Flush with her novel success
The Eat, Pray, Love era is over, women now want to push the envelope further than just going barefoot in India and gaining five kilograms in Italy.
Julie Braithwaite admits she was ''floundering a little bit, with nothing to do'' when she discovered poker.
She was a 51-year-old recently divorced woman, a respected clinical psychologist and a mother to two adult sons when a lack of passion crept up on her.
Julie Braithwaite's new novel, Switching Suits.
Rather than launching into a DIY project or booking an around-the-world trip, one night she found herself enthralled while sitting in front of a late-night TV celebrity poker match.
''I was floundering a little bit, with nothing much to do. Being a single older woman I was a bit bored and I just stumbled across poker on TV,'' she says.
While she had never played poker she admits she is from a card-playing family and compares the game to playing canasta or bridge - except with more beer, card sharks and late nights.
Rather than heading straight to the local casino, Braithwaite became an armchair addict. An addiction that continued and eventually spilled into virtual reality, when she began playing online poker and Googling poker tips during her every waking hour.
A week later she finished sixth place in her first ''real life'' tournament against 25 blokes in an inner-city pub.
Fast forward another couple of weeks and she found herself hanging out in Kings Cross after dark, waiting for poker dens to open or shuffling the cards inside some of Sydney's most popular strip clubs.
''I am struck by the bizarre image of me sitting in a doorway at 1am deep within Chinatown, rain pouring down. A few months ago I would have been snug in bed at this hour - snoozing, safe and secure in my North Shore suburb,'' she writes in her first book, Switching Suits: The Year I Became a Poker Shark.
In the book, Braithwaite chronicles her adventures from ''bored divorced mother in a conservative Sydney suburb'' to playing 184 poker tournaments in three months against a strange new community of characters, whose names include Poker Master Raymond, Hitman Rick, Bluffer Bill and Lucky Oscar.
''Most of the men I play against are very competitive poker players, not people, poker players,'' she says of her male counterparts.
''They like to use a lot of bluffing and bravado and things like that, whereas women tend to sit back a little bit more and observe the situation and take things in. Women are quieter poker players, I think.''
She believes her profession helped her to reach the successful heights of poker stardom.
''I am interested in people and am trained to analyse them and discover patterns,'' she says.
While her quest to find passion was exhilarating, she had to deal with unexpected risks - one being a lack of sleep and another the friends she lost along the way. She still plays poker but as a part of a ''self-induced, rapidly reduced program''.
■ Julie will be at Smiths Alternative Bookshop, 76 Alinga Street, Canberra Civic tomorrow at 6pm.