What could be more stereo typically male than a game of poker? A group of unsmiling men gathered round a table in a darkened room, intent on cleaning each other out, whatever it takes. Well that may be some people’s mental image of the game, but fortunately this is well on the way to being a thing of the past.
That’s because there’s a distinct emergence of women players ranging from enthusiastic beginners to pros winning some of the biggest prizes in world poker. Many will say it’s been a long time coming, and come it certainly has.
So what’s the reason for this surge of interest in the game amongst women? Well, firstly it follows a general trend that has seen an increase in the number of women gambling generally and the online game has also undoubtedly played a key role. By being able to get an introduction to playing poker without having to broach the potentially intimidating atmosphere of a men-only game it has shown many women what an absorbing pastime it can be.
Two of the greatest women players, Victoria Selbst and Kathy Liebert have taken their games, not to mention their earnings, the very highest levels with the former having netted over $11 million and the latter nearly $6 million in prize money in their careers to date.
Selbst, who has degrees in political science and law from America’s prestigious Yale University, has also won three World Series of Poker bracelets in her time on the circuit.
One final barricade that still has to be stormed, however, is a World Poker Tour win for a woman. In recent times there have been a number of close calls. For example in 2015 Kelly Minkin came 3rd in the WPT Lucky Hearts Poker Open taking home a not inconsiderable prize of $262,912 and in 2013 Selbst came 2nd in the Borgota Poker Open winning $492,569.
On the European tour, however, women have claimed a number of victories ever since Victoria Coren Mitchell first won it in 2006 – she also went on to win it for a second time in Sanremo in 2014. The European tour has also been good for two other women, both of whom have come out on top – Live Boeree, another winner in Sanremo, and Sandra Naujoks who emerged overall winner of the German Open.
This breaking down of barriers is now even opening up debates in some quarters about whether there’s really a need for women’s only events or if they should simple be competing on equal terms with the men.
There may be quite a lot of arms to be twisted if this ever is going to come to pass but one thing is for sure – women’s poker has certainly come of age and promises to grow and grow.