It's easy to think of online and live poker games as an exclusively male pursuit, and that wouldn't be too far from the truth. But things are quickly changing. More and more women are taking to the tables, and as well-known players like Maria Ho and Tina Lange are showing, they're every bit as good as their male counterparts (or better).
The rise of female stars in the poker world hasn’t gone unnoticed by some of the world's largest online poker rooms either. Both partypoker and 888Poker have made some recent signings that are a solid step forward for gender equality in the game. Partypoker launched a female player campaign in September with the slogan:
"Created by female poker players for female poker players."
partypoker went on to announce Louise Butler (or Lou045 to use her screen name) has joined the Team Online Pro. 888poker has followed suit by signing up Vivian Saliba to highlight their ladies' events. Interestingly, it's not Saliba's first time working with 888 – she previously worked for them as a live reporter!
Ranked the top online MTT player in Ireland, Louise Butler has a huge 3,094 cashes to her name, and she won over $6,000 recently in the PokerStars Big $11 after playing her way through almost 5,000 other entrants. It’s a pretty impressive feat for sure. She also won the PokerStars Women's Sunday a mere matter of weeks ago.
Butler has just over $300,000 in career earnings. She joins Natalia Breviglieri, Beata Jambrik and Kristen Bicknell as part of the Team Online Pro for Partypoker Ladies. All these players are at the top of their game, so they look to be a formidable team indeed. Kristen Bicknell alone has been ranked the global number one female player.
Although not new to the world of poker, Saliba is now on the other side of the table. She’s reported to have won around $200,000 in tournaments so far, and recently secured her place at the WSOPE Main Event after topping the 888Live London Ladies tournament. She's had a good year too, taking home around $50,000 over the summer after ranking 11th in the Pot-Limit Omaha Championship. At only 24, she's definitely a rising star to keep an eye on.
It's no surprise that online poker has allowed female players to flourish. Traditionally, women have found live games to be difficult, as Tina Lange explained:
"Sometimes at a table full of men, a woman is not taken seriously; it’s assumed that she doesn't really know how to play. Is it a profound problem? I don't know, I can't speak for all women, but I know that it does happen."
Not only that, but sexism can often be a problem as well. The online environment is much more anonymous, and that's given female players the space to develop and play without having to deal with some of the problems a live table can throw at them. Jessica Welman, a Kentucky player, noted that unwanted advances can often be a major deterrent at live tables too:
"For women who are new to the game who go to a casino by themselves to try and play, only to encounter a person who can't take a hint, she isn't just going to feel put off. There’s a chance she’s going to be worried about her safety because she has to cash out, get herself and her money back to her car safely, and get home."
However, thanks to the growing prevalence of female players online, it's likely only a matter of time before we see more women playing at live tables, which can only be a good thing for the game, wherever it's played. Butler and Saliba are just two testaments to that, and there are many more!