International Women’s Day has been an annual focal point for women’s rights since its inception in 1909. It’s a day for reflection and action, and an opportunity to create a better world based on balance and equality.
We’re celebrating International Women’s Day by highlighting the strengths and achievements of women in poker.
Women may represent only a small percentage of players in a poker tournament field, less than 4% in last year’s WSOP, but they are still making one heck of an impact.
Poker is the great equalizer. Man or woman, young or old, it’s imperative to respect your opponents. Those who don’t will sooner or later face the wrath of capable players like Barbara Enright and Liv Boeree.
Liv Boeree is a TED talker, first-class astrophysics graduate, kick-ass guitar player and she’s totally awesome at poker.
Boeree’s most impressive performance so far was the 2010 EPT San Remo Main Event. A total of 1,239 entrants looked on in the hope of claiming their share of the €6 million prize pool. There could only be one winner. Boeree already knew how to win tournaments, and this was her time to shine.
After her ruthless elimination of Toni Pettersson in third place, Boeree confronted Swedish online pro Jakob Carlsson heads-up. A couple of hours later she had the chip lead, ready to deliver the finishing blow.
Here’s how it goes. Boeree raises the button with pocket 5s. Carlsson looks down at his hand. With just 21bb left behind he knows that this is his best, maybe his only shot. He makes the re-shove. Boeree thinks for a moment. It’s an easy call.
Carlsson turns over A-6 off-suite. The race is on…
Can you imagine flipping a coin for half a million Euros? Me neither. It’s nail-biting stuff.
Each card brings Boeree one step closer to her dream as the board draws blank for Carlsson. An irrelevant Jack on the river ends it all, and just like that an astounded Liv Boeree is crowned EPT San Remo champion, earning her a life changing sum of €1.25 million.
Far from a one-hit wonder, Liv Boeree has now earned over $3.8 million in tournament winnings. Confident and hyper-intelligent, Boeree is one of the most recognised faces in women’s poker.
In 1996 Barbara Enright made poker history. When she won the WCOP Pot Limit Hold’em event, Enright became the first woman to win a bracelet in an open event. Enright had inadvertently made a statement to players everywhere – not only can women compete at the highest level; they can also win.
This was the first time in history that a woman had ever won a WSOP bracelet from an open event for both men and women.
Actually, Enright is something of a celebrity on the WSOP circuit. As well as being the first women to win an open event bracelet, she was also the first to win two bracelets, the first to win three bracelets, and the first woman ever to final table the WSOP Main Event.
In this respect, Barbara Enright is the player who wears the most accolades in women’s poker. At 69 years old, she has total live tournament winnings of nearly $1.7 million. She is now the editor-in-chief of Woman Poker Player Magazine, and still a regular at the tables in Las Vegas.
There’s no doubt that Enright paved the way for the bracelet winners to come, players like Kathy Liebert, Annie Duke and Vanessa Selbst.
If Daniel Negreanu is King of the small-ball style, then Vanessa Selbst is definitely Queen of the hyper-aggressive style and mistress of the elaborate bluff, especially in her earlier days.
Picture this. It’s Day 5 of the Partouche Poker Tour 2010 Main Event. Only 40 players remain from a field of 764. Selbst is sitting on one million chips, a decent stack that places her in the top 10 of remaining players.
Selbst looks down at A-3 suited; a mediocre hand at best. Early position makes a raise to 32k. Swiss pro Ronnie Kaiser re-raises to 57k. Somewhere in her mind, whether through madness or a stroke of genius, Selbst decides that her A-3 is good for a re-raise. She 3-bets to 120k.
The original raiser, no doubt aware of Selbst’s love for the bluff, 5-bets to 280k. Ronnie Kaiser has had enough. He makes an agonising fold. Selbst decides that Kaiser’s mucked hand is likely A-K, which would massively reduce the odds that her early position opponent is holding pocket Aces or Kings.
Selbst does the unthinkable. She takes one last glance at her suited Ace, and shoves all in for her tournament life. The original raiser folds, and Selbst scoops 450k of dead money, enough to give her a comfortable chip lead that would later result in her winning the Partouche Poker Tour for over $1.8 million.
Vanessa Selbst recently retired as the number one female poker player in the world, with total live tournament winnings of $11.85 million. She is also the only woman in the world to have won three WSOP open event bracelets, building on the success of Barbara Enright. A true inspiration to all women.
Celina Lin was the first female winner of the Macau Cup at the Red Dragon Main Event in 2009. Just a few years later, in 2012, she became the first woman to win it twice, cementing her status as one of the most prolific players in Asia.
The final table of the Macau Cup 2012 whittled down blindingly fast. Seven players were eliminated within a couple of hours. Most thanks to Chinese player Qi Ming Fan. That left just Fan and Celina Lin to play heads-up.
Chips changed hands for six hours of intensive poker, as Lin took the lead, lost it again, and then finally sealed the deal with 6-4 when her two-pair held, a hand she proudly held up to the cameras as she lifted the trophy.
For women all around the world, both on and off the poker tables, Lin offers her words of wisdom. “Be yourself and be proud of being a woman. I don’t try to be a boy in a boy’s game. I’m a woman in a game that just happens to have a lot of men.”
Maria Konnikova has had a rapid rise to glory on the live poker circuit since she started playing last year, and it didn’t take long for her to final table a major event.
In 2018, Konnikova topped a field of 290 to win the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure (PCA) National for a tidy $84,600. Along the way she eliminated online master Chris Moorman, former PCA champion Harrison Gimbel, and her heads-up opponent Alexander Ziskind.
Not content with infiltrating the poker scene, Konnikova attended the World Economic Forum, itself a bit of a “man’s world”. We’re not just saying it – only 22% of those in attendance are women, and Konnikova was one of them.
Konnikova used her knowledge of poker and psychology to deliver a talk on trust and mistrust at the conference, all while rubbing shoulders with the likes of Prince William and Sir David Attenborough. She also took part in a panel on risk perception, where much of the discussion revolved around poker as a strategy for weighing up risk and reward.
Konnikova is testament to the powerful and positive influence that women can have at both the poker tables, and the tables of global politics.
International Women’s Day 2019 is on March 8th.