When the World Poker Tour announced its new partnership with the Wynn, the press release was fairly standard. The big news was the return of a WPT World Championship and the partnership with Wynn Las Vegas. And in its own words, the WPT named three primary events: the Prime Championship, the Wynn Mystery Bounty, and the World Championship. More details would follow.

One month later, the World Poker Tour officially added the WPT Ladies World Championship. It would run December 16-18 with a $1K buy-in and $200K guarantee.

Top-Tier Classification

The WPT didn’t just add a women-only event to the lineup of the WPT World Championship in December; they made it one of the premier events. They named it the WPT Ladies World Championship. And they announced that its final table would be filmed for a later television broadcast. That put it on the same tier as the WPT Prime Championship and the WPT World Championship Main Event.

WPT VP of Global Tour Management Angelica Hael has worked for years to make WPT events more welcoming to women, to show women that the WPT will treat them with respect. While the pandemic derailed many of the strides that she had begun to make, she never gave up. And when the women’s championship event went public, she said:

“We are committed to increasing the number of women in our global poker community, and will continue to introduce thoughtful initiatives both live and online at ClubWPT and WPT Global. The WPT Ladies Championship will prominently showcase today’s talent and set the stage for future high-profile tournaments.”

Building Momentum

It’s one thing to announce a substantial buy-in for a women’s championship event. It’s another to slap a $200K guarantee on it, though it was the largest guarantee ever put on a women-only tournament. And it’s even more to let people know it will be filmed and broadcast with the same level of fanfare and importance as the other two championship events.

The only thing left to do was to get the women there….to Las Vegas…just before the holidays.

So, they awarded prize packages. WPT Global ran satellites online. There were even entries to the $1,100 buy-in tournament in Las Vegas in the days leading up to the event. The Women in Poker action at Resorts World, just across the Strip from Wynn, offered entries as gifts to the winners of the tournaments and as bounties in the Women in Poker Hall of Fame bounty game.

There were also satellites at Wynn the day before the start of the tournament, complete with $200 buy-ins and ten seats guaranteed.

Speaking of the Women in Poker tournaments at Resorts World, the lineup of women-only tournaments in Las Vegas provided action at various buy-in levels all week. Poker League of Nations (PLON) hosted two warm-up events at Resorts World as well. And the range of buy-in options for open events at the WPT World Championship festival were also a draw.

Add to that the attraction of a MUG – a meet-up game – at the Wynn on December 17. It was a chance for women to play Hold’em, PLO, or mixed games in a friendly environment with some of the most popular women in poker. Jamie Kerstetter was the primary host of the event, but everyone from Linda Johnson and Jan Fisher to Kathy Liebert and Xuan Liu were there to play. Add in Kristy Moreno and Veronica Brill, Kyna England and Katie Kopp, Efi Litsou and Erin Lydon, and there were plenty of people to meet and compete.

Finally, the World Poker Tour added several WPT $1K Passport prizes – good for any WPT event around the world – as prizes in random pots, while Wynn tossed in some sizeable gift cards. Add in gift bags for all attendees, and a festive and friendly atmosphere, and they found approximately 120 women who showed up and enjoyed themselves.

Positive Results

They built it, and the women came for it.

The $1,100 buy-in WPT Ladies Championship blew past all expectations.

  • 578 entries / $560,660 prize pool ($200K guarantee) / 72 paid players

At the end of Day 2, Kerstetter and Liebert were at the final table. And Virgin Voyages had added a free cruise package for all six of the final tablists, with the winner receiving a bigger suite on the ship and more perks.

The final table played out with those shorter stacks like Kerstetter and Liebert as the first to bust on Day 3. But original chipleader Olga Iermolcheva of Ukraine did made it to heads-up against Lina Niu. Those two battled it out for the top prize, and Niu emerged victorious.

It was also notable that women served as the live reporters – as much as staffing permitted – and Ashley Frank and Melissa Schubert worked as the commentators for the livestreamed final table.

More Results

Women were out in force for other events at the WPT World Championship as well. Esther “E-Tay” Taylor won the $3K buy-in 8-Game Mix for an even $100K.

And Cherish Andrews won the $1K NLHE for $131,912. Other women starred at other final tables:

  • $600 buy-in NLHE: La Sengphet ($61,222 for 5th place)
  • $600 buy-in HORSE: Karina Jett ($21,710 for 2nd place) / Anna Wroblewski ($17,903 for 3rd)
  • $600 buy-in NLHE: Raechel Whetstone ($45,633 for 3rd place) / Florence Allera ($32,318 for 4th)
  • $600 buy-in Limit Omaha-8: Kathy Chang ($18K for 3rd place)
  • $1K buy-in Prime Championship: PLON Ambassador Lara Eisenberg ($481,500 for 2nd place)
  • $1K buy-in HORSE Championship: Carol Fuchs ($10,422 for 6th place)
  • $3K buy-in NLHE: Cherish Andrews ($78,045 for 6th place)
  • $10K buy-in NLHE High Roller: Cherish Andrews ($259,200 for 2nd place) / Nadya Magnus ($39,370 for 9th)

And those are only the results available on the Hendon Mob as of December 20.

In the end, Andrews dominated the series, accruing 1,400 points (Jesse Lonis was in second with 925 points) to become the Player of the Festival. She also overtook Angela Jordison for the GPI Female Player of the Year for the entire year of 2022.

Lessons Learned

The WPT World Championship and Wynn Las Vegas prioritized women. That’s the bottom line.

In particular, they elevated the Ladies Championship to a top tier event. They provided ample opportunities to win seats via satellites and giveaways. They provided a friendly environment for women to join in tournaments or cash games.

More importantly, they listened to women.

In turn, women attended the series as a whole, providing especially significant numbers in the Ladies Championship.

The WPT and Wynn raised the bar. Now it’s time for other tournament series to meet that new standard and try to surpass it.

 

Jennifer Newell

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Jennifer Newell

Author
Jennifer began writing about poker while working at the World Poker Tour in the mid-2000s. Since then, her freelance writing career has taken her from Los Angeles to Las Vegas and back to her hometown of St. Louis, where she now lives with her two dogs. She continues to follow the poker world as she also launches a new subscription box company and finishes her first novel. Jennifer has written for numerous publications including PokerStars.com and has followed the US poker and gaming market closely for the last 15 years.
Jennifer began writing about poker while working at the World Poker Tour in the mid-2000s. She has written for numerous publications including PokerStars.com and has followed the US poker and gaming market closely for the last 15 years.