Women’s Poker Taking Over Las Vegas
written by Bryan Florence
“When a game is shared on television, especially something like poker, people who are playing in their own communities feel like they’re a part of some larger network that’s also magically playing all across the country and they’re a part of some national phenomenon instead of just themselves.” – Doris Kearns Goodwin from the poker documentary, All In.
No, your eyes are not playing tricks on you, and, yes, that was a quote from the Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer and historian, Doris Kearns Goodwin, about poker, of all things. While she’s not necessarily the authority on poker, a respected female voice such as Goodwin’s helps boost the careers of legendary poker femme fatales including Vanessa Selbst, Barbara Enright, and Linda Johnson, as well as a younger generation of players such as Kara Scott, whose talents have led to her being the main ambassador of online poker site, PartyPoker, to name a few. But as The Atlantic pointed out in an article entitled “What It’s Like to Be a Woman Who Plays Professional Poker,” ever since the U.S. Department of Justice banned online poker in 2012, “there is a fear that the growth and acceptance of American women players will stall without a convenient, non-gender-biased place for them to nurture their games.”
In response, women have come together to create more hospitable environments for themselves. One such group, LIPS, describes itself as a premier poker tour that promotes and provides “poker tournament venues for women poker players seeking opportunities to challenge other women in comfortable, friendly, and yet competitive environments.” The tour will make its way to the Stratosphere Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas on Saturday, April 12, 2014. I recommend checking it out just to get a taste of what it’s like to see women go head-to-head without all of the testosterone at the table.
Another group, Poker Hotties Association, caters to a variety of women poker players. There are currently several chapters across the U.S., including a Vegas Poker Hotties chapter. They meet and play at each others’ homes and pride themselves on the “sisterhood that is unique to women when they get together and enjoy poker.”
But not all women are on board. For example, consider this remark from Norwegian poker star, Annette Obrestad, in a 2010 interview with ESPN The Magazine: “I’ve always said that girls suck at poker. I say that because they do. Maybe they just aren’t as competitive and don’t try to learn from their mistakes.” If you couldn’t tell by the name, Obrestad happens to be a “girl,” herself, which makes the comment all of the more puzzling to other, um, “women.”
Then there are the people who still find ways to gloss over women’s skill set at the poker table and focus on their looks instead. In 2010, Bleacher Report came up with a list of the 30 Sexiest Poker Players of All Time. “Most of the women on this list combine their gorgeous looks with their poker skills to create a lethal combination,” wrote the website’s “senior analyst.” But, what’s so lethal about it? Do attractive women win more than unattractive women? What kinds of advantages do gorgeous and sexy women have over their male poker counterparts? I guess some men will just have to learn the hard way.