“F ** k ….”
This is – along with its translation in Spanish – the word that is most heard at poker tables when a fish links his project on the river or when they catch you a bluff.
But surely it was during the 2007 WSOPE in London, when this word was pronounced with a much more significant burden.
At the Empire Casino in Leicester Square, an unknown Norwegian online player was playing the biggest poker tournament in Europe, with all her expectations deposited in the million pounds prize for the winner. On his way, the young Welshman John Tabatai.
The most remarkable of all was not Annette’s 18-year-old “Annette_15” Obrestad, but the fact that whoever was about to take the prize was a woman.
With both players all-in, the young Norwegian – who had imposed on the best poker players during the week of the tournament – showed her 7h 7s that gave her a set on a 7c 6c 5h board.
Tabatabai showed his 5s 6d at the same time he uttered, almost like a lament, the four-letter word …
The hand ended in victory for Obrestad, who sat slowly in his chair, enjoying the historic moment. For the first time in a week, a tear slid down his cheek: poker had changed forever.
The Boom of Women in Poker
Aside from the phenomenal success of Obrestad, there were clear indications that two things were happening.
First, that there were more and more young players participating in the tournaments and getting good results, and second that more and more women were seen at the tables.
Obrestad had spent years practicing online (hence his alias “Annette_15”), accumulating hands and experience.
Indeed, the women were already standing out in the game when Obrestad became the youngest winner in the history of a Main Event. The best players in the United States were on television, playing high stakes and winning bracelets.
But his victory marked a before and an after: more and more women were seen, they were getting younger and they all shared the fact of having accumulated a great experience playing online.
So what factors influenced when attracting more women to the tables? And will this be an upward trend? Let’s explore some of the reasons why we can expect new female successes in poker:
- Most accessible poker games in pubs and clubs
- More women getting remarkable titles and awards
- Increase in television advertising on poker
- Appearance of professional poker women in television.
A game of “Men”?
A long time ago (and not too much …), poker was a preserve reserved exclusively for men, a male game. The women were not very well received, except for a couple of exceptions that frequented the WSOP like Barbara Enright and Terry King.
However, the poker boom of the early 2000s made the game fashionable. Poker became much more accessible thanks to the internet, it was no longer necessary to go to casinos to play, and bets were adapted to all kinds of pockets.
Players like Annett_15 and the ex-component of 888poker, Xuan Liu used their laptops from the institute to fill the deadlines. They argued hands and improved their game without having to sit at a table full of men.
Meanwhile, American names such as Jennifer Harman, Vanessa Rousso and Hollywood actress Jennifer Tilly appeared on television shows such as High Stakes Poker. For some of them, like Rousso and Annie Duke, poker meant their catapult to the most popular reality shows.
Duke appeared in the American version of “The Apprentice”, while Rousso would in Big Brother VIP. And her successes at the tables have helped convince the rest of the women that poker is not just a game of men.
The Legal Changes in the United Kingdom
Poker has become a socially accepted activity.
The generation of Millennials have grown up in a time when online gaming is the norm and not an exception. The Black Friday of the United States happened four years ago, and licensed operators have appeared in Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware.
When it comes to live poker, everything is going smoothly as shown by the more than 22,000 participants of the Colossus tournament held in the last WSOP.
The Gambling Act 2005, which regulates gambling in Great Britain, has allowed the organization of low budget games in the country’s pubs. Now, it is totally legal to participate in 5-pound tournaments in your street pub. These changes occurred 10 years ago, and have significantly influenced the most recreational poker offer.
“Without a doubt, poker is a social activity for both men and women,” says Richard Couch of Redtooth Poker.
“Our games are held one night per week, are cheap (with a five-pound entry), and offer the player the opportunity to qualify for tournaments with more attractive prizes. In short, they are not aggressive, but a fun way to spend time playing poker. ”
The recent changes in the British legislation, have turned the game into a socially more accepted activity, in which more and more women participate. Now you can play poker in British pubs, as long as the prize pool does not exceed one hundred pounds, while increasing the number of customers in the casinos.
According to the figures reflected in the reports of the Gambling Commission, more and more women are attracted to the game. This is especially relevant in the online game, in which female participation has increased from 7.8% in 2008 to 12.8% in 2014.
The social game is also booming, with social poker games on Facebook increasing its activity by 22% in 2013 compared to the previous year. The success of the online game is due, in large part, to the relaxation of the rules of televised advertising of casinos and online betting rooms. It is so common to see advertisements or programs of poker rooms at rush hour in the UK, such as food, cars or beauty products.
New players are not sought only in online bingo and casino rooms. Online poker ads are also attracting a new generation of players to theaters.
A clear example of the symbiosis is that of the British player Anna “DuckRatMe” Duxbury. Anna started playing online poker at twenty years old, when she became pregnant with her second child. Attracted by social games such as Zynga Poker and television programs, she switched to online tables and started a path from which she never deviated again.
Visibility in the WSOP, the key
We have already seen that fans play in pubs as well as in their laptops, but what about professional players? Has the increase in women in the game also reached professionalism?
