The first poker fact about Aussie Sarah Bilney is that her father was a politician, a former MP for the Australian Labor Party (some might say that this parentage gave her a leg up for the deceitful arts of poker, but I won’t be one of them). Dad’s job in politics took the Sarah Bilney family around Australia a lot, so cards became the family entertainment. As a youngster, Sarah was exposed to all sorts of card games, everything from gin rummy to hearts, but rarely poker. It was in her adult life that poker took on a more serious role. In the 90’s Sarah and some like-minded Shelias began a weekly card school that would eventually become known as the Canberra Ladies Card Club.
The tasty brunette first started playing serious poker as the millennium turned when her husband introduced her to the intricacies of the game and truly broke her poker duck. Before then, Sarah had never even heard of Texas Hold`Em, let alone flopped a straight. At that time Sarah was in the employ of the Australia Government so poker was a simple bit of martial fun with her husband, not something that was a contender for Sarah’s professional career. Then in 2003, Sarah moved again – this time to London (the one in England, not one of the many ones in Australia) to study for a Masters degree in International Relations at the London School of Economics (LSE). Being a student allowed Sarah more free time which gave her the opportunity to cultivate her interest in poker. While at LSE Sarah joined their Poker Society, and was often the centre of attention – because she was one of the best players, as well as the only girl, in the room. London also had the lure of great poker rooms in its numerous casinos, and Sarah began to patronize one (the Victoria Casino) regularly, honing her skills against the Capital’s poker pros, mostly playing Pot Limit Hold`Em games.
After her stint in Blighty, Sarah took a long haul back to Australia and got a taste of the real deal when she entered the Aussie Millions. Strangely (maybe because of nerves) she didn’t raise a card in anger in the tournament but contended herself to the cash games, where she managed to engorge her roll, leaving the title to the contenders. But the poker bug had bitten, and soon after she entered some small, no-limit tournaments getting through in both the highs and lows.
2004 saw Sarah step up and take a seat at her first World Series of Poker event. It was an ignoble beginning, as she crashed out early, but being one tough tottie she bounced back. And the following year at the 2005 WSOP Main Event, Sarah kept going for four days and finished 63rd out of a field 5,000 strong. 63rd might not knock your socks off but it’s worth noting that she was the second-highest female finisher and pocketed $150,000 to boot. After that, Sarah never really looked back and has consistently played good poker in selective tournaments and was recently ranked as the 20th highest female WSOP money finisher. Back in her home country, she is the top female money winner – and Australia is a big old place.