Women in the World Series of Poker

Women Only WSOP

Women in the WSOPWith poker a predominantly male’s game in the 20th Century, women only came into the World Series of Poker at a later date than the inaugural launch of this tournament. It was only in the WSOP’s eighth year that it was decided to launch a Ladies Event, open to women only.

Legend has it that the Ladies Event was in fact created in 1977 to divert the attention of the wives and girlfriends of poker players who attended the WSOP. The tournament lacked any seriousness or formality and no records were kept on how many women actually participated in the first seven card stud event . Buy in was $100 and the top payout – which went to Jackie McDaniels was a measly $5,580.

The Events and the Money

By 1981, the buy in had climbed to $400 and a decade later, with a buy in of $500, 110 women took part in the event. In 1992, buy in doubled to $1000, earning the event international standards of prestige and attracting top female players. The field grew to 200 women by 2004, when seven card stud poker was switched to limit hold’em.

A year later, in 2005, things started happening fast in women’s poker. The field literally tripled to over 600 entrants thanks to the exposure to mainstream poker, online poker and live poker events. By 2010, the Ladies Event reached 1,000 players , spanning three days of intense competition among top players.

Barbara Enright was possibly the woman who steered the way for women to earn themselves a name for themselves in the WSOP as a whole. She become the first woman to win two gold bracelets when she won the Ladies Seven Card Stud even in 1986 and then in 1994. In 1995, she did what no woman had managed beforehand – she made the final table in the Main Event and took fifth place. A year later, she became the first woman to win three WSOP bracelets and the first to win one in an open event – the Pot Limit Hold ‘em event. In 2007, Enright earned her place in the Poker Hall of Fame and became the first woman to be inducted.

The “Girls” Come in

The young Annette Obrestad has also made a name for herself in WSOP history by defeating a field of 361 players to win the inaugural World Series of Poker Europe Main Event in 2007. Besides the $2 million first prize she earned herself, she also become the youngest player to ever win a WSOP bracelet and the first woman to win a WSOP Main Event title. Obrestad would need to wait until she turned 21 to take part in the WSOP Las Vegas event.

Women continue to forge ahead to make their presence felt more around WSOP tables. At present, women make up around 5% of the field in all the events at the annual World Series of Poker tournament. Names such as Katja Thater, Vanessa Rousso, and Liv Boeree are hot on everyone’s lips as they make a name for themselves in the world of poker. These women show time and time again that while tradition says poker is a man’s game that rules are meant to be broken!

Author: Joseph Falchetti (twitter)
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