At the final table of the 2012 WSOP Main Event, we almost managed to see two women. Gaelle Baumann, a French cash player, and Norwegian waitress Elisabeth Hille were on the verge of joining the November Nine.
For the first time in 12 years, two women had reached the top 20 positions in a WSOP Main Event. Baumann would be eliminated in tenth place, being the bubble, while Hille fell in 11th place. Both players got sponsorship agreements for the Main Event of the following year.
Even if only one of them had reached the final table – with all the media coverage and appearance on the ESPN network – it would undoubtedly have had a direct impact on women’s participation the following year. Above all, if we take into account that both were photogenic enough to guarantee the marketing investment of a room.
Female participation, still low
But let’s not be fooled by the figures for that year. What happened in 2012 could be a misinterpretation of reality, in which the participation of women in the Main Events of the WSOP decreases slightly year after year. In 2014, among the 6,638 participants, only 3.9% of them were women.
That was the year of the presentation of the Colossus tournament – an event with an entry price of $ 565 that attracted more than 22,000 participants. Despite the recreational tone of the event, there was only 6% (about 1,500) of female participation.
888poker professional Jess Dawley says that, despite the situation, “it is still common to find intimidation and sexist comments on the tables by men.”
However, outside the Main Event, the numbers of bracelets and prizes won by women are increasing.
Our second infographic shows that the best players each year pocket more, while the number of players that enter prize positions increases. At the same time, the average age of the winning WSOP players decreases, from 48 years of 2006 to 38 of 2015.
Similarly, in tournaments other than the WSOP such as the EPT, Victoria Coren-Mitchell has become the first person in history to win two EPT titles, while stars like Liv Boeree also hold EPT titles to their name.
Is there still room for events reserved exclusively for women?
Are the so-called “Ladies Events” the solution? Tournaments in which only women can register and, thus, play in a more relaxed environment.
The Ladies Championships have been organized since the first edition of the WSOP in 1977, in which the tournament was presented $ 100 Ladies Seven Card Stud – and every year increases the number of amateur players who register.
At the same time, the Ladies Championships have even reached television, with special mention of the 888.com Women’s Poker Open program – which is still on the air. It is the biggest poker event exclusively for a female audience.
Lizzy Harrison directed the 888poker content team at the WSOPE 2015. For her, there is no reason why the number of female participants in major tournaments is ever greater.
“The number of women participating has grown year after year,” she says. “Using them for promotional purposes is a good idea to attract even more women, and makes other women decide to participate in a game for both genders.”
Harrison adds a touch of attention to the marketing departments, “I think women are too sexualized, and it would be wise to lower the tone to make poker a more accessible game. The ads that present women as mere objects are aimed at men, not at women. ”
The American professional player, Maria Ho, has no problem with the fact that men dominate poker, but she believes that there is still much to be done to encourage all those women who feel some kind of interest to participate.
“I think the game of poker and some of the skills it requires are not intrinsically feminine, or something that necessarily has to attract a broad spectrum of women, and – for me – that’s fine,” he says. “I do not think poker needs to” attract “more women if they do not feel interested in the game. However, for all those girls who feel the desire to play, I think it should start by making them feel comfortable and welcome in such a masculine field.
“In my experience, the way women are treated at the tables is still very archaic. However, I believe that it is becoming a normal norm in poker circuits, and that they are climbing positions, winning bracelets, breaking records and obtaining greater success in recent years.
“Poker marketing is clearly oriented to men simply because, from a strictly commercial point of view, they make up 90% of the business. Which company would stop focusing on its target audience? I do not think it’s a negative thing, but I’m sure that the numbers of players would increase significantly if in this sector new formulas were found to make poker a more attractive game for women. “
The Girls arrive!
Poker has come a long way since the first players converted the rooms into a preserve reserved for men. Although the game is undoubtedly dominated by men, it is also true that it is now much easier for women, and there is even a website specialized exclusively for women in poker.
The main online poker rooms are hiring players as spokespersons and ambassadors. The 888poker female trio consists of Sofia Lovgren, Kara Scott and Jackie Glazier. Kara Scott – one of the most respected personalities in the industry – has always been a staunch defender of the players, as are Sofia and Jackie.
With more and more women representing brands, greater opportunities are open to players / presenters such as Tatjana Pasalic. She recently served as hostess at the 888Live Austria event.
In an interview between the tables and the cameras, the Team888 player told us how some players underestimate their abilities by the simple fact of being a woman:
“It’s a sad reality that many men still believe that they have an advantage over the players simply because they are boys.
“In general, and as far as poker is concerned, men underestimate girls, and if you’re smart enough to overcome prejudices, you can use it in your favor!”
Despite this archaic attitude of some players, low-budget social games available in pubs, as well as amateur tournaments, are attracting more women to the game. Meanwhile, online poker offers a secure platform free of harassment, allowing you to play at home.
Will we see new victories, awards and bracelets won by women in the next editions of the WSOP? Do not bet against.