The Poker Stars Women’s Sunday event recently celebrated its first anniversary. For those not familiar, it’s a $55 tournament that runs at 12:30 MT, which is only open to the fairer sex. The tournament usually gets over 300 players, often awarding a first prize of around $3,000.
In many of the interviews that I’ve been a part of, my thoughts on women only tournaments is inevitably one of the first questions I am asked. It’s often a tough question to answer, as I haven’t participated in them all that often, but strongly believe that they are valuable and have a positive impact on the poker community.
I’ve been to the World Series of Poker every year since 2005, but have never had a chance to play the Women’s event there. This is even with all my male poker friends razzing me about how I couldn’t possibly pass up the value incredible value it offered. I never had any moral objection to them, the tournaments just always happened to coincide with a PLO 8 or 8 game event that I would rather enter.
In fact, the inaugural Women’s Sunday in 2011 was the first gender restricted tournament I ever played in. Sunday’s are often my only chance to play MTTs, and I happily added it into my rotation as it fit in nicely with my usual Sunday grind, and seemed to be one of the better value tournaments out there.
While I will admit that one of my motivations for playing the Women’s Sunday was the perceived soft field, I have always been impressed with how PokerStars has embraced the female poker community. In 2005, I won a WSOP seat through a double shootout on PokerStars. This would be my first trip to the WSOP, and certainly the biggest poker tournament I had ever played in.
After checking in and finally making my way back to my room with my bag-o-swag, I was giddy to crack it open to see what was inside. It turned out to contain PokerStars branded football, baseball, hockey jerseys, and other male oriented apparel. Not exactly the fashion statement that a 20-something girl wants to be making in Vegas.
Someone at PokerStars HQ must have taken notice that more women were winning seats than expected. Next year I was lucky enough to win my way back to the WSOP through PokerStars again (this time through a $650 MTT) and was pleasantly surprised to see that the welcome bag contained female swag, a robe, ladies watch, and a super cute PokerStars teddy bear (which still sits on the bookshelf in my poker office).
Over the first few weeks of playing the Women’s Sunday it became clear that my poker friends had all been very right when it came to the softness of women’s tournaments. It was very easy to tell that most of the ladies were very new or less experienced with the game. Players rarely made any tricky moves, were very easily picked on, and played incredibly tight on the bubble. Over the first 20 weeks I was able to make the final table 5 times (although I still haven’t managed to win the damn thing!).
Around the 6 month mark things started to change, the moves and plays that had been working for me so easily in the early stages were failing me now. Players that I had noted were rock tight were now starting to make moves when I was being particularly aggressive. When there was a 4 bet it was no longer AA or KK 100% of the time. It wasn’t so easy to just push the ladies around when it was bubble time.
The ladies were simply getting better. In 6 months there has been a massive evolution in the average skill in this tournament. Players have gone from rookies to being tough opponents who are now able to take stands when called for. This was all the proof I needed to be certain of the value these tournaments provided to the community.
If the poker community wants to continue to grow towards a mainstream level, we need to start by supporting the various sub communities in the game. Poker is a game where community plays a huge role, because it is a social game at its core. This was never more evident than when I played my first ever live women’s event at the PCA this last year.
In my whole poker career I have never seen a group of people so excited to be playing in a tournament. Everyone was chatting it up and seemed to be legitimately enjoying being in the moment, which is quite the rare sight for a live poker event. Poker doesn’t just have to be two guys in hoodies and sunglasses taking 5 minutes to make a decision while they try to soul read each other. It can, and should, be a social environment that provides fun and entertainment for all involved.
Do I think women need their own events because they can’t hang with the boys in the big tournaments? Absolutely not. The amount of success we’ve seen from some great female players in the last few years proves that. However, they are a great way to celebrate our community of female poker players, while providing a less intimidating entry point for those new to the game.
So ladies, come join me in the Women’s Sunday every week, as well as the new $11 Women’s Tuesday that Stars recently started running. We will show the poker community how to have a great time while improving our games at the same time. Maybe I’ll even make 2012 the first year that I play the ladies event at the WSOP!
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