Poker is predominantly played by men. There can be no doubt that female poker players are in the minority — at least when it comes to participation in tournaments. In fact, according to recent statistics, around 95% of professional poker players are men.
The growth of online poker has brought about a shift in player demographics, with research showing that nearly a third of new player buy-ins are female players. When it comes to online casino games, the gender balance is clearly different, which makes one wonder why traditional tournaments are still dominated by male players.
A major reason could be the intimidation factor of live settings. It’s only natural to feel intimidated when you’re playing a game in which one gender dominates — and poker is no exception. Physical presence isn’t a factor when you play poker online, which would explain the increased number of female online players, but it still doesn’t completely explain why traditional poker is predominantly played by men. So, why aren’t more women playing poker?
The History of Poker
To understand why fewer women play poker, you have to look at the origin of the game and its development over time. It’s challenging not to come across as sexist or reductive in an effort to discover the truth, but it’s worth asking the tougher questions to understand gender imbalance in this popular game.
Modern poker has been influenced by a multitude of historical factors ranging from cultural expectations and gender norms to targeted advertising and marketing campaigns. If you think about it, there’s nothing masculine or feminine about the game itself, which means these external influencers must have contributed significantly to how poker is perceived today.
A “Man’s Game”
Historically, poker and other casino table games have been regarded as so-called “men’s games” for decades. During the early days of the game, women who joined the table went against gender norms and social expectations, which ultimately left women poker players vulnerable to harassment and other forms of misogyny.
Poker’s air of exclusivity soon became a cultural standard and led to women feeling excluded from the table. Unpleasant experiences, when they occur often enough, will make any person reluctant to engage again in that experience, regardless of gender. On top of that, it certainly didn’t help that poker adverts always targeted male players.
Some Women Weren’t Deterred
To their credit, these challenges did not deter all female players. You were unlikely to see a woman playing poker back in the 19th century, but that doesn’t mean that there weren’t any female poker players. Perhaps the most notable women in the gambling industry during this period were Carlotta “Lottie Deno” Thompkins and Alice Ivers Duffield Tubbs Huckert — “Poker Alice.”
Despite having to deal with unpleasant situations, these women paved the way for modern pro female poker players such as Vanessa Selbst, Kathy Liebert, and Annie Duke, who have had extremely successful careers. These women have put one of the biggest misconceptions about poker professionals to bed: That they had to be men to succeed in the poker industry.
One thing all these top women of poker have in common is that they have been very outspoken about the gender bias of the game and have refused to let sexism prevent them from pursuing their goals. Their participation in the game has brought everyone back to basics: Poker is just a bunch of people playing a game together and gender has nothing to do with gameplay.
There’s no excuse for treating female poker players differently. Any player who wants to become a professional should be treated fairly, and that could be the reason why online poker has more than five times as many female players compared to its in-person counterpart.
The Future of Women in Poker
Professional female poker players face an uphill battle if they want to make a name for themselves. Of course, this is true for everyone, including men, but it’s specifically the case for women. Competitive tournaments aren’t for the fainthearted, and it takes a certain type of person to perform well in such a high-risk environment — particularly if you’re a woman.
That said, female players are highly visible in a live setting due to their minority status, which probably explains why the anonymity of online poker is so appealing: You don’t have to worry about what you’re wearing or watch your body language, and no one will know your gender unless you decide to tell them.
If you want to become a pro online poker player, the only thing that matters is how well you play. Distractions are minimal, and your opponents don’t know who you are. It’s a liberating prospect for any player who has had to deal with discrimination before.
With the growth of online poker and the increasing number of women playing the game, the future of women in poker looks bright.
Join Borgata Online and Test Your Skills at the Table
Of course, playing an online game of poker isn’t the same as playing at a real table, but the addition of a live dealer has greatly added to the authenticity of the experience. To find out if you have what it takes for the big league, register with Borgata Online to play all the latest variety games, and other popular casino games.