Victoria Livschitz stepped directly into the high roller poker tournament circuit in 2021, an entrepreneur crossing over from the worlds of tech and philanthropy to challenge herself against the best players on the planet.
Over the last two years, she’s cashed for over $1.2 million in tournaments and captured a couple of trophies. But beyond her accomplishments at the table, Livschitz’s most notable contributions to the game of poker have come in the form of emerging technology and in potentially shaping a bright future for women coming up in the game of poker.
After dabbling in a handful of small buy-in live tournaments in the late 2010s, Livschitz’s interest in the game peaked at a time when going out to play a live tournament was entirely off the table.
“I was cooped up at home for 18 months, like most people, and I discovered high stakes poker tournament final tables,” said Livschitz. “I just binge-watched everything I could find.”
By September 2021, as more of the world began to open back up, Livschitz was eager to find an outlet for all of the enthusiasm she’d built up for poker. That timing couldn’t have been much better, as the rescheduled 2021 World Series of Poker was set to kick off that October.
“I hadn’t had a vacation in forever,” said Livschitz. “What if I take 10 days and go to Vegas and set up a poker vacation? And that is exactly what I did.”
Rather than just getting her feet wet in a smaller buy-in event, Livschitz instead decided to dive headfirst into the deepest end of the pool.
“Funny enough, the first thing on the schedule was the $25K, and I thought, well, here’s my chance to see all the heroes across the field,” said Livschitz. “And so a $25K bracelet event was my first introduction to big MTTs. I thought maybe something magical would happen, and something magical actually did happen.”
That “magic” didn’t manifest as a poker result, but rather by a chance encounter that’s helped shape Livschitz’s poker journey ever since.
“I had a star-studded table, and ended up busting late that day, by Sam Grafton,” said Livschitz. “But I got to meet him, and then I kept running into him. A few days later, I told him I was looking for somebody to teach me poker, and he agreed to be my first teacher. That was an amazing way to get to get started.”
That initial poker vacation featured some highlights at the table as well, including her first live tournament win and a deep run in the 2021 WSOP Ladies Championship. Livschitz went home with experience, a new poker coach and an even deeper appreciation for the game. Shortly after her WSOP foray, Livschitz met Bill Klein, from whom she learned more about the high roller events put on by PokerGO.
That December, Livschitz played her first PokerGO $10K during the WPT Five Diamond World Poker Classic. She ran well, made the final table, and any chance of Livschitz losing interest in poker for the foreseeable future faded away.
“Since then, it’s been two years of complete obsession.”
Beyond her 7th place finish in that tournament, Livschitz continued to make connections within the poker world at the table. In this instance, Livschitz met two people who would go on to shape the next few years of her life.
“In that first PokerGO $10K, Andrew [Lichtenberger] was seated at my table,” said Livschitz. “I didn’t know him, but he’s a very social guy and you don’t have new faces on the circuit that often. So naturally, he was trying to break the ice and we got into a conversation. At that final table, Nick Schulman was there, and that was the beginning of both of those friendships.
“I kept playing and running into them, and at some point, I think it was the [ WPT Seminole Hard Rock Poker Showdown], Andrew had just won a $50K and spirits were high,” Livschitz continued. “They invited me to become part of their gang of friends that night. We talked about poker and poker tooling, and my journey, and I kind of unloaded on them on just what a terrible state poker tech was in.”
Livschitz entered that conversation with a deep pool of knowledge and experience to draw from. She founded Grid Dynamics, an industry leader in cloud computing in AI, in 2006. Before that, Livschitz spent 10 years at Sun Microsystems working on a multitude of projects including her role as Principal Architect of SunGrid, the world’s first public cloud storage system.
What Livschitz knew for sure was that as she dug deeper and tried to enhance her poker game, the technology at her disposal simply did not live up to her ambitions.
“I spent my career in technology, I just got here, and every tool I touch is terrible,” said Livschitz. “They asked me to explain why that is. I think we started at midnight, and by 5 a.m. we decided we’re gonna form a company and go fix it, and here we are.”
The result of those late-night chats is Octopi Poker. After a year-and-a-half of work, Octopi launched its private beta, with the company’s overarching goal of utilizing a team of poker experts and engineers with expertise in emerging technologies, cloud computing and AI to revolutionize the space. As an entrepreneur with connections beyond the poker world, Livschitz was a natural fit for the organization.
Even as Octopi Poker developed and evolved, Livschitz was leveling up at the table. She won High Roller events at Venetian and Aria in 2022, as well as a side event at EPT Paris in 2023. And in parallel with her new professional efforts and successes at the table, Livschitz became involved in another endeavor that struck close to her heart – the evolving state of women in poker.
“It all started at the 2022 World Series of Poker,” Livschitz said. “I’m six or seven months into poker, and there was an initiative. I think it was Krissy Foxen who reached out and said they were trying to place a few women into the WSOP Ladies Event and asked if I would like to donate some money. I said sure, and then there was another idea: why don’t we provide some training to people who are winning seats?
“I was assigned three people, I had lessons with them and then afterward one of them, Rachel [Giacopuzzi] reached out and said, ‘Hey, listen, me and five of my friends, we live in LA and we want to take poker more seriously. Would you help us out?’ I thought that was really cool, and so we formed a study group and created a Discord server. I started giving weekly lectures and hand history analysis, theory threads.”
From this initial connection, Pocket Queens, an all-women’s poker study group, was born.. There have long been efforts within the poker community to expand women’s participation in the game, but Pocket Queens set out to utilize technology in order to connect women and provide an inviting environment in which knowledge could be shared freely and efficiently.
“They told their friends, and then the friends told their friends, and next thing we know, we are now at 400 or 500 members globally,” said Livschitz. “You have grandmas who dream about retiring and doing nothing but playing full-time poker. You have young grinders who are aspiring poker pros. You have standup comedians who love poker on the side. You have retired cops, you have retired Wall Street executives, it’s just a remarkable community.
“People support each other. They go to the tournaments together. There are grindhouses where people share a roof and just play,” Livschitz said. “There is a tremendous amount of support that’s going on. I tap all of my friends to come in and give talks, and they’re very generous with the time. We’ve had Daniel Negreanu, and Andrew, and it takes a village.”
There are internal Pocket Queens leagues, in which players accumulate points throughout the year in both branded and external events. There’s been expansion into mixed Games as well, as interest grows beyond No Limit Hold’em.
As excited as Livschitz has been to enter into the high roller world, her enthusiasm for the game of poker has only grown through her work with Pocket Queens – and the journey there has only just begun.
“We’ve just kicked off a new mentorship program where we’re trying to assign a mentor, particularly to new members,” said Livschitz. “It’s self-organized, completely free, and 100% volunteer-based. This group of women are of all ages and walks of lives, who are united by passion and poker, and a lot of people who are just as obsessed with the game as I am.”