More than ten years ago, a British player called Victoria Coren-Mitchell made poker history by becoming the first woman to win the European Poker tour, a massive achievement in such a male-dominated sport. Since then, she has gone on to win the tournament a second time in San Remo in 2014. In achieving this, Coren-Mitchell led the way for a real influx of women into the game at every level.
As well as the example being set by players like her, there are a number of theories as to why so many women have started to play in recent years, with one of the most widely considered being the rise and rise of online gaming. Research indicates that women are attracted to online casinos by slots games. Once they’ve got into the habit of playing online, then many women look for a little variety and start to dabble in the other games available, including poker and slot machines.
The number of perks available to new players makes learning to play all the more entertaining. The most common bonuses out there are free spins on popular slot machines like Gonzo’s Quest and Starburst but it’s fairly easy to find welcome bonuses on comparison websites that can help newbies get started playing poker and its many variants. It means that you can play for relatively low stakes and without the need to sit down at a table with a group of unknown people. So it’s helped many women to practice and develop their skills in private – with many of them going on to participate in live games.
On the international stage, there are a number of role models in the game including two of the highest profile names, Victoria Selbst and Kathy Liebert. Selbst was the first female poker player to reach $10 million dollars in career winnings and Liebert was the first to win a televised World Poker Event – a high profile success that’s sure to have encouraged many more women to give poker a go.
The next major breakthrough for the game will be when the first woman wins a World Poker Tour event. It nearly happened when Kelly Minkin won over $260,000, coming third in the 2015 WPT Lucky Hearts Poker Open. In 2013, Selbst came even closer with a second-place finish in the Borgata Poker Open winning $490,000. So, most observers agree that it’s only a matter of time until an outright victory for a woman, which, in turn, should bring many more women into the game.
There are even rumblings that it could be time to abandon female-only tournaments to allow women to compete on equal terms with the men. And that really would be a major victory for equality.