It’s International Women’s Day and what better way to celebrate it than with an in-depth discussion about women and their role and experiences playing poker.
We spoke to four influential and popular female poker players about their poker accomplishments, how they feel the poker community can attract more women players and what they like to do off the felt - amongst other topics.
If you’ve ever wanted to get inside the mind of a female poker player – here’s your chance!
Biggest Accomplishment as a Poker Player
And, so we start at the top – asking our pros what they feel is their most significant achievement as a poker player.
Here’s what they said:
“My biggest success as a poker player is consistent cash games. I have made a living playing cash games for eight years.”
“My biggest cash was coming second in the Irish Open for $413k. It was early on in my poker career as well, and I would have said just making that televised final table with some really great poker players was enough to rank as my proudest moment. I learned a lot just through playing that event and the final table, and it really changed my life.”
“To be honest my freedom and own time this job is given me is my biggest accomplishment personally. Still waiting for my big score, but I’m working on my game constantly and trying my best.”
“I have won some Brazilian tournaments and São Paulo PLO ranking of 2015. During the WSOP this year, I finished the $10k PLO tournament in 11th place.”
Biggest Accomplishments as Women
Next, we moved onto the topic of achievement as a woman. Just how do their poker accomplishments compare to their female ones:
“Working in a male-dominated poker industry.”
“This is a much harder question to answer. I'd say I feel the most accomplished when I do the right thing, even when it's hard. It can be really difficult to raise our voices and say, "hey, that's not right," especially when it might impact our work or relationships but that's when it's all the more important to do so. Standing up for the idea of justice over peace is a lot harder than it should be. Anytime I make a choice (even small ones) that prioritise what's right over a quieter, easier life, that's when I feel proud of myself or my choices.”
“I'm independent, living my life in the way I want. Best feeling ever. And I'm very happy and thankful [for] the things I accomplished in a [male] dominated business.”
“For being a Female poker player, I prove that we can play equally to men’s and we are at the same level.”
Role as Female Poker Ambassadors
Being a role model in any industry is challenging. We asked our four ambassadors what they felt was their most important function as women poker ambassadors in the industry.
Kara had a quite a bit to say on this topic, and it seemed as if it was something close to her heart.
“As my main work is in the poker media, I try to be mindful of the stereotypes of 'poker players' which can easily slip into my work and then actively work against them. I think it's important to highlight the wide variety of people who play poker and, in particular, to make sure that when we talk about 'women in poker' we're not just focussing on one narrow part of that demographic.
“Many of the women who play poker who are middle-aged or retirement-aged and they don't tend to get the same amount of recognition as a real part of the poker industry. Someone I'm lucky to say was a friend of mine, a poker player and a writer named Rachel Kranz, taught me a lot about this topic. Sadly, we lost last her year, and that loss left a really big hole in our community. She was fearless in talking about these subjects, and I learned a great deal about how invisible many of the older women who play poker can feel at the table or when they look through the media's images of our game.”
“Play and promote poker; win and share my experiences with others.”
“For me personally. I think to show that poker hasn't something to do with gender or physical strength. It’s a mind game. We are equal. I hope that other women will see through my eyes that poker is the best and most fun game. I think my role especially is to show how much poker connects people and how much fun it is.”
“I think my role is to transmit the message that women and men are equal in most matters and poker is no different. I hope I can help on poker improvements in general, not only for 888poker but also the sport as a whole and also be an inspiration and bring more women to this sport.”
What Separates the Girls from the Boys?
We wondered if our ambassadors felt that there were any differences between how women and men played poker. We got pretty strong responses from all four.
“I don't think playing style necessarily differs by gender, although boys and girls are socialised very differently from a young age which might lead people to assume or apply stereotypes.”
“Poker is a mental game and doesn't involve physical skill, so there is no difference.”
“I think female player[s] are better in being patient and playing without any ego. But I don't want to discriminate [against] men. :D”
“I believe women are more emotional in general than men and to keep my mood/ non-tilt status while playing was something that I had to struggle a lot. Nowadays I believe I can control my emotions so much better and this is no longer an Issue. I even had some yoga classes to help me with it.”
How Do We Encourage More Females into the Spotlight?
With most live events dominated by male entrants, we wanted to know how our female players felt that the poker community could encourage more women into the spotlight.
We got some very insightful responses, and the gauntlet has been thrown down. Leaders in the poker industry should be asking women what they would need to feel more comfortable being at the forefront of this sport.
“I think the best way to figure that out is to ask women, specifically those who play online but aren't playing live poker. As a percentage of the field in tournaments, the number of women tends to be 2-3 times higher online than at live games. If we really want to know why that is, we need to stop speculating and actually ask women.”
“Keep promoting poker as a game of skill and offer more comfortable playing environments.”
“That’s a very important question, and I’m thinking about that very often, to be honest. I think women are a bit afraid of direct confrontation, so I would love to see more team events.”
“I believe the ladies tournaments are a great opening to bring more women to the sport. For sure the best way to bring and keep new players with us, especially if they have a great experience and get a little spoiled while playing.”
Getting More Women into the Game
One way we can get more women into the spotlight is to get more women into the game. We asked our participants how they thought the poker industry could kindle women’s interest in poker more.
“I think that, first of all, we need to find out why they aren't playing in greater numbers. That's step one, and then we can develop a plan that actually addresses the real causes. I think that step has often been missed out.”
“When successful female poker players share their experiences, it will attract new players to the game.”
“To be honest. I think we need to do more mainstream stuff especially marketing-wise.”
H2: The Female Competition Heats Up
Despite the numbers in tournaments, female poker players are making their mark in the poker world. We asked our ambassadors just which female players they would want to take on heads-up, and why.
Would they go easy or hard? Let’s find out:
“Danielle Anderson. She's a friend of mine, and I will always love sitting at a table with her, as long as it's NOT a poker table! She's a ferociously good player, and it would be a bloodbath, quite frankly.”
“Vanessa Selbst, obv[iously].”
“We have several great female players nowadays; it is a tough question. Probably I would like to avoid the top-ranked on GPI ones because I am a competitive person and I never like to lose. Lol”
Action Away from the Felt
As with most things in life, it’s not all about work. We wanted to know how our ambassadors spent their time when not playing/ commentating/ presenting poker.
You could be in for a few surprises (or, not!)
“What's your favourite thing to do away from the felt, and why? I spend a lot of time messing around with photography, writing, reading (novels and graphic novels mostly) and I like to spend time hanging out with friends, as much as possible.”
“I have always been very active and love all kind of sports. I'm going to the gym, doing yoga, swimming and running five times a week. I also play golf now and then, like sailing in summers and skiing in the winter. I like hiking and climbing as well. I’m a “foodie” and love trying new food and cooking food. I also love hot weather and like chilling by the pool, reading books. Before I sit down to play poker, I try to learn something new every day. Spending time with family and friends comes above everything though.”
“I love travelling and connecting with people.”
“I love to spend time with my friends, dog and Family. Going out for dinner or cooking to them is one of my favourite hobbies, I also love to walk my dog to the park, watch movies and [do] research about food.”
And on that note, we’d like to thank our ambassadors for their contribution to the poker industry and making it more appealing for female players to want to get involved.
Well played, ladies!