Ann-Marie: My poker life

Just over a year ago, I began playing Texas Hold'em. It was an unusual divergence for me, but with a little of coaching, I entered a small local casino tournament for the experience. What happened to me at that table has expanded my life in ways I never anticipated. I have experienced many highs and lows in my short poker playing career so far, but what an amazing year it has been!

First and foremost, I have learned a hell of a lot about poker. I now have a grasp of terminologies and theories I had never come across before and would even classify myself as fluent in poker. I have studied the professionals and how they play, and have tried to learn from them. I have even been lucky enough to meet some of them.

But perhaps more importantly, I have learned that poker is a game as much for women as it is for men. Women seem to love poker and are good at it. Women who play poker are cool.

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I have achieved a few things as well, I established a regular women's poker league and helped introduce the game to a number of women who would otherwise never have tried it. I have progressed as a poker player, too; I have gone from busting out of tournaments to bubbling and now to placing. I have conquered my fear, staring down intimidation and building my ability from the ground up.

This has also been a historic year for poker, and I witnessed the first ever Isle of Man UKIPT and entered into a side event. There, I felt the anticipation of hundreds of players battling against each other. I also witnessed women log on in droves to play in the three-year anniversary of the Women's Sunday. But perhaps the most awe inspiring event this year was in April, when not only poker history but women's poker history was made by Victoria Coren Mitchell, who became the first ever two-time EPT winner.

Now I'm starting a new adventure by studying for a Masters at University, but what I have taken away from these poker experiences will be invaluable. I realised that poker is more accessible than people would think. I would urge anyone reading this article who may not have played poker before to give it a go, and if you already play, why not try something new? You never know where it could take you.

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I may be about to live in a new place with a whole new poker community to discover, but I will continue with my mission to spread the poker word and encourage more women to play. This is mainly because I have fallen in love with the game, the way it simultaneously challenges and rewards me and pushes me to achieve more. But also, I believe it is important that the gender stereotype is removed from poker and the world realizes it not just a man's game anymore.

I have seen many women rise to this challenge and am left thinking about not if there will be a women's poker revolution, but when?

Ann-Marie McCarthy
@PokerStars in PS Women