Linda Johnson is known as “The First Lady of Poker,” a phrase coined by poker celebrity Mike Sexton in recognition of her many contributions to the world of poker. As a young woman, while working for the U.S. Postal Service, she had a penchant for the thrill and challenge of gambling, and often traveled from her home in Long Beach, California to Las Vegas to play blackjack.
Her father, a career service member, encouraged her instead to play poker; it was the best way to gamble, as it was not played against the house. (Good advice!)
In 1980, at the age of 27, she moved to Las Vegas, ambitious to become a professional poker player. She succeeded – and then some. Then, in 1993, recognizing the need for a first-class publication dedicated to the game of poker, she bought a black-and-white newsprint publication, Card Player.
Serving as its publisher, Linda turned it into the world’s foremost source of poker news and happenings. It featured columns by some of the top players, including strategic advice on how to win at poker.
In 2000, Linda sold the magazine to the current owners, but kept the growing poker cruise part of the business. Catering to poker players who seek an exciting new venue for vacationing with their families while enjoying playing poker. She, along with poker celebrity, Jan Fisher, are the owners of Card Player Cruises, which provides luxury shipboard poker games and seminars for poker players as they cruise in splendor and visit exciting ports around the world. Find them at cardplayercruises.com
Linda Johnson’s additional achievements and honors are truly memorable as well as praiseworthy:
She achieved eight final tables in the World Series of Poker (WSOP), winning a Gold Bracelet in 1997.
In 2001, she co-founded the Tournament Directors’ Association (TDA) that developed and published the rules for poker tournaments for the benefit of the poker world. (Note: The Tournament Director’s Association rules are used in most major tournaments to ensure uniform practices that are fair to all players involved. Supplementing house rules and regulations, it facilitates the conduct of poker tournaments, avoiding disputes.)
In 2002, she helped create the World Poker Tour (WPT) – widely viewed on Television – and served as the studio announcer for its first six seasons. In 2008, the WPT introduced special tournaments for women, known as WPT Ladies.
Linda was the original chairperson of the Poker Players Alliance (PPA), formed in 2005, and currently serves on its Board of Directors. (The PPA strives to support and protect the rights of players, serving in their best interests. There are 1.2 million members. To date, its efforts have been largely focused on online poker.)
She is the Co-author of three successful poker books.
Linda was honored as the inaugural member of the “Women in Poker” Hall of Fame in 2008.
In 2009, she worked with poker celebrities Mike Sexton, Jan Fisher and Lisa Tenner and founded PokerGives.org, a nonprofit organization that encourages poker players to donate to charity.
She was inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame in 2011. (Created in 1979 by famed Las Vegas casino owner Benny Binion to recognize the most skilled poker professionals in the U.S.)
In 2014, in collaboration with Lupe Soto (founder of the Ladies in Poker Tour, LIPS) and Jan Fisher, Linda helped establish the Senior Poker Tour (SPT) for poker players 50 years of age and older. (The SPT has held “Seniors Week” in Las Vegas and the “Seniors Championship at Sea” with Card Player Cruises.).
In partnership with Fisher, Linda presents poker seminars around the world, including many at senior citizen centers.
Several years ago, Jan and Linda presented an outstanding poker seminar to my Claude Pepper Seniors Poker Group at our senior center in Los Angeles. Without any question, Linda Johnson is indeed, The First Lady of Poker. We wish her continued success as our poker ambassador, making the game of poker more acceptable throughout the world, and more enjoyable for all of us.
“The Engineer,” a noted author and teacher in Greater Los Angeles, is a member of the Seniors Poker Hall of Fame. Email: [email protected].