A Little Help from My Friends: Support in Poker

Image

 

The support network one has in poker is a big part of any player’s success. Every poker player, whether professional or beginner, male or female, needs to know there are people rooting for their success. One of my greatest poker regrets occurred in 2004 when Charity, my wife at the time, called me as I was about to play a satellite for a seat in the WSOP’s Main Event. Charity was playing in the Ladies’ WSOP event and called very excited. She said, “Robert, I am the chip leader and very nervous. What should I do?” Charity had only been playing for about four years, and this was a very big deal for her.

I debated whether I should play the satellite or go support her in her event. I decided she was doing so well that she did not need me, and it is a decision I have always regretted.  Satellites run all the time, but that was a milestone for Charity.  I should have been there cheering her on. She finished close to the money, but I blame myself for not giving her support when she reached out.

I have noticed that I play much better if others are there giving me words of encouragement. Some may not believe in the power of positive energy, but I believe it is a strong force. I like to say the more people railing me, the better. We see proof of this every year when ESPN televises the final table of the WSOP Main Event.  Watching the crowd cheering on their favorite players reinforces my belief that sending positive energy sure seems to work.

Jackie Wesley, a poker player and member of Facebook group “Poker Wins, Goals & Dreams,” described a recent tournament experience in which she was the only female: “I was focused on my game when all of a sudden, I felt people behind me . . . All I could think of was I really need to make some good decisions as I did not want to let them down. I realized that support at the table and off the table keeps me wanting to strive to be a better poker player. It isn’t about the money for me; it’s about the people.” 

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Poker is a social game, and one of my greatest joys is introducing new people to it. Not every player has a professional poker player as her mentor like Charity did, but everyone needs to learn poker in a supportive environment because a poker table can be a very intimidating place, especially for women.  As Donna Blevins, a poker coach and writer for BigGirlPoker.com, says: “When women learn to play poker, their biggest challenge is most often lack of confidence. . . . I learned how to set my intention and discover my confidence at the table.” This confidence learned at the table cannot help but spill into one’s life. But where does one get her start in poker?

Many learned from their family playing around the kitchen table while others got their start online. Still others prefer the experience of learning in a more formal environment. This is where poker schools come in. I was instrumental in forming a poker university at the Bicycle Casino in Los Angeles at one time, and today, Roger Rodd’s University of Poker at Commerce Casino continues that tradition. In fact, I am teaching an introductory Omaha class there January 15, 2014. Nancy Birnbaum co-founded the U.S. Women’s Poker Academy specifically to teach women the skills required to succeed at the tables.

While schools can teach beginners how to put their feet under the poker table and begin to play, that is just the first step.  To take one’s game to the next level requires study and practice, and resources like books and magazines are invaluable.  Some are geared specifically towards women like Mike Caro’s book, Poker for Women: A Course in Destroying Male Opponents at Poker…and Beyond.  MaryAnn Morrison, an advocate for gender equality in poker and founder of Woman Poker Player magazine, recognizes “that mentoring and learning from other women has produced the greatest results in morale boosting and enabling success.” Now an e-magazine, Woman Poker Player attracted 500,000 unique visitors in its first year proving that women are a growing, but often overlooked, demographic in poker.

 I read somewhere that 30% of online poker players are women, yet 95% of live tournament players are men.  We need to ask ourselves why this huge disparity exists. Maybe we are not making women feel comfortable at the table or maybe we don’t give them enough support. Whatever the reason, when we do come up with the answer, we can change the face of poker forever.

 Resources:

www.BigGirlPoker.com

www.uswomenspokeracademy.com

www.womanpokerplayer.com

Robert Turner is a legendary poker player and marketing expert.  Robert is most well-known for introducing the game of Omaha poker to Nevada in 1982 and to California in 1986.  He also created the Legends of Poker for the Bicycle Casino in 1995. He helped create Live at the Bike, the first live gaming site broadcast on the Internet in 2002.

He has spent over 30 years in casino marketing and player development and has served as an executive host at the Bicycle Casino and MGM Grand.  He is currently working with his new companies Crown Digital Games developing mobile apps and Vision Poker, a poker marketing group.

Follow Robert on Facebook at www.facebook.com/thechipburner and on Twitter @thechipburner.  Robert is available for consulting, marketing or teaching. Reach him at robertturnerpoker@gmail.com.

