Two Days, Two Women Create Poker History
Women in poker have always been a distinct minority. As the smallest percentage in any tournament poker room - live or online - women have marked their victories in ways that signify the odds that they beat. As most of the records and historic moments in the game of poker revolve around men, females must take their own victories and hold them up a bit higher so their significance is not missed.
Last week, the world of live tournament poker saw two such victories. One happened in Macau, and the other took place in Las Vegas. One of the women is young and in the beginnings of what could be a long career, and the other has many more years of poker and life experience under her belt. One player won her tournament with A-T, the other with ... well ... 6-4. One's name was Allyn Jaffrey-Shulman, the other Team PokerStars Pro Celina Lin.
Despite those few differences, the similarities are just as prominent. Both tournament wins made history, and they each did so under the lights of a gaming metropolis in the midst of a massively popular tournament series and in No Limit Hold'em. And both wins were dubbed as significant accomplishments for women in poker.
On June 17, 2012, the final table of the Macau Poker Cup's Red Dragon Series Main Event was playing out at the Grand Waldo Casino and Hotel. The initial days saw 391 players buy-in for the U.S. equivalent of $1,400. The number was down from the previous year, but the prize pool still surpassed the guarantee with money to spare.
Celina Lin knew all too well the excitement of winning the event, as she won the exact same tournament in 2009. But she had a tough final table and went into heads-up play against Qi Ming Fan with only 1.12 million chips to his 4,706,000. They played ... and played ... for six hours until the stacks were nearly even, Lin only slightly ahead in chips. Her 6♦4♠ was up against the Q♦5♦ of Fan on a K♥3♦6♣4♦ board, and the Q♠ on the river allowed her two pair to hold up.
The 29-year-old Lin told reporters after the win: "I always wanted to be the first female champion, but I thought it was impossible to win it twice." But she did it. Not only did she set the record in 2009 as the first woman to ever win the prestigious Chinese trophy, but her second victory marked the first time any player of either gender won the Main Event twice.
Did we mention that her history-making moment came with $854,000 in cash? That was kind of a big deal, too.
Less than 24 hours later, on June 18, 2012, the $1,000 buy-in Seniors No Limit Hold'em Championship was winding down its record-setting 4,128-player tournament at the World Series of Poker. The final four players returned for a fourth day of play after a very late night, and it quickly became a two-person match. Allyn Jaffrey-Shulman dominated at the beginning of heads-up play, but Dennis Phillips fought back. Finally, though, Phillips pushed all-in with A♦6♥, but Shulman called with A♣T♦, which only improved to a pair on the A♣T♠2♥5♥J♥ board.
The Card Player Magazine attorney and writer knows poker, having played for many years and followed husband Barry and son Jeffrey in their poker successes, and was excited for the win. She told Nolan Dalla in a post-tournament interview, "I'm happy for myself, but I'm happy for all women that I won this, showing that any woman can win a poker tournament. I'd like to see more of them out there playing, feeling comfortable with going at it with the boys and winning."
History was made in Las Vegas as Shulman became the first woman to win an open-gender event at the WSOP since 2008, when Team PokerStars Pro Vanessa Selbst won her PLO gold bracelet. Moreover, it was the biggest poker field in the game's history to result in a female champion. The Shulman family also set a record, as it was the first time three members of the same family made final tables in the same week.
Did we mention that she won $603,713 for her victory? Again, kind of a big deal.
We want to extend our own congratulations to Celina and Allyn, not only for their most recent accomplishments but for their contributions to the game of poker. Hopefully, they will inspire more women to ante up and play.
For all information pertaining to PokerStars Women, visit our website and links here.
Celina Lin photographs are © Kenneth Lim Photography (//kennethlimphotography.com). Allyn Jaffrey-Shulman photograph courtesy of WSOP.com.