Why Don’t More Women Play Poker?

A woman looks at her hole cards.

Why is poker 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. 

That said, 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 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’re playing online poker, which would explain the increased number of female online players, but it still doesn’t explain why traditional poker is predominantly played by men. 

The history of poker

A poker player looks at their hole cards and sees two jacks.

To understand why fewer women than men play poker, we 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 our effort to discover the truth,  but it’s worth asking the tougher questions if we want 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.

Looking back at history, poker has been regarded as a so-called “man’s game” 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 misogynistic prejudice. 

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.

To their credit, these challenges did not deter all female players. Despite having to deal with unpleasant situations, many pro female poker players such as Vanessa Selbst, Kathy Liebert and Annie Duke have had extremely successful careers.  

One thing all these top female poker players 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.  

That said, there’s still 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

A woman playing poker at a casino reveals her hand of two aces.

Professional women 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 is 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. The absence of face-to-face interaction is likely the reason for the drastic difference between the ratio of men to women in online and live games. 

Join Borgata Online and test your skills at the table

Of course, playing a game of online 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 and most popular casino games.