Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Why Aren't There More Women Poker Stars?

Why Aren't There More Women Poker Stars?

LAS VEGAS - JUNE 08: Celebrities of the Queens...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

Watching the WSOP on ESPN every year, the show makes a big deal about the few remaining women in the event. Maybe one or two women make a deep run, but a woman hasn't been at a main event, final table since Barbara Enright in 2005.


Here are my thoughts:

1. Before poker became popular on TV, the game was played by men. So men have an edge in experience.

But...Women can gain a lot of experience by playing online and live events today, and a few have broken through to win a few big events. Annie Duke, Jen Harmon and Kathy Liebert are top players and probably attract other women to the game.

2. Poker tournaments are a numbers game. There may be a 90%/10% split between men/women entrants.

There are so many more men, that it stands to reason that men will win more events. Today, when I watched the WSOP the announcers were calling almost every player a pro. I don't have a clue what constitutes a pro anymore. I guess it's someone who says they play a lot of poker and don't have a full time job.

3. Poker tournaments are often won by the aggressive players. Men may be more aggressive by nature. Heck, the fact is that men are more aggressive than women probably due to biology and our environment.

4. Women-only tournaments may be holding the women poker players back. The game is not about physical skills--we are not comparing the NBA to the WNBA. The game is about people, chips, betting patterns, cards, etc. To improve your poker game you need to play against players who are better than you, not only women players who are as good or worse than you.

Women Players Should Win More Events

My experience against women poker players is that most women play ABC poker. They learn to play a tight aggressive or tight passive game--both of which are really easy to take advantage of in the long term in a tournament.

However, I also find that when I play against a good women poker player it is much more difficult for me to get a tell. It may be that I assume that women bluff less, are more predictable and therefore, I don't pay much attention to their game. My guess is that most men do the same when it comes to women.

In fact, I know that men try hard to muscle women out of pots with their raises. (The only exception is in cash games--where guys are suckers to women who are eye candy, and a guy won't make that extra raise or he will just tell her she is beat to save her money. I have to admit, I've done this once or twice...)

Overall, I believe that the next great tournament poker player should be a woman. It is also why I believe with just a little coaching I could even turn a woman poker player into a great player.

Maybe the next great poker TV show should be one where you get a dozen aspiring women poker players, and they get taught how to play at the highest levels. Maybe you lock them in a house for 30 days, and an audience gets to vote them off one by one.


If you are a women poker player, think about the game from the standpoint of winning players. Analyze your game more. Get out of your comfort zone. You have an edge against many men who dismiss your skills. Men will try to force you to fold. Men will also believe your pre-flop raises and big bets. Use that knowledge to your advantage.

What do you think?
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Christine said...

I refuse to play in women-only events for that reason. I don't think poker has a gender bias.

Lady Junkie said...

Hi Mitchell

I have a few comments on this article in my feminist poker blog!

Enjoy! =)

Mitchell Cogert said...

Lady Junkie:

Thanks for your comments about my post on your feminist poker blog.

Funny post on your part. I think it's the first time I've had some of my words taken out of context.


diverjoules said...

I am willing to volunteer to be your student. I am always looking to better my game. Coming to Cleveland for awhile? Tutor/Mentor me to death.

Lady Junkie said...

Mitchell, it was meant as a joke referring to guys having troubles concentrating around a deep cleavage. I guess I should have put in a smiley or something to make that clear.

pokerstars patterns said...

Have to admit even I have just now understood LADY JUNKIE'S comment. Yeah.. she should have included a smiley....

What's Your Poker IQ?