International Women’s Day – Poker Dynamics

As it’s International Women’s day I thought I’d discuss (as an ignorant man) how having a woman on the Poker Table can affect the table dynamic.

Let’s get this out of the way.  Men can be arseholes.  Women can also be arseholes.  Now that’s cleared up, hopefully I can get through this post without appearing to take sides.

I think its fair to say that Poker is a male dominated past-time.  Whether that is online or live,  the vast majority of poker population is testosterone driven with men playing for bragging rights.  After all that’s the only reason I started playing in the first place – to prove to a mate I could do just as well as he was doing online.

But as we all know too well, it’s that same competitive desire that can be a mans downfall as soon as a woman sits at a table.

Some men still haven’t woken up to the 21st century (or even the 20th century it appears)  believing that women are out of place on a Poker Table.  I saw this in Vegas a couple of times on cash tables.  Nothing outrageous or news worthy, but a viable tension that some players gave off when free seats were taken by women.  The whole atmosphere would change.  You could see it was no longer about bragging rights between guys, as men became boys and the game became all about not losing to a girl.

Passive players suddenly became aggressive in pots.  Nitty players started bluffing more spots.  All the while (more often than not) with the woman’s stack increasing at the expense of what appeared to be chauvinistic men who were just getting more and more frustrated.

I personally didn’t take this line in Vegas, but perhaps what I ended up doing was just as wrong.  There was one occasion a pretty girl sat down opposite me on the table who appeared to not know poker that well.  I actively made a decision not to get out of line in pots with her.  To be perfectly honest I hadn’t played against a woman live before and I wasn’t entirely sure how to read her so decided to take uber passive lines.  Turns out she had more of a clue than she initially led on, winning several big pots before thanking the table and leaving.  By contrast I ended up losing several big pots before thanking the table and ordering a drink.

Who knows why I played like that.  I guess I just thought I’d feel guilty if I took all her money if she didn’t know what she was doing.  Issue is I’d never think this if it was a man in her place.  I now know that was wrong.

That was 4 years ago.  I’ve since played a lot more on the live scene that I’m confident that I’ve grown up enough not to let a woman at the table alter my play.  There was a case in Marbella where one women was clearly (and i mean clearly) showcasing her cleavage to try and distract men on the table.  Others at the table were clearly affected.  I was able to just play my normal game and ended up with a decent profit at the end of the night, but I needed that learning experience in Vegas to pave the way.

First impressions do count for a lot on a live Poker Table; whether it’s someone asking what a straddle is or someone limping when meaning to raise.  There are many things which can alter the way we play.  Women (like men) will use anything at their disposal on a Poker Table to gain an advantage, so it’s clear in my mind that gender should be irrelevant.

What I’d be interested in hearing is whether women poker players agree with what I’ve said above and if there is a further dynamic when you are in a hand against another woman.

Women’s Poker events are increasing year on year however representation in WSOP events is still only roughly 4%.  While there is a long way to go in promoting Poker as a game for women, the increase in female winners in WSOP Bracelet events over the last few years is indicative that we are heading in the right direction.

I guess the real spark for a revolution in Poker will be when a woman wins the WSOP Main Event.  We’ll see if 2017 can be the year.





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