Women’s presence in poker rooms on the rise

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By Lauren Failla

Florida, up until 2003, rarely saw women at the tables. Before the boom, women represented about five percent of the field in mainstream tournaments and cash games. Today that number has nearly doubled. When you walk into a Florida card room, women represent about 10-15 percent. I find myself counting heads just to make sure women get enough credit for being in the poker room.

In my discussions with women across Florida, the general consensus as to why the numbers have increased points to two factors: televised poker and ladies-only events.
The World Poker Tour, World Series of Poker and Heartland Poker Tour are highlighting female players more than ever. Plus, women who once would only play in their pajamas in front of the computer are now coming into the card rooms, slowly but surely, and with more confidence.
It’s been mentioned that at one time 40 percent of online players were women. Initially I thought that was a staggering number, but recently I’ve begun to fully understand the attraction. I’m not a big fan of online poker and have my reservations; I’m a visual player and like the human interaction, which allows me to make certain decisions. Women who play online poker are full-time moms, have full-time jobs or just want to utilize this medium to build confidence.

For others it’s a learning tool and is used as a steppingstone. Many women, unknown to the live market, have made a career right in their living room by playing online poker. The anonymity serves as a way of expressing themselves truly without “putting it all out there.”
In Florida, many card room managers have been very receptive to the idea of women-only tournaments to increase their numbers. They know female players have such a varying range of knowledge and skill that these events are a positive step into mainstreaming a new female player and are quick to make sure the women are treated equally.

Card room staffs spend extra time making sure women aren’t on the receiving end of nasty or negative comments, and that helps. I believe across the state there are women who want to play, but the key is finding them and getting them off the computer. Once that happens you have a player for life. Women are loyal and always will come back to places that treat them best.

— Lauren Failla writes a monthly column for Ante Up, tracking the progress of women in poker. Email her at lauren@highheelspokertour.com.