Women's Sunday three-year anniversary: Player report

March 30 saw a record guaranteed prize pool for the Women's Sunday and a whopping 709 of us logged on to play for it.

I have been studying poker for about a year now and researched many different aspects of the game, including studying the pros. In all this time, I had never actually played a women-only tournament and decided that last Sunday was the time to try it. Unlike my experience at the UKIPT Isle of Man side event, I vowed to be prepared and created a little strategy.

But did I stick to it? Or did I lose my cool, again?

There is something about the protection of playing poker behind a screen which really does enable you to be unafraid. This together with the fact I knew I was playing women gave me a certain level of comfort, and I have to say, there was a distinct air of professionalism. Not once did an offensive comment appear in my chat box!

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In advance of the tournament, I played a vast amount of satellites. While I was hoping to win my seat into the tournament, it was mostly to practice. The ability to rebuy for just $0.33 meant I often did, and had a tremendous fun doing so.

Playing in the satellites also had an interesting side effect; I met my nemesis. I had somehow returned to my annoying self-destructive habit of paying into a pot I won't win, and she knocked me out of a satellite. I was riled but paid straight into another satellite only to find her at my table. I lost my cool, and she managed to knock me out of two satellites in a row. I took this harder than I would like to admit, mostly because I had failed to leave my ego at the door. Fortunately, this was just a satellite, and it was all still to play for. It may also be worth mentioning that this particular player ended the tournament in second place, so I am secure in the knowledge that I lost to a better player.

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When it came to the actual Women's Sunday tournament, I decided it was time to take risks with my playing style. I had intended to play contrary to the table. Initially, play was quite conservative, so I experimented with being aggressive. I was on the button with a pair of eights, so I made aggressive raises, but I was called and lost to an ace-king that hit a pair of kings on the river. I lost a significant amount of my chips. There and then, I made the decision that playing conservatively in a deep-stack tournament was maybe not such a bad strategy.

After that, I was in a weakened position with a smaller-than-average chip stack, but I did not let it get to me. I was mindful that I still had plenty more than 10 big blinds, and there was no need to panic. I remembered Fatima De Melo when she played the UKIPT Isle of Man. I went to watch her play on that last day and remembered how, before they went to the final table, she had only played two hands, and they were pocket aces. So, I plugged myself into my earphones - blocking out my boyfriend, the TV and all those distractions - and I merged into the poker zone. I only played premium hands, and it wasn't long before I had two moves, fold or all-in! This technique seemed to work, and after nervously watching someone bubble, I had made the money!

Four hours into the tournament, I found myself 31st in chips with only 50 players remaining. During the night, my boyfriend went from watching TV to watching my laptop screen, covering his eyes each time I went all-in. The tournament was closing in, and I wanted to boost my chips. I was dealt A-10 of spades in the big blind. The table chip leader raised under the gun, so I went all-in pre-flop. She called with A-Q of diamonds. I hit a 10 on the flop and felt ecstatic but was then rivered by a flush and knocked out. I was gutted! Although I did not win, I came in 46th wining $116. Perhaps more importantly, I genuinely feel I played the best poker I have ever played.

Whatever you may think about women-only tournaments, I can guarantee there is nothing soft about them! There are some really tough women players out there and I take my hat off to them. I hope the significant turnout for this Women's Sunday is the beginning of a new era for women's poker and that more women play.

You can definitely consider me a regular at the Women's Sunday.

Ann-Marie McCarthy
@PokerStars in Women's Sunday