Making Progress: Casual poker interest reaches new heights

Recently, I have being blogging about our Women's Poker League I set up after falling in love with Texas Hold'em poker. The purpose was to get more women interested in poker and dispel the myth that it's a man's game. That first night of my Women's Poker League, I planted the seeds of poker fever into the sub-conscious of my ladies. It is with excitement that I have been watching these seeds germinate and grow into full blown poker obsession.

Probably the best example of this is my work colleague, Devini. Devini is what you would call a "girly girl." She is so glam that we when we recently travelled together, she effortlessly glided alongside a four-wheeled suitcase, wearing kitten heels, bug-eyed sun glasses and full makeup, while I was a sweaty mess, struggling along with a tatty ruck-sac. I have seen this girl slide down the wall of an indoor rock climbing facility because she was too busy giggling to focus on descending properly; she is definitely not the type to take things too seriously. I suspect she came to the poker nights originally for the social side, but no one was more surprised than me when announced that she had bought her own poker set!

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While the Women's Poker League served to teach Devini the basics of poker, and she undoubtedly enjoyed herself, I don't think the game really grabbed her. It was when I invited her to a home game that she really became interested.

The home game consisted of two girls (Devini and me) and four very experienced male poker players. Straight away, I knew this was going to be interesting. Right from the start, she confidently bet on pretty much every hand and was not afraid the raise aggressively. Far from intimidated, she stared the boys down and very quickly became comfortable with the banter designed to make her back down. In fact, her reaction was quite the opposite. It was when she started to win hands against her more experienced male counterparts, who folded to her bluffs, that she felt the real thrill of poker.

Her playing style threw the guys she was playing against. They admitted that they had no idea how to counteract her playing style. One guy even said, "This girl could have anything; there is no way of reading her." It was then it struck me - when learning to play poker, we begin to understand that the level of a raise can be indicative of the type of hand the player holds. Small- to mid-level raises could suggest the player feels they have the strongest hand and are trying to lure the rest of the table into dripping funds into the pot and essentially baiting the other players. Large raises can be indicative of a mediocre hand, which may not stand up to the possibilities of a three-card flop, or it can be an all-out bluff. If standard playing states that knowing how to read these clues is the difference between winning and losing, what happens when encountering a player who doesn't conform to any recognised betting pattern? To operate outside of recognised betting patterns can be an advantage in itself. Not only did Devini hold her own that night, she came a very close second.

Another contributing factor to Devini's growing curiosity is playing online. Playing poker on free online apps has given her an excellent opportunity to practice and definitely boosted her progress. She loves the banter between players, which can sometimes get insulting. More specifically, she loves to call out a bluff. When she comes into work, wide-eyed with excitement after a successful evening online, I can't help but smirk. From the way she babbles and offers me tips and advice, you'd think she was the one who got me playing poker, and I do sometimes wonder if she is taking even more of an interest than me. Now she is so hooked that she has practically taken over the running of the Women's Poker League!

So, I hear you ask, why the rant about my friend Devini? You may even be wondering where I am going with this, so I'll tell you straight out. My point is that there is no stereotypical poker player. If Devini, who I have already defined as the girly girl, can become obsessed by poker to the extent she berates me if I haven't been proactive with organising our poker nights, then it is definitely not a game purely for men.

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The beauty of having a personality such as Devini interested in poker is that she will inspire other women, women that I may not ordinarily reach. What is interesting is that when I started this Women's Poker League, while I received plenty of support, I was organising it myself. Being the inclusive person I am, I always posted group updates referring to "we." Now, "I" has truly become "we," and we are growing.

Ann-Marie McCarthy
@PokerStars in PS Women