Upstart Advocacy Group Addresses Gender Disparities in Poker

Startup Advocacy Group Addresses Gender Disparities in Poker

June 12th, 2018 by Jon Sofen

It’s no secret poker is dominated by men in terms of quantity, but not necessarily in skill. At most poker tables around the world, especially at the WSOP, most players are male. The Poker League of Nations (PLON), a women’s poker advocacy organization, strives to narrow the gender gap on the felt.

Heidi May Lena Evans

Heidi May (left) and Lena Evans (right) are proud supporters of the women’s advocacy group Poker League of Nations, an organization Evans cofounded. (Image: CardsChat News)

PLON, founded in 2017, has ambassadors across the globe, including some of the most talented women in the game such as Kristen Bicknell, the 2017 GPI Female Player of the Year, Kitty Kuo who recently finished 2nd in the WPT Bobby Baldwin Classic, and Heidi May, a WSOP bracelet winner.

The women’s organization is hosting a “Ladies Week” event at South Point Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, just days before the popular $1,000 buy-in WSOP Ladies Event which was won by one of its ambassadors, Heidi May, in 2017.

Ladies Week is highlighted by a $130 buy-in satellite into the WSOP Ladies Event on June 26 and a $300 buy-in ($1,000 for men) Helix Diamond Bracelet tournament with a $20,000 guaranteed prize pool on June 27. Other activities include a Helix Poker University training session with pro Jamie Kerstetter and a WSOP Ladies Week welcome party on June 26.

PLON is also hosting satellites on June 24 and 25 and two winners will receive an entry into the 2018 WSOP Main Event. Eight seats are still open for the June 25 session.

Women in Poker by the Numbers

If you’ve walked through the Rio convention center during the 2018 WSOP, you may have noticed a lack of women in attendance.

At the 2017 World Series of Poker, there were 120,995 total participants throughout the summer, but only 6,516 were female, which calculates to 5.3 percent.

Even more troubling for the future of the game, females represented only 1.6 percent of the youngest demographic, ages 21-25. The average age of men at the 2017 WSOP was 41.26 and 44.28 for women, a clear indication that younger men are more interested in poker than younger women.

Kristen Bicknell WPT

Poker League of Nations ambassador Kristen Bicknell poses with models after winning a WPT cash game at the Esports Arena at Luxor in Las Vegas in May 2018. (Image:

Although the above stats show a disappointing trend in poker, that trend can easily be reversed. Enter, the Poker League of Nations. Lena Evans, the organization’s co-founder, acknowledged that “girls, in general, are simply not taught to play cards by their fathers or brothers,” and that young women acquiring the proper bankroll “remains a huge hurdle,” but feels she has a solution to this problem.

“Satellites obviously can help women bear the cost of entry,” the Vietnamese poker player suggests. “We need to create more opportunities for women to start learning and playing. This is another reason I created Helix Poker University, to not only create an additional revenue stream for poker pros, but to also help educate players – particularly women,” Evans told CardsChat.

May knows a thing or two about earning a living at the poker table. She won the 2017 WSOP Ladies Event and has over $320,000 in online poker earnings. The bracelet winner who hails from Australia addressed another issue that may be turning some women off the game.

“There is a big problem in poker that definitely discourages women from playing the game, and that’s the way men behave towards us at the tables,” she told CardsChat.

May said her mother “absolutely loves poker,” but “almost every time” she goes to the casino to play, she gets sexually harassed and “no one ever speaks up.”

“I think it’s time to start implementing harsh penalties for this kind of behavior,” May said. “When women know they’re coming to play in a safe and friendly environment, I think they’ll be more inclined to give poker a go.”

Ladies First Design

Ana Marquez, PLON’s Spain ambassador, has more than $1.1 million in lifetime live tournament winnings, and she believes a great way to attract more women to the game is for the poker community to “cater towards women.” By that, she means more ladies events “that offer packages into mixed tournaments.”

“Anything that promotes the idea that female players are welcome to the community,” Marquez said.

Kristen Bicknell, the reigning GPI Female Player of the Year and a Partypoker ambassador, says a woman winning the WSOP Main Event would “absolutely draw more women to poker.”

“I’m a strong believer that women having great success in poker will help pave the path for others and show that it is possible to compete and win at high levels,” she said.

If a woman wins the Main Event someday, who knows, maybe Bicknell will be right that it will create a second poker boom.

