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The Princess of Poker

My journey to discovering the world of Poker!
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If you are female, how can you not know? If you are a guy, then you probably have never noticed. If you are a gentleman however, then you know for sure.
“What exactly?” You ask.
Know that next Sunday 8th March is…*drumroll please*…


…International Women’s Day 2015!


International Women’s Day was first held in 1911, and has been celebrated on 8th March each year since then. However, women’s day does not only celebrate the progression and achievements made throughout history, but also justice and dignity which are values strongly associated with women’s equality.

What better day to celebrate women in poker?!


From the corporate jungles to the realms of science and technology, throughout history women have proven that we are not just pretty faces, and in the wonderful world of poker this is no exception.
It seems that women in poker are still a minority. There is still potential for poker to grow, and every player (whether male or female) has their own view about this subject.


So, why exactly aren’t there many women in poker?
Personally, I think that the history is a contributing factor in determining why poker (and maybe card games in general) is preferred by males more than females. So in this post I am going to share with you my own pink perspective and explore the origins of our magical game.

Origins

From what I understand, the true origin of poker lingers in the distant past and the exact date of its beginnings is quite unknown. However, some speculate that it started based on a Persian card game (‘As Nas’), while others indicate that it was the Chinese game of domino cards that helped to develop poker.

These were not the only influences. In fact, France also seems to have been a source of origin – the French ‘poque’ game soon became so popular throughout the country, that when French colonials crossed the Atlantic ocean the game followed closely behind. As its popularity grew throughout the New World, it wasn’t long before poker made its way to New Orleans.


In my research, I found that the first American gambling casino was opened in New Orleans approximately in 1822. Like now, it was open twenty-four hours per day, and provided various forms of entertainment such as poker tables and roulette wheels. Yet unlike today, during those times men and women had set gender roles, so of course women were around but they were preoccupied with other things.


What I find interesting about the history of poker is how it quickly made its way across a country as large as America! Poker apparently spread up the Mississippi River as crews who transported their goods via riverboats also took the game of poker with them on their travels. During the Civil War soldiers also played poker, and it became a staple of Wild West saloons during the 1870s and 1880s.


My question is, how did poker make its way back to Europe? You can imagine my surprise when I read that after Queen Victoria apparently heard a US Minister explain the game to members of her own court in 1871, she asked him for the rules.

Queen Victoria asking for the rules of poker…really???


Another point I found very interesting is the development of different types of poker such as Five Card Draw, and Seven Card Stud. I found it surprising that Texas Hold’Em only emerged as the main variant in the 70s, thanks of course to the WSOP which made Texas Hold’Em its featured game.

This is a Man’s World???


History suggests that poker is mainly a game that men play. That seems to be the tradition! In the same way, not many women play poker because traditionally it wasn’t associated with us. In history, women and men had set gender roles – for example, this is clearly apparent in the 50s where it was a standard convention for the ladies to take care of the family and home. 

Today people (whether they are male or female) have the choice and freedom to live their lives as they wish rather than conforming to a fixed standard of society. Therefore, now is the time to invite more ladies to play poker!

My viewpoint is that involving more women in poker would bring a more exciting dynamic to the tables, especially because we will be NEW players. Also, it’s nice to mix things up a little bit.
In all aspects of society which seem to be more targeted to a certain gender, whether it’s poker, the workplace or whatever else, I think that everyone regardless of their gender can contribute and add something special.


This leads on to my next point. In a traditionally male-orientated field, would it actually make a difference whether one is male or female?

Another example of a traditionally male-orientated field is the Judiciary in England and Wales. During my  legal studies, I found this very interesting! Lord Neuberger (president of the Supreme Court, 2012) considered that it was unfair that there were so few female judges. He thought that women would bring something different but wasn’t sure.

Therefore to explore this further, law students were presented with 16 Court of Appeal judgments in employment, criminal and family cases. Half were given by males and the other half were given by females. The students were asked to identify whether the judgment was made by a male or female. The results revealed that the students guessed the gender of the judge 49% of the time correctly, and 51% of the time incorrectly. They concluded that the students were unsure of whether the gender of the judge making the judgment had any impact on the outcome at all.


So what does this have anything to do with poker? Well, poker involves making the best possible decisions. Whilst the decisions we make at a poker table are significantly different to the types of decisions a judge would make in court, the decision-making process would still be individual to the person regardless of their gender. 


Likewise, I think that whether a poker player is male or female is irrelevant to how they play. Maybe how we approach the game would be slightly different to males, however no two people (regardless of gender) are ever the same, so adding that extra diversity to the field would be beneficial to poker in general. Also, I think that it would be easier to gain that ‘edge’ because of that fact that there would be more new players.

Some Notable Ladies of Poker


Successful Queens in the Poker Kingdom hardly need an introduction – we all know who they are! Here, I mention three of my favourite female poker players.


1. Barbara Enright, an American professional poker player is first on my list because as this post is dedicated to International Women’s Day, I feel that she has contributed significantly to the world of poker in terms of breaking boundaries and inspiring ladies to play. She was the first woman to win a WSOP open event, the first woman to win three WSOP bracelets and made it to the WSOP Main Event final table in 1995. She also is featured in the Poker Hall of Fame (2007). 


2. Vanessa Selbst is definitely an inspiration to all poker players. She is in my top three because she is so talented! Talk about “beating the boys at their own game!” As we all know, she has had monumental success in poker, and I admire her determination and passion for poker.


3.  Victoria Coren Mitchell is one of my favourite poker players because she does not only play but also contributes by presenting and commentating. Some of her achievements include being the first woman to win an EPT event, and the first player to win two EPT Main Events. She is also an inspiration to all poker players not only because of her EPT success, but also because she remains very true to her values.

  Women’s Events at PokerStars!


I love these events because they are fun, and are perfect for encouraging more ladies to play. Events like the Women’s Sunday, Women’s NLHE, and the Heads-Up events are my favourite. At the moment, when I play the women’s events I play the Women’s NLHE and the Women’s Sunday Satellite. I would love to play ladies events live, as I think it would be fun, but also a good way for me to get used to playing live. 

A Revolution!


To conclude, I don’t think that whether a player is male or female actually affects the outcome of a game – it is more about how skilled or unskilled a player is. After having researched the history of poker I’ve learned a lot about the game itself, as well as some insights on American history. I didn’t know that poker has many cultural influences and that Texas Hold’Em became the main type of poker only since the 70s. Considering that poker in general has been around for many centuries, it’s probably still developing and will continue to develop in the future.


I think that it’s important to appreciate our history and how past events have influenced and shaped society today. Generally, we all have the same opportunities regardless of gender, and just because something has traditionally targeted one gender it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t get involved. (So, guys - go ahead and buy that pink scarf or shirt. We won't think that you are less of a man for doing so lol). 

Ok, let's face it - that 'glass ceiling' still exists in the corporate jungles, however in poker, ladies and gentlemen, not even the sky's the limit! 

Until next time! 

 

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