Women’s poker event at Downstream small but powerful

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September is here and the ominous feel of “back to school” days lay heavily on many people. For some, we are scrambling to get school supplies and prepare our children for the new school year. For others, we’re preparing ourselves to head back to classes. For the rest, we see a change in the college-aged players at our tables and new lessons to be learned on the felt. Though I get the privilege of sending my children back to school and taking my own classes this month, my most recent poker lesson was in July.

Downstream Casino held its first National Women’s Poker Day tournament on July 16 and I had the opportunity to drop in and play in the $170 event that drew 27 women. Prizes for the event were given to the final three players and included a seat into the U.S. Ladies Poker Championship, passes to the Women’s Poker Hall of Fame, $750 travel expenses and a table purse hook from Pokey Charms.

Coming into the event late and seeing that there were only 26 women present, I felt my chances were good to place in the top three. Once I sat in my seat and evaluated my opponents it was easy to see I underestimated the quality of play based on the size of the field.

Making up nearly half of the field was a women’s poker group out of Tulsa called “Hold’em Hotties.” These seasoned players have spent many years training and playing with Linda Johnson and Jan Fisher.
They were geared-up and ready for war. They were not only aggressive and tough, but their ability to read, steal, push and manipulate opponents gave true testament to the level of difficulty I would experience throughout the tournament. It was a good thing I read up on Joe Navarro!

Though I didn’t place, I had the honor of going out on the bubble, which ended the game and gave Karen Fisher, Denise Hughes and Mary Malan their well-deserved victories. Fisher, the fiercest competitor I faced, has more than $15K in winnings, including a 12th-place finish in this year’s WSOP ladies event.

The poker lesson I learned? Just because it’s small doesn’t mean it won’t be a challenge.

Looking forward to September there’s much anticipation about the turnout and prize pool of WinStar’s guaranteed $3 million River Series main event that wraps up Sept. 5.

Former world champ Greg Raymer and pro player Maria Ho are official faces of WinStar and will be present for the series. Tournament and cash-game numbers are expected to significantly exceed previous years and many players are still talking about last year’s prize pool worth more than $2.8 million. More than 3,700 players played in the 2010 series.

After WinStar’s River series completes, players have a three-week break from major Oklahoma series, providing time to prepare that bankroll for the highly anticipated T.J. Cloutier Choctaw Poker Classic running Sept. 29-Oct. 9.

Last year the $1,500 main event pulled 191 players and a prize pool of more than $281K. This year, players are buzzing because the renowned poker directing icon, Ken Lambert has joined the Choctaw family.

Lambert’s dedicated following alone is expected to attract a significantly larger field of players which will, in turn, fatten up those succulent prize pools.

For those who prefer to stay out of the way of heavy games and large crowds, make sure you check out Osage Million Dollar Elm in Bartlesville, Sand Springs and Tulsa.

The smaller fields, friendly service and low stakes games are just the ticket. If you want a few more options and a healthy “regulars” crowd, drive along Riverside in Tulsa to Riverspirit Casino and jump into a variety of games including limit hold’em, NLHE and Omaha.

—Crystalynn Harris is the Ante Up Ambassador for the Oklahoma-Kansas area. You can email her at crystalynn@anteupmagazine.com.