The goal of getting more women to play poker has been a difficult and that is despite continuing efforts within the industry to address the existing gender disparity in the game.
Women make up just about 5 percent of the players in poker rooms and going beyond that figure has been a struggle. Female participation in major poker tournaments has also been low. Based on figures from the World Series of Poker (WSOP), the 2019 Main Event drew a total of 8,569 entrants, but only 350 of them or 4.1 percent were women.
Women remain hesitant to join the competitive world of poker, and it all boils down to a lot of factors, according to the leading women in poker advocates.
A Man’s Game
Poker is still very much a male-dominated game, and that’s highly evident especially when you go inside any poker room where you won’t see many women playing. Poker Hall of Fame inductee Linda Johnson, who has been in the industry for decades, can attest to this.
Johnson took part in the 2019 WSOP and became witness to the fact that poker has remained a man’s game. This is one of the reasons why a lot of women aren’t too convinced pursuing a career in poker. They think they have no place in the game and are no match to male players. Add to that the not-so-welcoming atmosphere that greets them whenever they enter a poker room full of men.
Two-time WSOP bracelet winner Jennifer Harman shares a similar view. Harman, who has been supporting women in poker, thinks female players in general are not as competitive as their male counterparts, and that’s partly because men are more exposed to sports and games than women. Family and child care duties that women need to fulfill also deter them from taking a full-time poker career.
But Harman also acknowledges that female players who persevere and are determined to make it big in poker despite the challenges will most likely succeed in the game. She can cite herself as an example.
Harman began from scratch. It took her several years to climb to the higher stakes and eventually achieve her current status as among the best female pros in the world with over $2.7 million in total live earnings.
More Needs to be Done
Women in poker advocates, including Ladies International Poker Series (LIPS) founder and Women’s Poker Association President Lupe Soto believes the industry needs to do more to attract more female players into the game. Hosting more women-only events, such as LIPS, would be a great start.
Johnson, alongside Jan Fisher, another industry veteran, often serve as hosts for various LIPS tournaments, and both of them also recognize the importance of holding these types of events not only to bring more women into poker but also to grow the game in general.
LIPS recently ran a championship event at the South Point in Las Vegas and it was successful.
Soto also added that operators must also step up efforts to make their rooms a “friendlier” place for women. This means implementing zero tolerance to all sorts of abuse, discrimination, and harassment.
Getting Rid of the “Victim Mentality”
While a warm, welcoming environment will definitely help in increasing the number of women playing at the tables, Poker League of Nations founder Lena Evans said it’s about time women dump that “victim mentality”. Instead, they must adopt the “warrior mentality” and find a way to overcome the challenges and succeed in the things they want to do.
Barbara Enright, the only woman in history to have made the final table of the WSOP Main Event, is confident another female pro would achieve a similar feat, maybe not now, but in the future. It’s just a matter of time, according to the 71-year-old.
There’s still a long way to go before gender equality can be achieved in poker, but at least we’re seeing some progress. The top women advocates remain optimistic that female players would eventually occupy a significant space in the game against all the odds.

TightPoker Staff

TightPoker Staff

Subscriber