The Girls are Back!

Dec 28, 2004 4:59 AM

The Girls are Back! Last December, legions of poker fans across the country tuned in to see if women had the skill and the finesse to play their own brand of cutthroat poker. In a broadcast that became the WORLD POKER TOUR’s most highly rated show of 2003, Ladies’ Night did not disappoint.

The show instantly debunked the myth that high-stakes poker is the exclusive purview of men and catapulted a beautiful blond stranger from Texas to instant stardom. The WORLD POKER TOUR (WPT) is the highest rated series in the history of the Travel Channel, airing Wednesday nights at 9 p.m. ET/PT.

Now five new women and that beautiful blond from Texas return for an encore. This December 15th, poker fans can tune in to the Travel Channel to see if the aptly named Texan, Cycalona "Clonie" Gowen, can again take five formidable female opponents by storm in a brand new Ladies Night II Tournament. The showdown will air as a special new episode of the WORLD POKER TOUR, prior to the series’ much anticipated Third Season beginning in March 2005. At stake are a $25,500 seat at the 2005 World Poker Tour Championship and a chance at the WPT season finale’s anticipated prize pool of $25 million.

The Ladies Night II show will air at 9 p.m. ET/PT on the Travel Channel. By providing a televised forum to showcase these players’ skills, the WORLD POKER TOUR has become poker’s foremost booster of women players. To date, five women have made regular season Final Tables on WORLD POKER TOUR broadcasts. A half dozen are among the Tour’s 75 regulars who play at all the WPT stops.

The WPT Ladies’ Night II Contenders: In the first Ladies’ Night, Clonie Gowen proved that it is indeed anybody’s game when she triumphed over five far more decorated players, including Annie Duke, Jennifer Harman, and Kathy Liebert. In Ladies Night II she takes on four new invited female poker pros and a self-described "freshman" who won her way in by triumphing at the Bicycle Casino’s "Ladies Poker Party Tournament" — her second tournament ever and first no-limit event. The players at the Ladies Night II table, in alphabetical order, are:

WENDEEN EOLIS of New York City holds a number of poker records, including being the first woman ever to finish in the money at the World Series of Poker. Eolis is also a player in the worlds of New York politics and international business, as she owns a legal consulting firm and was an adviser to New York governor George Pataki. Eolis is a grandmother of six.

SHARON GOLDMAN of Los Angeles grew up playing cards with her family, but it was while waiting in the emergency room for a possible appendectomy that her then fiancé taught her how to play Hold’em. She later became a bona fide tournament player, finishing in the money in two WORLD POKER TOUR events.

CLONIE GOWEN entered a WORLD POKER TOUR Season One tournament for $500 while on a scuba diving vacation in Costa Rica, and started swimming with another kind of shark altogether. No one knew the then-amateur player or paid her the slightest attention. She placed tenth in this tournament, in the money, and just a few seats away from the Final Table. Suddenly, everyone wanted to know who was this beautiful blond stranger. The impressive finish in Costa Rica earned Gowen a seat in the first WPT Ladies Night Tournament. When the show aired nationally on the Travel Channel in December 2003 and Gowen triumphed over far more seasoned poker players, she became an instant celebrity.

ISABELLE MERCIER of Montreal, Canada is known for her aggressive and shrewd style of play, and was instantly dubbed by WORLD POKER TOUR commentator Mike Sexton, "Isabelle ”˜No Mercy’ Mercier." She has been a lawyer, blackjack dealer, poker dealer, and poker manager at the Aviation Club in Paris, a post she left to devote herself to her own professional poker career.

CINDY VIOLETTE is a high-stakes player from Atlantic City known as the "Poker Flower." Now in her 40s, she started playing poker 20 years ago, a time when her peers were graduating from college or getting married. In her first tournament, she placed fifth and the rest was history. She won a World Series of Poker bracelet in 2004, one of the few women to do so, and counts Donald Trump among her biggest fans.

CUILING "LAVINNA" ZHANG hails from San Gabriel Valley, California. Prior to her victory at the Bicycle Casino event that won her a seat in WPT’s Ladies Night II, Zhang had only played in low-limit games. Ironically, it is her husband who is developing a career as a poker pro and encouraged her to enter the tournament. Her story proves that you don’t have to be a pro to make it big in poker, and although she is a novice, she is still a force to be reckoned with.