 

Advertisements

2013 WSOP: Year of the Woman

2013 WSOP Bracelet Winner Loni Harwood

2013 WSOP Bracelet Winner Loni Harwood

As I was reviewing the statistics for the 2013 World Series of Poker (WSOP), one in particular stood out. With 79,471 total entries, women players represented a mere 5.1% of the field. Yet, at the same time, female cashes represented 9% of the total money won. This is an encouraging fact. Female participation in the WSOP has come a long way since I began playing it in the 1980’s, but we as a poker community can do much more to increase those numbers.

To move forward we must first look to the past and honor the achievements of the pioneers that blazed the trail for today’s women in poker. No discussion would be complete without talking about Barbara Enright. To this day, Barbara Enright is still the first and only woman to make the final table of the WSOP Main Event. She accomplished this historic feat in 1995 when she placed 5th. That was just the beginning of her firsts. She was also the first woman to win three WSOP bracelets and the first woman to be inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame in 2007 along with Phil Hellmuth. Enright is still racking up those chips. To date, her total live tournament winnings exceed $1.5 million.

Though no woman has reached the final table of the Main Event since Enright, two women came close in 2012. In fact, both Gaelle Baumann, who placed 10th, and Elisabeth Hille, who came in 11th, are tied for the biggest Main Event payday awarded to a woman with $590,442 earned by each. By percentage, Baumann has the best record of any woman in the Main Event as she finished in the top .15% out of a field of 6,598 players. Only two women have lasted the longest in the Main Event twice—Annie Duke in 2000 and 2003 and Marsha Waggoner in 1993 and 1997.

This year, Loni Harwood’s spectacular run was the big story of the 2013 WSOP and was chronicled in a PokerNews article titled, “Loni Harwood Setting Records at the 2013 World Series of Poker” by Pamela Maldonado. The 23-year-old poker player from Staten Island, New York, won her first WSOP bracelet this year in the final $1,500 No Limit Hold’em event of the series. That win marked her 6th cash of the summer (accomplished by only three other players this year) and tied Cyndy Violette’s 2005 record for most final table appearances by a female in a single series.

And the records do not stop there. The $609,017 first place money she won surpassed Allyn Jeffrey Shulman’s record set in 2012 of the largest payday awarded to a woman in a Las Vegas WSOP event. With $874,698 in tournament earnings for the entire summer, Harwood has also jumped to the No. 8 spot on the all-time WSOP money list for women. That total was also the most a woman has ever earned at a single WSOP in Las Vegas.

Harwood’s three final table appearances at this year’s WSOP is an impressive accomplishment for any poker player, male or female. And the fact that the percentage of female participation is so small makes her achievement all the more stunning. Harwood has just embarked on her career and has many more final tables in her future. Some legends of the game have amassed an impressive number of WSOP final table finishes including Cyndy Violette at 12, Jennifer Harman at 11 and Marsha Waggoner at 9.

2013 marked not only the 10-year anniversary of Chris Moneymaker’s historic win in the Main Event that helped spark the poker boom, but 2003 was also the first year 10 women made final tables at the WSOP. 2012 saw 14 women final table the WSOP and that number will only continue to grow.

Female players are just as skilled as male players, but I feel one of the problems facing women is the lack of sponsorship. No matter what a player’s skill level, sponsorship money is critical in being able to compete in poker at the highest levels. When online poker went live in Nevada, I noticed the new sites were mainly reaching out to male players. I feel women make even better ambassadors for poker, and it is a mistake to overlook them. It is time for both men and women, the legends of the game and the up-and-comers, to work together to increase the number of female players so that someday in the not-to-distant future we finally have a female World Champion of Poker.

Robert Turner is a legendary poker player and marketing expert. Robert is most well-known for introducing the game of Omaha poker to Nevada in 1982 and to California in 1986. He helped create Live at the Bike, the first live gaming site broadcast on the Internet in 2002. He also created the Legends of Poker for the Bicycle Casino in 1995.
He has spent over 30 years in casino marketing and player development and has served as an executive host at the Bicycle Casino and MGM. He is currently working with his new companies Crown Digital Games developing mobile apps and Vision Poker, a poker marketing group.

Find Robert on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/thechipburner and on Twitter @thechipburner.

Contact Robert at robertturnerpoker@gmail.com for consulting, marketing or teaching.