PokerStars 10th Anniversary: Back in the day with PokerStars Women

10th-ann-thumb.JPGPokerStars Women is only a bit over a year old, so in terms of 10th anniversary history, we are newcomers to this dance. At most, we were a vague idea in someone's head ten years ago. But after over a year of hosting a stellar series of women's tournaments around the world we are feeling our oats a bit and wanted to share a few of our own tales about the start of the site. And even though PokerStars Women is relatively new, a member of our team can lay claim to a story from "way back when," even before the site was launched.

Back in the day, an email went out to players around the world to beta test the software for an up-and-coming poker site called PokerStars. An avid player and forum contributor, Joanne Haslam (Interim Female Marketing Manager) was one of the first to sign up. At the time, Joanne had a young daughter, so she would rock her to sleep at night, then "hurry downstairs to play poker freerolls." She loved the tournaments and became very involved in playing on the site. "I looked after my daughter by day and played poker each night. I had a very successful home game in London, and at least half a dozen players who learned the game in my dining room are now making a living playing poker."

After endless hand stories and discussions, her group became a "family of poker obsessives." Then one day when she logged onto the site, she saw a pop-up message saying they were looking for support staff for the office in London. The timing was just right, as her daughter had just started nursery school, so she applied. After an interview and a lot of tough questions about poker she was hired. At the time, there were only three support people in London and even the boss "mucked in" as she puts it, when things were busy. Although she worked in support, she was trained as a writer, and was sent to cover the World Cup of Poker in Barcelona in 2006. It is one of her happiest PokerStars memories and she still has the photo of the Polish team that won that year to commemorate it.

Joanne was later promoted to support supervisor and she loved working there, in what she describes as "the heart of the company." And then a year or so ago, she became involved with PokerStars Women. "I started out playing in PokerStars beta freerolls and somehow ten years later I got to set up a weekly tournament for women and organize a women's event at the EPT!"

Jennifer Newell was covering tournaments like the Sunday Million and the WCOOP and SCOOP for several years before coming to us to cover social media, the Women's Sunday, and Women's Poker League tournaments. She said that she was always excited to see women do well at the tournaments, ". . . but never reported any differently" on them. She did however admit that she said she sometimes "cheered for them in the privacy of my work space."

Jennifer says that since joining PokerStars Women she has found the excitement of the women who correspond on Twitter and Facebook to be contagious and that she has learned a lot from reading posts from women on forums about tournaments for women. Although she believes that women can compete on the same level with men--in the same tournaments and at the same stakes"--she says she "sees clearly now that many women enjoy the lower stakes and comfort of playing with all-female fields as they become acquainted with the game. They avidly participate in contests and freerolls and their love of poker is refreshing to see. I enjoy being able to interview them, give them some coverage on the blog, and congratulate them for their achievements. It makes me fall in love with poker all over again!"

And then there is my own very short but circuitous route to PokerStars Women. I got involved with PokerStars when I won a satellite to play in the PCA Main Event in 2009--one of the most exciting events of my life! While at the Atlantis playing the tournament I was interviewed by Brad Willis for the PokerStars blog about my $36 investment in the tournament that netted me a package worth over $14,000. As Brad and I talked, I realized that he had the kind of dream job I had always wanted. So I told him that and he put it in the story. He mentioned that I had a background as a writer and editor and wanted to get into poker writing.

My dream was a bit rough around the edges at that point, but the excitement I felt in that room that day was something I had never experienced and I knew I had to find a way to be a part of it. So a year and a half later, I did find my way into editing the PokerStars Women blog after the Senior Manager of Female Marketing saw my articles about women in poker on another site. It was over a year in the making, but putting together the first blog for women on a major poker site takes some doing! In September of 2010 the site was launched, and since then we have published over 160 articles about women in poker. We have covered major tournaments for women in London, Spain, and PokerStars biggest party of the year in the Bahamas twice. We have written about the incredible careers of Liv Boeree and Vanessa Selbst after their signings with Team PokerStars Pro, along with interviews from all the other amazing female pros on the roster. Not to mention the life-changing wins of some of the amateur players on the site. We love writing about players who are getting their first shot at playing a big tournament and following their dreams as they play in tournaments with the pros they've read about.
We are about to do it again in January when we cover the PokerStars Women Live event at the PCA in January and we hope to see you there and be able to write about you too!

For your chance to win your seat this year, and to read more about some of the events, players, and pros we've profiled see the PokerStars Women page. And for your daily update on all things relating to women at PokerStars see our Facebook page and our Twitter page.

And finally, to hear from someone else who has been with PokerStars since the beginning, see this early video with EPT Media Coordinator Mad Harper and EPT Business Manager Kirsty Thompson as they share some thoughts on the launch of PokerStars Women.


Rebekah Mercer
@PokerStars in News