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Poker's New Feminine Side

By: Kenneth Bateman

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Poker, once traditionally considered a “man’s game”, is a man’s game no longer. Although men still dominate the game numbers-wise, women are certainly making rapid inroads on a professional level. True, no woman has as yet won the no-limit Texas Hold ‘ em Main Event, but Annie Duke did beat her older brother and eight other poker legends to win $2 million in the World Series of Poker’s 2005 Tournament of Champions.

Arguably considered the best of the best among professional women poker tournament players is Las Vegas’ own Jennifer Harman, a feared and tigerish high-stakes competitor. In fact, Daniel Negreanu, unarguably among the greatest of players, has been quoted as saying that Jennifer Harman is already considered by her peers as one of the world’s best players. “She’s a killer”, says Daniel, “A pit bull in a chihuahua’s body”.

Now, for the first time in the thirty-five year history of the World Series of Poker, several women have been recognized as equal competitors among the best of the male players. Actress Jennifer Tilly, (Academy Award nominee for her performance in the Woody Allen comedy, “Bullets Over Broadway”), has surprised everyone with her skills and cool determination in high-stakes poker play. This year, Jennifer won the Ladies No-limit Hold ‘em event, taking home $158,625. in prize money. And what about Cathy Liebert, an expert at confusing opposing players with her quizzical expressions. She is the first women ever to win $1 million in poker tournament competition.

The 2005 World Series of Poker Main Event, which required a $10,000 buy-in, had a total of 2,576 entrees, of which some one hundred thirty or so were women. In that tournament, the entrant who finished 21st in the field was a women, Suzanne Carpenter.

A good example of how quickly women are taking to high-stakes tournament poker is in the unprecedented number of women (600), who participated in the 2006 Ladies No-limit Texas Hold ‘em event, won by the afore-mentioned Jennifer Tilly. This was nearly three times the number of women who played in the same tournament in 2004. And watch out for Cyndy Violette. She finishes in the money quite often, such as when she finished second among 1,403 players in a $2,000 No-limit Hold ‘em Showdown, winning $295,970.

Women entering high-stakes tournaments in such rapidly increasing numbers, and showing the skills and tenacity that makes top players have “thrown” some male veteran poker players, many of which were of the opinion that that women players would be easy to intimidate, disrupting their strategies. Simultaneously, many women played against men much too aggressively as a defense mechanism. Both sexes are learning to respect one-another as equals as many high profile male players begin to appreciate and publicly praise the all-‘round playing skills exhibited by the leading women competitors.

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Kenneth Bateman writes numerous articles on the subject of poker and its players. To read more player profiles, or to Play Poker from XL

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