The First Lady of Poker

Editor’s note: This is the third in a three-part series dedicated to Women in Poker.

Part 1  Part 2

In our previous two columns, we told you about Barbara Enright and Jan Fisher, both highly regarded as poker celebrities for their accomplishments and contributions to our poker world.

Linda Johnson certainly fits into that same category. That is why so many of us regard her as “The First Lady of Poker.” She was so dubbed by the late poker guru Mike Sexton who recognized her long association with the game and many contributions to our world.

Linda Johnson was born in Long Island. She was working for the U.S. Postal Service and often traveled to Las Vegas where she enjoyed playing blackjack. It was her father, a career member of the U.S. military, who encouraged her to move on to the game of poker. He convinced her that playing poker was the best way to gamble because it was not played against the house.

Her poker career began in 1974 and she had many successes, including winning the California Ladies Poker Championship. But her poker dream came true in 1997 when she won her first bracelet in the World Series of Poker in the $1,500 seven-card razz event.

From then on, she forged her career to become one of the most memorable women in poker.

So much so that, in 2017, the World Poker Tour (WPT) selected her for its inaugural WPT Honors Award, recognizing her outstanding contributions to the WPT, as well as the greater poker community.

“We are proud to present Linda Johnson with the inaugural WPT Honors Award,” said Adam Pliska, WPT’s CEO. “The award represents WPT’s highest honor and will serve as a lasting tradition that allows us to recognize the most important people in our industry and in the WPT’s history. Linda played a unique role in helping shape the World Poker Tour, and she embodies all that the WPT stands for.”

In our previous column on Jan Fisher, we described how Linda Johnson became the owner of CardPlayer magazine, including the Card Player Cruises. After working as the publisher of the magazine for eight years, Linda sold it to its current owner, Barry Shulman. She continues to write poker columns for the magazine. Meanwhile, she retained the Card Player Cruises business which she operates with her business partner Fisher.

Now, well into its 20s, the cruises have hosted some of the most famous poker players in the world: Phil Ivey, Daniel Negreanu, Mike Sexton, Jennifer Harman, Phil Hellmuth, Scotty Nguyen, and many others.

“It’s been a great journey!” she said.

Among her many other accomplishments, Johnson was responsible for forming the Tournament Directors Association (TDA) to establish common rules for tournaments such as the WPT. She continues to be involved with the TDA, serving on its Board of Directors.

Linda was one of the founders of the World Poker Tour and served as the announcer to the audience for its first six seasons. In 2009, along with Fisher, she helped to form PokerGives.org, a nonprofit organization that makes it easier for poker players to donate to charities.

Personally, I learned about the Poker Squeeze Play from her chapter in the book Winning Women of Poker. Fisher and Enright also have chapters in the book. All in all, 14 women poker celebrities have written chapters. Their mission is to raise funds for charities on behalf of the poker world.

Linda Johnson has well earned the title of “The First Lady of Poker.”