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Women in poker -- Part I

I’ve seen no hard data but, judging from my years playing poker, I estimate that roughly 1 in 10 players are women. This figure seems to hold pretty much for cash games as well as tournaments. Last Thursday I went in to the River Rock, a stylish casino in Richmond, BC, to play in a $300+30 buy-in NLH event — one of their “May Madness” tournaments. It had a total of 67 entries, six of whom were women, pretty much in keeping with expectations. It’s worth noting, however, that in the larger events, like those at the annual WSOP bash in Vegas where the smallest buy-in is $1,000, the proportion of women tends to be lower, down around 3%. In fact, in the WSOP Main Event, which has a $10,000 buy-in, reporters talk about “the last woman standing” who is heralded with accolades and showered with face time.

Well, in our mid-level tournament, I was “the last man standing.” When the dust settled three of the six female starters cashed. In fact, they finished in 1st, 3rd and 4th. Putting it in starker terms, the women players who made up less than 10% of the field took home well over 60% of the prize pool. This is remarkable. It says two things, both of which could be true. One, it was a statistical fluke. Two, women are getting better at the game, and learning faster than men. Judging from the way the last two tables played (and realizing that this was a small sample, one tournament in one room) I’d say both. The future of the game will be interesting.

But there are larger issues lurking here — to be discussed in Part II.

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