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Poker has many outstanding celebrity women, but does it have its fair share of women playing at the tables in casinos and card rooms?

Women have long made their mark in the game. There’s even a highly informative book entitled “Winning Women of Poker – Secret Strategies Revealed” – published in 2011.

The book features 14 celebrity poker women as the authors. This includes Barbara Enright – the first woman to make the main event final table of the World Series of Poker (WSOP), finishing in fifth place in 1995, and who was inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame in 2007.

Then there’s Linda Johnson, well known as the “First Lady of Poker” for good reason; Jan Fisher – inducted into the Women in Poker Hall of Fame in 2009; Maria Ho – the “Last Woman Standing” in the WSOP Main Event in 2007; among a number of others.

There have been many other women who have made their marks in the game. That includes Jennifer Harmon, the first woman to win two WSOP bracelets in open events and who has made 12 WSOP final tables.

There are many outstanding women poker celebrities; but when you examine the poker world, note how few females are playing in the casinos compared to the men. In sheer numbers, the men “rule the roost.” Next time you visit your local casino, look around. Relatively few women are seated at the tables.

While playing at my favorite local casino recently, I did some research. I took a head count over a period of several hours. My findings? At a full table of nine players, most of the time there were only one or two women seated (not counting the dealers). Sometimes there were none. It was a rare occasion when I observed three women at my table, but never more.

According to the Online Poker Forum,, male poker players outnumber the women by almost 7-to-1. That’s a huge difference. Fewer than 15 percent of the poker players are women. Why? According to CardsChat and other poker sources:

• Funding. Consider that you need significant disposable income to play poker. Never play for the “rent money.” Add to this the fact that women earn, on average, 18 percent less than men. This alone could explain why men dominate over women playing poker.

• Spare time and opportunity. Now that married women are working along with their male partners to support their families, many are just too busy looking after the children and caring for the home.

• Guys night out. For many years, poker has provided means for men to get out of the house, away from their women to do something “with the guys.”

• Gender. Poker is often regarded as a masculine activity. Many women, fearing sexual harassment, are thus inclined to avoid the game.

I showed the draft of this column to several women. One fully disagreed with several of the items above.

“Women do have money to gamble and aren’t averse to gambling,” she said.

As proof, there may well be more women than men playing the slots. On the other hand, women tend to be more loath to intense gambling/risk-taking required for live casino play. Perhaps that’s why there is no imbalance between male and female players in a more social, relaxed setting like our senior center poker group. 

As reported in the October 2018 edition of Ante Up magazine, Lena Evans, CEO of Helix Poker and co-founder of the Poker League of Nations, insisted that “by no means are sexual harassment and intimidation” the reasons. According to a recent survey, she added, “lack of funds was the top reason” – at least for poker tournaments.

In casinos, poker is a male-dominated game, whether you play for recreation or as a professional. How can we attract more women to the game? Do we want to?

Your comments are welcome and may be included in a future column.

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About the Author

George Epstein

A retired engineer, George Epstein is the author of “The Greatest Book of Poker for Winners!” and “Hold’em or Fold’em? – An Algorithm for Making the Key Decision.” He teaches poker courses and conducts a unique Poker Lab at the Claude Pepper Senior Center under the auspices of the City of Los Angeles Dept. of Recreation and Parks and at West Los Angeles College.

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