12 Responses to “Startup Advocacy Group Addresses Gender Disparities in Poker”

  1. HelixPoker says:

    THANK YOU, Jon Sofen and CardsChat News for shining a light on Poker League of Nations and women’s poker! Wonderful piece with quotes from Poker League of Nations Ambassadors Kristen Bicknell, Heidi May, Lena Evans, and Ana Marquez.

  2. ammje says:

    Good for women, there are women who play very well, for some reason men think that women do not play well, but I have seen some women in the cardschat freerolls, and they play very well.

  3. Thomas Woodard says:

    Thank you all at PLON for the much needed effort to bring more women into the poker community! By becoming more women oriented, and highlighting the needs of that community, you will create much good will and participation, for the good of everyone. Kudos!

  4. 22meandu says:

    Rampant sexism . No different to coloured only tournaments . Love to know what is meant by sexually harassed . Played lots of casino poker and have never seen this. Gay rights movement will be the next line for special treatment and i can imagine sexual harassment issues will be at the forefront . Bring on the transgender only poker tournaments . Wata Joke .

    • Smokewood says:

      I completely agree with you 22meandu.
      If girls want to sit and play they can pull up a chair. I know a lot of really good female players, however the fact is that they just aren’t as interested in the game as males, generally speaking. Girls don’t want to waste their time sitting in a poker room for hours on end, it just doesn’t appeal to them, again – generally speaking.

    • Angela says:

      I’ve experienced plenty of sexual harassment at tables. My experience included being asked sexual personal questions and on one occasion being handed a phone displaying porn photos. I think that’s unacceptable. It hasn’t put me off because I love the game and I’m capable of telling people to F* off. However I shouldn’t have to be put in the position and I can certainly understand why this would put other women off playing. I guess it’s hard for a man to understand what it is like to play in a game that is 99% dominated by the opposite sex of which some are pure assholes.

  5. madmaj says:

    At nearly 70 years of age I am fed up with men asking why they have Ladies only tourneys. I don’t think it is sexism as to why but the table bully boys that put women of playing. I played in a live tourney with a very high buy in a few years ago(which I had won by playing sats) and the sneaky tactics which went unnoticed by the dealer who then verbally picked on me. But his tactics completely put me of my game. I vowed that day that NO MALE would ever do that to me again and now if I encounter a bully I stare them down and usually go all in which puts the boot on the other foot. I love this game but you have to be very focused and put your hard skin on when playing in the big tourneys. Love my local poker the guys are great.

    • Smokewood says:

      Do have any specific examples? I call BS on this. A good female player will be just as aggressive as a good male player. Raising your bet every time because you showed a pattern of always folding isn’t picking on you, it’s just smart play.

  6. whiskers77 says:

    I think, it is nice, that they do such special events for the ladies. I dunno, why many men complain about this. I also would not complain, if there were men only events. It is like in sauna, you can have separated days or mixed days.
    I never played live so far in a casino. I dunno how I would react, when someone acted with sexism towards me. I guess either pretty harsh or I would try to ask for the manager to show this guy the door.

  7. ZenGreen says:

    Not much to other than more woman need to get interested in a game thats going to take up all your time, make soical life hard, keep you stucki in front of your pc or at a cardroom and not to mention the hours of study she will need to put in and then realize earning a few hundred extra a month TAKES A LOT OF FUCKING TIME. Maybe woman are smarter than men

  8. icnbe56 says:

    My thoughts as soon as I first glanced at this is why does a women poker player have to pose with scantily clad women models , they should have some scantily clad men ( good physically ) for the women winners of the tournament !
    As for how the men treat women at the tables – the women have to learn to stand up for themselves. I grew up in a neighborhood full of boys and to get along with them – I learned to not take any crap from them . In other words give back what you get.
    Also , girls growing up now should be taught the same – don’t take any sexist crap , and let them know it. After saying something back to them , just say something like ” it is obvious you have not been taught manners”or “I like to treat others as they treat me ” , just let them know – you are not backing down.
    Then proceed to beat them at the game and enjoy !
    You go girls !

  9. XYZ2123 says:

    Gender has no bearing on poker skill and its a real shame that such gender disparities exist in the poker community. Poker has been such a boys club for so long that it will be difficult to change. Any efforts that aim to increase the number of women playing the game are worth supporting.

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