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World Poker Tour (WPT) has been changing a lot. The organization that hosts it has been a staunch supporter of the game worldwide. It has helped poker gain recognition and the company has been actively pursuing a course whereby the game may become more popular and ultimately more accessible. Now, it’s focusing on female players.

The Women’s Poker Summit Begins

World Poker Tour (WPT) held its first Women’s Poker Summit at the Bicycle Casino in California, last Sunday. The event had quite a bit on the agenda, but the main concern was how to address female participation in poker events. More specifically, how to attract a higher percentage of women who love to play.

It’s not as if the industry doesn’t know its fair share of famous female poker players. They are hardly noteworthy by merit of their gender alone, though. Maria Konnikova, Liv Boeree, Vanessa Selbst, Kathy Liebert, Annie Duke are all awesome role models who have done and contributed a lot to the game.

The summit focused on one particular issue at hand – the game is still not as widely accessible to women as it is to men. Not to mention that certain male players tend to regard female players as just that – “female poker players.” Maria Konnikova has even said that on one occasion, she was propositioned at a tournament.

One of the legends of poker, Linda Johnson, had difficulty adjusting as a player because men were mistreating her, particularly by blowing smoke in her face and making other snide remarks. Still, Johnson has made it to the Poker Hall of Fame and the Women in Poker Hall of Fame and is recognized for her contributions to the game.

WSOP Has a Long Way to Go

Maria Konnikova during a game.

Even though WSOP has been around for 40 years now, female participation is still at dreadfully low levels. The female players represented 1% of the pool when WSOP was founded whereas they tend to be only 4% now, which is still a rather negligible percent, although some sources claim an increasing participation. Given how many attend actual events, this begs the question – why are women not participating after all? Some argue that women are less prone to risking money.

However, not all is as bleak as these numbers may suggest. WPT has 60% female participation in its executive affairs. Speaking at the summit, WPT Vice President of Global Tour Management Angelica Hael pointed that by rule of thumb, women are generally more conservative when it comes to playing with money and this may in turn be one of the reasons why female players avoid participating as actively.

Not everyone is Konnikova either. She had the pleasure to learn from the best in the game and was adopted as an equal player, because her skill was recognized and appreciated on the spot.

However, the key to Konnikova’s success, for example, has nothing to do with her gender, although she cleverly notes that male players have been losing to her because they would have a hard time accepting that they are being bluffed by a woman.

Still, skill and achievements alone have won female players recognition. In order for poker to attract more female players, though, efforts will be needed.