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Alexandra Botez spent years rising to the top of the chess world, claiming her first championship in her teens and livestreaming her way into a much larger chess community. As she recently began to find her way into the poker space, her chess experiences were clearly the education that prepared her for a card game journey.
And if her many years of success in chess are any indication, Botez is only beginning to make her mark on poker.
Alexandra Botez makes it look easy. At the very least, success appears to come naturally for her. Those assumptions, however, would discount the level of study and hard work she applies to whatever she does.
Since Botez is a somewhat new personality and talent in the game of poker, it is difficult to guess how much she will contribute to it or the level of success she will find in it. But her rise in the game in a relatively short period of time thus far is a serious indicator that the poker community should take notice. She is already making her mark.
The parallels between chess and poker are well-documented and much-discussed.
The levels of skill may vary, but the skill components in both games are undeniable. Strategy is important in both games, as is the willingness to take calculated risks. Both present the opportunity for any player to compete against some of the biggest names, the most accomplished players in the game. There are elements of forethought and planning, study and reviewing past play in each game, again at different levels.
And chess and poker players are predominantly male.
Women have worked hard to break into both games, battling the sexism and sometimes abuse to break down barriers. Both games boast of being free of societal and physical limitations, wherein background and ethnicity make no difference as to how a person can play. But the overwhelmingly male history of the games, not to mention most associated companies and media in those spaces being controlled by men, have created barriers upon which women have shined a light. And those barriers are coming down.
Jennifer Shahade may be the most well-known poker player to cross over from chess in today’s game. She still plays chess and contributes greatly to that community while also finding ways to blend her passions for both games. Her partnership with PokerStars has presented opportunities for her to put a spotlight on the crossover and the similarities between the two worlds.
Jeff Sarwar was a world chess champion who found great success at the poker tables. Almira Skripchenko became well-known in European circles and found a sponsorship with Winamax for a time during the poker boom. And quite a few poker players have some notable chess backgrounds, and names like Dan Harrington, Dan Smith, and Ylon Schwartz stand out among them.
Even Grandmaster Magnus Carlsen has been dipping his toes into the poker waters of late.
Chess has always been a part of her life.
Alexandra Botez is now 27 and has been playing poker since she was six years old. Her father began training her to play at a very young age, and she won her first national championship in Canada at the age of eight.
Botez was born in Texas to Romanian parents and raised in British Columbia. As she worked her way through the ranks of the chess world, she also stayed in school and obtained a full chess scholarship to the University of Texas. But she chose Stanford University instead and graduated from there in 2017.
While studying international relations at Stanford and competing in numerous chess championships, Botez decided to join the online streaming trend. She joined Twitch in 2016 and began streaming chess games. It was an opportunity to spread her love of the game, as well as to create a larger chess community, encourage more women to play, and help others (and herself by default) improve.
Botez and her chess-playing sister, Andrea, created a Twitch and YouTube content via BotezLive channels on both platforms. The Twitch channel shows 1.2M followers, and YouTube is at 1.27M, the latter with 415 videos and more than 390M total views.
Along the way, Alexandra (and Andrea) found poker.
During the pandemic-mandated lockdowns of 2020, Botez was relegated to playing chess online, something to which she’s already grown accustomed as a streamer.
In her mid-20s, Botez had already achieved many milestones in her chess career. She was a Woman FIDE Master, five-time Canadian National Girls Champion, chess commentator, Board of Director member of the Susan Polgar Foundation, and a regular in the top 10 of all Canadian female chess players. She had founded a social media startup company and signed on to a partnership with esports group Envy Gaming. And in 2022, she won the Best Chess Streamer honor at the Streamer Awards.
An inherently competitive person, Botez saw the pandemic lockdown as an opportunity to dive into a world that she had seen mostly from afar. She knew of poker, obviously, but started taking the game more seriously in 2020. She began streaming some online games, studying strategy, and becoming increasingly more competitive in the poker streets.
When the world began to reopen, Botez took some shots at live poker tournaments.
Her breakout live performance, however, was – coincidentally – in a streamed game.
The game was organized for the Hustler Casino Live stream. On May 1, 2022, the cash game started with about $1M on the table. Popular poker players like Tom Dwan and Phil Hellmuth were in the mix, but the majority of the players were well-known streamers, YouTube and Twitch personalities like Ludwig, Slime, Ninja, MrBeast, and Alexandra Botez.
Botez did well. In fact, after buying in to the game for $100K, she cashed out with $456,900 in profit as the biggest winner of the night.
Chess may be her first love, but Botez has taken much more than a passing interest in poker. She has played in live tournaments and cash games, consistently working to improve her poker game.
When 2023 began, Botez had goals. She had been getting some poker coaching.
She wanted to jump into the poker tournament mix, so she flew to the Bahamas for the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure (PCA) and the PokerStars Players No Limit Hold’em Championship (PSPC). The entire series ran January 22 through February 3.
Botez hit up the $330 buy-in PCA Women’s Event soon after her arrival in Nassau on January 29, and she didn’t make it far. She then played the $25K buy-in PSPC the following day and…busted.
But once she got settled in and more focused, she played the $3,300 buy-in NLHE Deep Stack – Event 51 of the PCA – and cashed. She finished in 42nd place for $5,200.
On the second-last day of the series, Botez bought in to one of the last events on the schedule, the $550 buy-in NLHE Hyper Turbo Freezeout. And she won. The prize money was $10,815, and she won a PokerStars spade trophy and collected her first live poker tournament win.
In the past, Botez has worked to find balance between school and chess. At this time in her life, she appears to be balancing poker and chess.
Considering chess was and is her passion – not to mention her life’s work – it is not surprising that she is brushing up on her chess skills to compete again. She has been working with Grandmaster Jon Ludvig Hammer for some action this year.
That’s not to say Botez won’t be at the poker tables. It will be tough to resist playing at the 2023 World Series of Poker in Las Vegas. Don’t be surprised if she turns up there or at a major tournament series somewhere…and wins another trophy.
Jackpot! You’ve flopped a winning hand! This article has surely added some extra chips to your stack. Tune in for more valuable insights and pro-level strategies!
Looks like you’ve been dealt a bad beat. We’ll shuffle the deck and try again.