Women and the World Series of Poker


So far, no woman has won the main event at the World Series of Poker, the no-limit Texas Hold 'em tournament, but like many landmarks, this one may fall soon as well. Only one woman has even made it to the final table so far, but that number too will increase as the popularity of the tournament increases.


There have been some rather famous names in the tournament, including Jennifer Tilly and Shannon Elizabeth. Both actresses have surprised many by holding strongly against some major players in what has been a predominately male event. In fact, the pair are among more than 600 women who entered the Texas Hold 'em tournament in 2005.


Jennifer Harman of Las Vegas is perhaps the most feared and respected of this new field of female players. Jennifer finished second in a World Series of Poker circuit championship event. Of the more than estimated 6,600 players competing for the first prize, she is the woman to watch.


In addition to Harmon, there is Annie Duke. She beat out her older brother to win $2 million in the Tournament of Champions. No less than eight legends of poker fell to her skills. Kathy Liebert is another player to watch. Her skills of deception at the table won her $1 million in a recent tournament.


Until recently, the concept of women in the tournament was a novelty, but with the advent of online poker and online poker tournaments, that is quickly becoming ancient history. Many of the recent phenoms of the circuit have actually learned the game of poker on the Internet in online gaming sites. Women now have the advantage of avoiding the decidedly male dominated poker clubs altogether by joining online games. It is even possible to qualify for the World Series of Poker online, and some sites even sponsor players, putting up the buy-in costs for their players.


In 2004, Susanne Carpenter finished 21st in the field of about 2,600 players who entered. She helped make up the 5 percent of the women in the tournament. Each year that number rises as the number of overall entrants rises. This means that, although women are taking a larger role in the games, winning is still a longshot.


Among the major contenders are two faces that film fans are sure to recognize. Shannon Elizabeth titillated males everywhere as Nadia, the foreign exchange student in the American Pie films, but she's become a shark at the poker table. While she hasn't exactly made it to the final table, she's managed to make a name at the tournament, and has made some money in the process. Originally, she did not enjoy the game. Growing up playing five card draw, she couldn't get the attraction of having a limited hand, but once she got into it, she loved it.


Jennifer Tilly has played many roles during her career as an actress, but right now, her true love seems to be poker. Tilly won a bracelet at the 2005 World Series, taking the World Series' Ladies World Poker Championship title and $158,625.


The field of women poker players is expanding rapidly, with much thanks to the online poker industry and the many sites that support women players, both psychologically and monetarily. The anonymity afforded players online has helped many women players overcome the ‘good ‘ol boy’ network and the stigma of being a woman at a table full of men. The old days of getting harassed at the table are gone and a new era of women players has begun. It may not be too long before a woman is seen pulling in that last hand at the World Series of Poker.


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