EPT Monte Carlo Final Table Pushes Rania Nasreddine to New Heights

Rania Nasreddine entered the spotlight at EPT Monte Carlo and made an immediate impression, and her success in poker is the latest in a series of pursuits in her life that she’s attacked with a smile and a ragged determination.

Tim Fiorvanti
May 24, 2024
Rania Nasreddine made a run at the EPT Monte Carlo title, finishing third, but the impression that she made during her run in that tournament gave the world a glimpse of an approach to life that’s brought her success in many different walks of life. PokerStars/Manuel Kovsca

There seems to be a common theme in the way Rania Nasreddine approaches most things in her life – entering an environment with both a genuinely friendly demeanor and a fierce determination to find the route to success, no matter where in the world that happens to take her or the ridiculous circumstances that might occur along the way.

That approach has taken her a long way in life, including the distance between her hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma and the shores of Monte Carlo. Nasreddine’s poker career reached new heights on that front earlier this month during her run in the EPT Monte Carlo Main Event, where she finished third for a career-best $473,639 cash.

At 43 years old, Nasreddine can add that result to a long list of professional goals accomplished. Her successes on so many different fronts in her life stem from a specific mentality that’s been ingrained in Nasreddine since childhood – there are no halfway measures, and you’ve only got one shot at this life.

“I have a brother who’s handicapped, and so the fact that none of us are here for very long has always been at the forefront, always looking at me in the face,” said Nasreddine. “I was the kid who couldn’t go to sleep without making sure everyone said goodnight, because what if something happens overnight? My entire life, I’ve always found tomorrow is not guaranteed, and you only get one ride on this amazing planet Earth.

“So I want to do all the things, I want to try all the things and I want to excel at all the things.”

She arrived at Emory University without much debate experience and won the American Debate Association Nationals. She attended law school and built a wildly successful legal career, started training to run a marathon with little formal experience and ran the New York City Marathon, and appeared on “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” and won $25,000. She recorded two rap songs with a producer who worked with Cardi B, found success in real estate, launched a doughnut shop and a person-to-person review service, and, in tandem with her husband, got involved with horse ownership. Many of those highlights were achieved while raising a now four-year-old daughter.

In the midst of proving herself a polymath of many talents, Nasreddine has also managed a tournament poker career that’s included a number of deep runs, significant results and close calls – perhaps none more so than her highest-profile result prior to EPT Monte Carlo, during the WPT World Championship at Wynn Las Vegas in 2022.

Nasreddine’s performance at EPT Monte Carlo has elevated her to an entirely different level of notoriety within the game, making her the No. 1 trending player on The Hendon Mob’s homepage. To focus on poker alone when it comes to Nasreddine is to have but one piece of the puzzle of her life, and yet examining her adventures in poker seems to reveal some key elements about what drives her.

Like most of her journey, it has interconnected strands that tie into other aspects of her life. She picked up poker initially from her college debate teammates at Emory, but her roots in pursuing a tournament poker career go back to when Nasreddine was working full-time as a lawyer in Tulsa.

“I had a 70-year-old secretary, she’d go down and play these women’s events, $50 or $100 tournaments, and she got me going down to play them a little bit,” said Nasreddine.

Nasreddine recorded her first career tournament cash in one such Ladies Event with a second-place finish at Cherokee Casino Resort in Tulsa in late 2008. It remained a casual interest as her firm ran poker events for client development, but Nasreddine’s growing network in the area eventually got her looped back into the game.

“I made friends with Tana [Karn], who runs RunGood,” said Nasreddine. “And Justin Gardenhire, who was one of the original RunGood ambassadors, was sort of my unofficial poker coach. Between the two of them, I got a little bit more connected in the Tulsa scene.”

Nasreddine slowly worked her game up from the ground level, and by 2016 she was playing in local WSOP Circuit and RunGood events in Oklahoma. She started mixing in the occasional trip to Las Vegas every summer, and Nasreddine enjoyed her first major “level-up” over the course of less than two weeks in the summer of 2019. That’s when Nasreddine recorded the first three five-figure tournament cashes of her career, all back-to-back, starting with her first-ever WSOP Main Event cash.

And all of it was done while Nasreddine was dealing with a few of the more challenging effects of expectant motherhood.

“I was pregnant,” said Nasreddine. “Imagine how people get kind of cranky about waiting two hours to pee without wanting to like lose blinds, and I have a little human sitting on my bladder the whole time. But when I catch one tournament, usually right after I get in the right groove.”

On the day she busted out from the biggest poker tournament of the year, Nasreddine hopped right into a $1,500 No Limit Hold’em/Pot Limit Omaha bracelet event, grinded for three days through more than 1,200 players and finished ninth – particularly impressive as Nasreddine had limited experience in the format – “I don’t know how to play PLO.” After unexpectedly extending her Las Vegas trip, Nasreddine made a third deep run inside of a week, finishing 32nd after outlasting more than 2,200 entrants in the Wynn Summer Classic Main Event.

