For many, poker was once considered a predominantly male-orientated game. But things are rapidly changing, and the world of poker is no longer just a glorified boys' club. More women are making an impact in poker than ever before.
Thanks to female-friendly policies enacted by the world’s largest poker tournaments and specialty online publications that develop and promote female players, more women are playing poker than ever before online, and the best female-players routinely serve as ambassadors and commentators for the game, finding international success and serving as role models to younger female players learning the ropes online.
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The world of poker is generally divided up among two ruling authorities: the WPT (World Poker Tour) and the WSOP (World Series of Poker). The WSOP has been running the longest of the two, since 1970. The WPT has only been holding tournaments since 2002.
For the record, no woman has ever won the main buy-in event on the WPT or the WSOP. Outside of the ladies-only events, both world poker tournaments are open to both men and women.
In 2015, Women made up just 6% of all entries at the WSOP Main Event tournament at the Rio Hotel & Casino. While this figure may seem low compared to men, women have been involved in an official capacity since the World Series of Poker celebrated its first Ladies championship in the year 1977 with a $100 buy-in Stud Poker Tournament, won by Jackie McDaniels, who scooped the smallest prize pool in World Series history of just $USD5,580.
Today, the WSOP Ladies prize pool tops over $1 million - a huge leap in prize pool winnings and a sign that women’s participation in poker has matured and grown exponentially since the 1970s.
Since 2007, the World Series of Poker has been offering a women-only poker camp at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas each year to help encourage female participation in poker and to teach strategy and help refine techniques to compete with the dominant male field.
In the 2007-2008 season, the WPT started the WPT Ladies Series, but it has been less inclusive than the WSOP and failed to run the tournament as a regular annual event. The WPT was encouraged by the poker community to do more to promote female participation in the game and in 2018 hosted the new Women’s Poker Summit during the WPT500 in Los Angeles.
2017 was a big year for Ema Zajmovic, who became the first woman in history to win an open World Poker Tour regional event in Montreal, Canada and has since earned more than $1 million in prize money over her short career.
However, no mention of women’s poker is complete without special mention of Barbara Enright. She made it to the final nine players of the WSOP Main Event, before cashing out and taking 5th place at the 1995 tournament. The WSOP $10,000 Main Event is held each year in Vegas and is considered the world’s most important tournament game because it’s open to both men and women and is the oldest and largest tournament of its type in the world today with record-setting prize pools.
Enright’s story is an inspiration to all female poker players. After many years of struggling to look after her family while she worked 3 jobs to learn the game, she rose up through the ranks and cashed out at lifetime playing earnings of $US1,680,706. She is also the first woman to win three WSOP bracelets, which are awarded to the winners of the Main Event as well as preliminary events every year.
The top female player of all time award goes to American and Yale University graduate Vanessa Selbst. Like Enright, Selbst also boasts three WSOP players bracelets, but her professional winnings have totalled more than $11.85 million so far, demonstrating that women continue to make significant leaps in the game of poker.
In world rankings (according to the official Global Poker Index), Kristen Bicknell sits on 3,071.41 points for 2018. This places her at number #27 when ranked together with the global listings of all 591,000 poker players (men and women), clearly proving that women are making a bigger impact in the global poker field than many realise.
Of course, it's easier for beginning women players to get started online first before making the jump into live poker. For a useful list of the best US gaming sites that are legal to use and play at, check out our handy guide.
Today, many publications are dedicated to women’s growing participation in poker. For instance, Barbara Enright is now Editor-In-Chief of Woman Poker Player Magazine, and many professional female poker players now work as ambassadors and offer expert commentary to various televised and online tournaments such as Kara Scott, Sofia Lovgren, Natalie Hof and Vivian Saliba.
On April 1st, 2018, the first organization dedicated to women’s poker, the Women’s Poker Association, was launched to promote and develop women’s participation in the game. And each year, online poker playing sites like 888.com now sponsor unique female-friendly poker events, such as the Women’s Poker Open with over $US100,000 in prize money.
Looking back on the events of the year, we are calling 2018 as the year of women in poker.