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Judy Whitlow: Redefining Power At 70+, One Bet At A Time | CrunchyTales

Judy Whitlow: Redefining Power at 70+, One Hand at a Time

4 min read

As we approach 50 and beyond, with the blessing of longevity and good health, poet Mary Oliver‘s famous quote, “What Do You Plan to do with Your One Wild and Precious Life?”, becomes even more poignant.

Many women in this demographic spend time travelling, playing with their grandchildren, and settling into a well-deserved retirement; some may start new businesses and continue to work.

But none of these options appealed to Judy Davis Whitlow.

Sharper Than Ever

On her 75th Birthday, she started on a journey of self-discovery and adventure. She decided she was going to play in the World Series of Poker, a live poker festival held every year in Las Vegas. It was an incredibly badass move, for Judy who had never played poker before, even recreationally.

She started with reading three books including ‘Texas Hold’em for DUMMIES’ and, dismissing any intimidation for her lack of experience, she headed to Sin City. In that first tournament, not only was she surrounded by many seasoned players, she found herself in a sea of 2,240 men and a handful of women. 

She cashed out and placed 175.

That tournament was life-changing for Judy. She found a new passion: poker, a game that places you at the centre of the action, sharpening your mind, building confidence, strengthening your decision making and testing your skill. 

Since then, she’s never looked back.

The All-In Attitude

I would encourage women to play poker at any age“, she shared with me. “If you are over 50 and counting, it gives you a whole new outlook on life. You have already accomplished so much being a daughter a wife and a mother. Now try something just for you! Just settling down at the table is empowering. You use all the skills you have developed in life and learn a lot about yourself. My favourite part is reading people’s emotions and taking the risk to decide you have a better hand. After all, hopefully, you have been doing that your whole life and if not it’s time to learn.

Perhaps her biggest win at that first tournament was meeting a global poker champion, Jennifer Shahadea member of team PokerStars Pro and an Ambassador for Poker Power, who inspired her to get comfortable with success, being aggressive and taking risks.

She soon been encouraged to participate in a sponsored boot camp by those two companies. They sent her to Prague to play in a tournament and since then, Judy has travelled to the Bahamas, Monte Carlo, Barcelona, Las Vegas and most recently Paris to claim her seat at the table. 

Basically a country girl, Judy was raised in the day when the most important thing was to get married and have a family (going to college was never a discussion in her family). She followed the traditional role for a young woman at the time, married her high school sweetheart, and had three children by the age of 21. However, that fairy tale dream of what happiness is supposed to mean was shattered when her husband left. 

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Judy was just 33 at the time and faced with the challenge of raising and supporting children. Without any work experience and not even knowing how to balance a chequebook, she moved her young family to Austin (Texas) and landed her first job keeping books for a construction company (Was that her first bluff move?)

Judy did consulting work there for three months and through this opportunity, she met an interior designer who would eventually become her business partner. Then she started her own company, Texas Elegance by Design, and moved to Kerrville using all these skills to accomplish new goals. 

She didn’t know at that time what was around the corner: those life experiences were all supposed to lead her to a new epiphany.

The empowering side of poker

I can look back on my life at this age and realize in a way I’d been playing poker my whole life. I had to step up to the table after divorce and bluff my way into my first job. I played the game until I owned my own business. My best hand ever was marrying my husband Norman on Valentine’s Day 2000 with 14,000 other couples in Vegas!

Judy’s best poker story happened in the Bahamas. PokerStars surprised her with a Platinum Pass including a $25,000.00 entry fee to PokerStars No Limit Hold’em Championship 2023. She led the tournament for most of the first day. So they gifted her a makeup artist, hair stylist, and a film crew to tell her badass story.

Judy added, “Poker is more than a game. It can help you learn so many things about life business and most of all your undiscovered abilities. You’re never too old to learn something new!”

Thank you, Judy. You have shown us how to really “Grab Life’s Bull by the Horns” and go for it. The next time we think we might have a passion for something we’ll make sure to follow your example: do our research and play our hand.

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About The Author

Bonnie Marcus | Gendered Ageism Expert

Bonnie Marcus | Gendered Ageism Expert

Award-winning entrepreneur, podcaster and executive coach, Bonnie Marcus, M.Ed., started her corporate career at an entry-level position and worked her way up to the top of a national company. Now, her passion is to help other women embrace their talent and ambition and step into their full potential, whatever their age.  Convinced that women over 50 are “Not Done, Yet!, she has recently come up with her new book shining a light on gendered ageism in the workplace and gives women the tools and the voice to defy ageist assumptions to stay marketable and keep their jobs. Bonnie has been honoured by Global Gurus as one of the world’s top 30 leadership professionals in 2015-2021.

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