Before her third-place finish at EPT Monte Carlo, Nasreddine had some close calls in major events, including a deep run in the WPT World Championship at Wynn Las Vegas in 2022.

As her pregnancy progressed, Nasreddine scaled back her poker schedule. She also hit the same wall most poker players did when the poker world shut down in 2020. Between raising her daughter, who was born in December 2019, and other interests, Nasreddine predictably remained quite busy in the interim. But the moment the poker world reopened, she was back on the grind with a vengeance taking bigger and bigger shots.

She cashed at three different WPT Main Tour stops in 2021, and then four more in 2022, including her notable run at the WPT World Championship that December. 2022 also brought Nasreddine’s first poker title of note, when she bested a field of 1,158 to win her first WSOP Circuit ring. And after knocking on the door to a truly life-changing result over the last few years, Monte Carlo was the moment when everything finally fell into place.

From the outset of her trip, there were no grand visions of conquering Europe. In fact, the first half of the trip was dedicated to some R&R on a mom’s trip to Paris, far from the halls of The Monte-Carlo Sporting complex. But then, as planned, Nasreddine wrapped up her girl’s trip and set out to spar against some serious poker heavyweights on the European Poker Tour.

The impression that Nasreddine made at EPT Monte Carlo, both among the players she sparred against at the table and those watching from afar, went far beyond making the right reads and getting lucky in the right spots. It started from the moment she sat down on Day 1 with recent EPT Paris winner and poker legend Barny Boatman at her table.

“When Rania Nasreddine came to our table on day one of EPT Monte Carlo the first thing she did was ask everyone where we came from,” Boatman said. “Then one by one she sent us all back there. A great run from a brave and tough player. Congratulations.”

As has been the case throughout her life, when the moment and opportunity presented themselves, Nasreddine answered the call. She gained momentum as the days played on, running deeper and deeper into the tournament.

Eventually, Nasreddine played her way down to the final day of the EPT Monte Carlo Main Event, among the final seven players. She picked her spots, kept driving forward, and then got herself into a position to succeed three-handed with the remaining chip counts all close together. With all the attention and pressure that was seemingly on her shoulders, Nasreddine gave herself a great chance to get down to heads-up play with a massive chip lead.

Unfortunately for her, Nasreddine couldn’t dodge eight outs one time, as eventual champion Derk Van Luijk spiked a heartbreaking river card to make two pair and all but end her run, which would officially come to a close a few hands later. Despite the jarring finale, Nasreddine had no regrets about how it all played out.

“My goal was to make it to the final three, to let the small stacks sort of kill each other, or let Boris [Angelov] try to take them out,” said Nasreddine. “I wouldn’t change anything about what I did. Just incredibly, terribly unlucky. I knew that he was a player that if he had a jack or a pair of 10s, he would call my all-in, and he did.”

There was, of course, a level of disappointment despite the level of success Nasreddine achieved for herself at EPT Monte Carlo, despite cracking $1 million in lifetime tournament earnings. But the element that helped carry her through the long trip back home from Monte Carlo was the same thing that helped inspire her throughout her tournament run in the first place. A barrage of positive messages kept piling up in Nasreddine’s texts and social media replies as she fought off jetlag, and the celebratory energy carried right on through to her homecoming – even if she wasn’t fully prepared to receive all of the joy awaiting her upon her arrival.

“I live in the heartland of the U.S., which means I had three flights back – from Nice to Newark, Newark to Chicago, and Chicago to Tulsa,” said Nasreddine. “It was a long, long, long day. Normally I do things like take a shower, brush my teeth, present myself nicely. But my husband said he was going to get my daughter asleep early so I could rest, and my friend who’s very laid back was picking me up and I was like, ‘I’m not doing shit for this.’ So I did nothing, I looked like a slob and then my daughter is the first person to greet me and there’s 15 friends plus my family waiting for me screaming.

“Thankfully, they were unsuccessful in getting a news station there for the airport, but the Fox station in Tulsa still picked it up after the fact.”

Now that she’s back stateside, Nasreddine’s got her sights set on the 2024 WSOP, where she’ll try to satellite into some big buy-in tournaments including a $25,000 High Roller. Nasreddine intends to be back for another shot at the WPT World Championship this December, too. In between, she’s intent on making another run at an EPT later this year – rightfully so after the splash she made in Monte Carlo.

“I think that maybe I made (poker) seem more approachable to people, I like to think that I’m an approachable person,” Nasreddine said of her run. “I want to show people that poker can be fun. It’s competitive – I want all your chips. I want to burn your face and incinerate you, but I can also have fun while I’m doing it. And you can have fun, too.”