A top ten poker list: What do women want?

It seems like an easy question to answer, since we all should have learned the concept in grade school. It's both the common denominator of a civilized society and the title of an iconic tune from the 70s. Aretha Franklin spelled it out for us in a huge hit that became a rallying cry for women of that decade. Still stumped?


A simple two-syllable word covers all the bases at the poker table, as it does elsewhere. But respect is often just the opposite of what women receive from men when they sit down to play, sometimes as the only woman at the table. Even well-known pros like Liv Boeree and Celina Lin have spoken recently about situations where they've been subjected to derisive comments and behavior.

If it's difficult for them at times, just imagine what it must be like for unknown female amateurs as they consider braving the overwhelmingly male confines of a brick-and-mortar poker room. And even at online tables, women sometimes have to deal with being targeted and insulted. Many women disguise their gender in online play to avoid these problems, and who can blame them? Do you really want the rest of the table coming after you just because you're a woman?

Victoria Coren Mitchell's historic two-time EPT win on Easter weekend in Sanremo should do a lot to muzzle some of the negative comments, and for that, and for having Vicky as a standard-bearer for women in the game, all women in poker should be grateful. As the first ever two-time title winner (male or female), she has proven once again that women are as good as men at the game and have the mental hardiness to withstand the pressure.

Vicky Coren Mitchell - EPT pre-win.jpg

But in the meantime, as a service to all the women out there who want to play but hate having to deal with the antagonistic attitudes, maybe we should establish what it means to be respectful at the table, not just to women, but to everyone.

Top 10 Poker Etiquette List:

1.) Be respectful of everyone at the table. That includes all genders, races, nationalities and skill levels.

2.) Be friendly, especially to newbies. Remember what it was like for you the first time you considered playing and how hard it was to sit down at the table by yourself that first time. And if you're a man, think about how hard it would be to do that if you were the only man at the table with a group of female players who all seemed to know each other.

3.) Be helpful. Offer to make change when it would be useful. Remind newbies about blinds. But do it in a nice way!

4.) Be patient. Give everyone the benefit of a doubt and enough time to make decisions, even if it seems obvious to you. Remember--it wasn't easy in the beginning.

5.) Be gracious. Sure, it stings when you lose a hand to a long-shot draw or a rag hand. But remember, this game is a learning process, and more often than not, their mistakes usually work to your advantage.

Now for the don'ts ...

6.) Don't be a know-it-all. Yes, you may have read every poker book on the market and personally played with Phil Ivey, but not everyone wants or needs your advice. It's fine to discuss the how and why, but not during a hand and not when it's a one-way street. No one likes to be lectured about what they "should" or "shouldn't" do at the table, especially when someone makes the assumption that their so-called expertise is greater than the recipient's. Just because a woman sits down at the table it doesn't mean she's clueless about the game.

7.) Don't be overly friendly. The poker table is not a pick-up bar, and sometimes men can be too friendly to women at the table. Say "hello" and be welcoming, but don't keep up a non-stop monologue. It makes it hard to concentrate and may be unwelcome attention.

8.) Don't assume your help is always needed. Maybe that new player likes her chips just the way they are and doesn't need the change you're pushing her way. Ask first.

9.) Don't try to intimidate women and newcomers with aggressive posturing and comments. Give them the same respect you would others at the table.

10) Don't make a scene or resort to name-calling when you lose a hand. It's quite possible that the new player or woman at the table does know what they're doing, and it wasn't "all luck."

These are just a few of things that I've noticed as a woman at the poker table, and there are probably many more that I forgot to mention. Weigh in with your list on our Facebook page or on Twitter.

And for all the latest in news, interviews, and strategy in the world of women's poker, see our home page.

Rebekah Mercer
@PokerStars in PS Women