Women cannot play poker

Tony 'Tikay' Kendall

Posted by Tony 'Tikay' Kendall 8th March 2017

How many times have you seen that written? It's such a cliché, but as is so often the case, it's lazy thinking and lazy writing.

First up, today is International Women's Day, which is celebrated across the world. You knew that, obviously, but did you know that 28 countries have a one day official holiday to recognise it?  Those countries include Russia and China, so that's quite a big deal really.

So how are women doing in poker?

I suspect the perception is "not great", and many players automatically assume a female poker player can't be as good as a male. Is that true though, and if so, why?

The problem here is context, because the reality is not many - or more precisely, not enough - women play poker.

In the 2014 WSOP Main Event, just 4% (1 in 25) of the players were female, and in the much more affordable 2015 WSOP Colossus the figure was only 6%, or 1 in 16.

As far as I can recall, only one female that has ever made the WSOP Main Event Final, and that was all the way back in 1995 when Barbara Enright achieved the feat. I had the good fortune to share a poker table with her just 2 years or so ago, at Binions of all places, and she's still a mean machine.  

I suppose we could bend the rules a little here and remind ourselves that Annette Obrestad won the WSOPE in London, just a few days after her 18th birthday.

The WSOP actually run a Ladies Only event every year. At one time, this regularly attracted in excess of 1,000 entrants, but last year there were just 800. Why so few?

You might argue a poor sample size there, and you'd be correct. Bet it's not far off though, whether we play live poker, or online poker. I'd suggest that in online poker the percentage of female players is greater actually. Anyone know why that is?

So, given how relatively few female poker players there are, I'd suggest there is an argument for suggesting they actually over-perform against their male counterparts.

Let's take a look at a handful of eminent female poker players.

Vanessa Selbst

In live tournaments, the abrasive and formidable Vanessa has collected almost 12 million USD, enough to put her just outside the top 10 of all players, male and female. She is only in her mid-thirties, and has already won three WSOP bracelets, and has at times been rated the #1 player in the Global Poker Index.

I shudder to think how much she has won in cash games, where I believe her to be an even better player.

In the nicest possible way, you do NOT want to share a table with the Brooklyn born Vanessa.

Liv Boeree

Some see Liv as the pin up girl of poker, but those who think a little deeper know she is much more than that.

Multiple WSOP cashes, winner of the San Remo EPT, and a shed full of cashes globally. Not bad for a kid who started out playing tenner rebuys at The Gutshot just 12 years ago.

She also founded Raising for Effective Giving in 2014, which has already raised in excess of 2 million USD.

On top of all that, she has held a number of Ambassadorial roles for the major online poker sites, the exception being Sky Poker. So far. 

Here is an interview with Liv Boeree at the 2016 World Series of Poker, where she gives her take on how to get more women into poker. 

Vicky Coren

The only female to have won two EPT's, a record that won't ever be surpassed. 

A very handy cash player, too, as Sky Poker Ambassador Neil Channing will attest, as the two of them are close friends, and have shared many a cash table at the Vic and elsewhere down the years.   

The list is larger than we tend to think actually - Kathy Liebert, Annie Duke, Vanessa Rousso, Jenny Harman and Maria Ho all spring readily to mind.

And here's a tip for you. The outstanding female poker player at the upcoming WSOP this year will be...Loni Harwood. Trust me, she will.

I suppose I could go on and on - some say I do - but it's your turn to offer an opinion now, so here's a question for you.   

Are you FOR or AGAINST Women Only Poker Tournaments, and why?

Come on then, have your say. 

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