Women’s Impact On the World of Poker

There are many industries that are still dominated by men, due largely to cultural expectations, stereotypes and discriminatory forces, as well as other factors. These include building and construction, mechanics and car sales, and… poker. Yes, poker.

Like many areas of competition, such as sports, the spotlight has often been on men. In sports, where competition is physical, men and women naturally compete in different leagues, and recently women's football and other sports have been gaining more positive media attention.

Women are making a huge impact on the world of poker

Poker has historically been stereotyped as a male-orientated game, or at least played in a male-dominated environment. There may have been a time where you might have heard the occasional outdated slur between men who think that women "don't belong at the tables".

All that is changing. In fact, that change is already well under way. Poker itself has cleaned up its act, taking to the mainstream with televised tournaments and a secure online gaming industry, as well as a thriving live poker scene across many countries.

There are also more women playing poker every year, more successful female professionals making the headlines and more ambassadors to attract women to the game.

The poker tables are a place where every opponent has to be respected as equal, old or young, man or woman. To think otherwise is to make a huge mistake and lose a lot of money to the "innocent" looking "babe" across the table.

So without further ado, here is a celebration of women's impact on the world of poker.

Women Competing at The Highest Level

There are many talented women in poker who are competing at the very highest level of the game, both online and on the live circuit. Many have also consciously positioned themselves as ambassadors for particular brands, as well as for the game in general.

Kara Scott – After her days training in Muay Thai, Kara became a sports reported and producer before landing a role on the UK show Poker Night Live. Here she quickly got involved in the poker world, picking up strategy along the way, which she now puts to good use as one of poker's most famous female poker pros. Kara Scott finished second in the Irish Open early in her career for an astounding $413k, and has also cashed multiple times in major events like the WSOP. Her total live earnings are over $650k, and she still hosts on shows such as the WSOP on ESPN.

Sofia Lovgren – Sofia consistently makes her living playing online cash games, and has done for the best part of a decade. She's not shy to the live circuit either, with $410k in total winnings, including a 12th place finish in the 2016 WSOP Millionaire Makers event, cashes in the Main Event and deep runs in the EPT. Sofia Lovgren also has her own blog and has written for Poker Player Magazine. She believes it is important to tell stories of success to attract more women to the game.

Vivian Saliba – Vivian Saliba is a 26 year-young professional who is making huge waves in the poker world right now. She cashed in five events in the 2017 WSOP, including two Stud events, her favourite variation of the game. She has also finished 11th place in the Brazilian Series of Poker. Saliba's biggest cash by far came this year in the 2019 WSOP Crazy Eights event. She came in 4th place for over $300k, bringing her live winnings up to nearly $600k and making her 36th on the all-time money list for Brazilian players. There's definitely a lot more to come from Vivian.

The WSOP and Beyond

Many of the women mentioned above have competed in the biggest tournaments around the world, including the biggest of them all, the Word Series of Poker (WSOP), where it's not just about the money, but also the coveted bracelets and bragging rights.

Examining the WSOP is an excellent way to understand the journey of women in poker. Historically, only a fraction of the field has been women and this remains true even to this day. In 2019, only 4 percent of the field for the Main Event were women, though this has been growing gradually every year.

This is the reason that no woman has ever finished first in the Main Event. It's basically a numbers game. They are competing at the same level, but there's a lot less women in the field. So far, Barbara Enright has gone the furthest, finishing 5th in 1995. Several female poker pros have won WSOP bracelets for other events.

The WSOP also runs Ladies Championships, for women only. Whereas the rest of the events are open to both men and women, these tournaments are designed to attract women who would otherwise be intimidated to play the opens, or who would enjoy a female-only environment. This began back in 1977 with miniscule prize pools, but now the Ladies events offer over $1 million in prizes each year.

The World Poker Tour (WPT), the second largest organisation in poker, have also run a Ladies' Series since 2007-08, but this has not been held consistently over the years. They also introduced the Women's Poker Summit at the WPT500 in LA this year.

Kara Scott mentions that many of the women who are playing poker are middle-aged or retired, and that they shouldn't be overlooked

Gender Differences in Poker?

Poker is a game of mental skill, so of course there are no advantages or disadvantages to speak of here. Men and women compete at the same level at the tables, with all of the same potentials to learn, master and win the game.

This is an opinion shared by Sofia Lovgren, one of the players mentioned above. Vivian Saliba, however, has mentioned in an interview that she thinks that women in general can get more emotional than men, and that she has had to work hard to keep her mood and state of 'tilt' in check at the tables.

If this is true, this emotional intelligence could also help with reading opponents, and so-called women's intuition could also bring advantages. It's always difficult to truly know whether there is truth to these gender differences.

The main issue here is not one of skill, but one of environment and stereotypes. Women are just as capable of men, and Saliba emphasises that she proves that women can "play equally to men and at the same level".

But Lovgren describes her greatest accomplishment as being a woman as "working in a male dominated environment." Poker still being seen as a "man's game", or just the lack of other women playing at the highest levels, means that women may still struggle to break through and, importantly, to feel comfortable.

Where misogynistic behaviour is concerned, it has no place at the poker tables, nor in society at large. The dealers and casino floor managers should make an effective effort to clamp down on this sort of damaging atmosphere and action.

Despite poker still being largely a male-dominated arena, women are making an incredible impact and succeeding at the highest levels. As more women become ambassadors for the game, the scales should turn. It's all set in motion by the positive action and actualisation of those who make it happen.

3 min read

Help! My Friend Is a No Show

Email armchairpsychologist@swaaymedia.com to get the advice you need!

Help! My Friend Is a No Show

Dear Armchair Psychologist,

I have a friend who doesn't reply to my messages about meeting for dinner, etc. Although, last week I ran into her at a local restaurant of mine, it has always been awkward to be friends with her. Should I continue our friendship or discontinue it? We've been friends for a total four years and nothing has changed. I don't feel as comfortable with her as my other close friends, and I don't think I'll ever be able to reach that comfort zone in pure friendship.


Dear Sadsies,

I am sorry to hear you've been neglected by your friend. You may already have the answer to your question, since you're evaluating the non-existing bond between yourself and your friend. However, I'll gladly affirm to you that a friendship that isn't reciprocated is not a good friendship.

I have had a similar situation with a friend whom I'd grown up with but who was also consistently a very negative person, a true Debby Downer. One day, I just had enough of her criticism and vitriol. I stopped making excuses for her and dumped her. It was a great decision and I haven't looked back. With that in mind, it could be possible that something has changed in your friend's life, but it's insignificant if she isn't responding to you. It's time to dump her and spend your energy where it's appreciated. Don't dwell on this friend. History is not enough to create a lasting bond, it only means just that—you and your friend have history—so let her be history!

- The Armchair Psychologist

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