I made it to Step 4 twice.”

Along the way she ran into friends she’d met during the PSPC. “Aasif (Warris), bless his heart, I’ve seen him in a few tournaments here and there, and took him out online a few times,” she said. “And I didn’t realize Willie Elliott was railing me a few weeks ago when I played Step 4. I didn’t know at the time, I just thought I was playing in the living room, you know?

In the living room or in the tournament room? Hmmmmmm…

“It was actually the best part this time around, knowing that there was a rail and that people were following along. I was giving my poker buddies live updates and screenshots and it was more fun that way, to have a rail. Half of my poker group didn’t realize what I was playing for. They were like, what does first place pay? What’s a Platinum Pass exactly?”

Her second shot at Step 4 turned out to be the charm.

“With my family — as soon as I won, I kind of leapt up and yelled out. Kind of swore a bit,” she says with a laugh. “And I said, ‘I did it, I won another Platinum Pass! We’re going to Barcelona!’ I talked to the kids about it because we had watched the dramatic PokerStars video where I make an appearance.” (“WELCOME TO BARCELONA!” she then intones in her best James Hartigan impression.)

“So it was fun that it was being repeated, and they were excited about it. And then all hell broke loose with the Facebook messages and Twitter, all the messages from my boys. It’s been great.”

Carter in the yarn store where she works

The path was a bit easier this time around. Instead of having to defeat 21,000 opponents, she only had to tackle around 400 this time around. “But of course I went in there thinking, ‘There’s no chance I’m going to win this thing.’ I sucked out on somebody, got lucky a few times — the usual tournament variance. No one ever expects to win tournaments, and when you do it feels like a fluke.”

But if you do something this difficult twice, how flukey is it, really? Especially if your PSPC experience was so unique and nearly overwhelming that you don’t feel like it’s had an appreciable effect on your game? If you’re the same player you were before, and you’ve won a Platinum Pass twice, surely you must be doing something right?

Jenn Carter and family in the Bahamas this January

“I don’t know how I did it,” she says. “Because it’s me. I can’t beat $.01/.02 online! It’s unbelievable. I was literally baking muffins during this tournament, doing dishes. And then in Step 4 I was just sitting in my bed knitting. I don’t have a bankroll because I can’t even win a $1 tournament. But I can win the biggest ones. I just don’t get it.”

Sometimes it’s best just to stop asking “why?” and go with the flow. That’s what Carter is doing now. She’s looking forward to taking her family on another adventure, this time on their first trip overseas, and reuniting with friends from the first PSPC.

“It feels like full circle right now,” she said. “I’m thrilled. It’s unbelievable.”

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Jason has covered poker since 2005. He lives in Washington state with his wife and three dogs.

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