One thing you immediately notice in poker rooms nowadays is the sheer number of people that are playing the game. While that may not be the shocking thing, what is surprising is the number of women that have come to our great game. What had at one time been a male dominated area is slowly being invaded by the fairer sex!
Television has capitalized on that, with the Game Show Network's "Battle Of The Sexes" and the World Poker Tour's Ladies' Night events. While these shows have presented the current female stars of poker, there is a great training ground for women who are looking to become the next great star of the game. It is the Ladies International Poker Series, or the LIPS Tour.
The LIPS Tour is showing both the camaraderie of the game and the competitive drive that the women have for it. Through both online competition and land based casinos, LIPS has been able to surge to the forefront of the women's poker movement in a very short time. I had the opportunity to speak with the energetic Lupe Soto, the Director of the LIPS Tour, to learn more about the group and what direction they are going.
PN: Lupe, how long has LIPS been in existence?
LS: This is the LIPS Tour inaugural year. We formed in the summer of 2004 and had our first tournaments last September. One was at Ocean's Eleven Casino in California and the other at the Canterbury Park Racetrack & Casino in Minnesota. Ironically, both tournaments had 204 women!
PN: How many players are there that have membership with LIPS?
LS: The LIPS Tour is not a membership based organization. Any women who plays poker can participate in any of our events. So far we have had over 1,500 women participate in our tournaments! The LIPS Tour was born out of PokerChix.com, the first online Poker Club for Women that currently enjoys over 800 members.
PN: How is LIPS trying to expand the number of women players in the game today?
LS: The LIPS Tour is a "step up" in women only events. It's a slightly higher buy in than what most women play. However, we try to create many opportunities for play at all levels. We always have satellites into the main events and also conduct freerolls online so all women can compete no matter their financial status.
PN: Satellites are a huge tool to build a great tournament. How is the LIPS Tour using the satellites to their advantage?
LS: Satellites? The LIPS Tour is one big satellite! On the tour, winners get an entry into the LIPS Grand Championship in April and to the World Series of Poker Ladies Event in June! Like any tournament, we also hold satellites before all our main events. Many ladies could not compete without winning their way into the bigger events through the satellites.
We just finished our first online satellite series for a seat into the WSOP Ladies Event. It was highly successful and ladies were able to get into the main event for as low as a $1 entry! That is the beauty of satellites!
PN: Are "women only" tournaments an effective tool to bring more female players to the game? How well do the women who compete on the Tour transfer into the coed game?
LS: Women only events are absolutely effective in bringing women to the game. Women are social in nature. We find women coming to events with their girlfriends, moms and daughters! When playing and learning together, they're often more comfortable with asking questions, making mistakes, and supporting one another when we do. In time, this transfers to more confidence in playing in open events. We have some very skilled and highly competitive women expanding into the bigger events all the time.
PN: What has been the impression of the women who play in the events, be it live or online?
LS: We get letters and email all time from players. They LOVE these events! Women have a sisterhood when playing together, even though poker is an individualistic game. You find more laughing, hugging, chatter and smiling at these events than you do at any other poker game. It's not only a fierce competition, it's a fun time too!
PN: What support do you have from the established female players in the game today?
LS: Without them, we would not be where we are today. They are our role models! Susie Isaacs, Linda Johnson, Jan Fisher, and Kathy Liebert have all played in LIPS events. They are gracious, supportive and encouraging of all the ladies in the game. Support also comes from those ladies that are in the back end of the poker world, such as tournament directors, marketing directors, poker room managers, casino hosts, and more. They all lend a hand in some way and together, LIPS has grown like wildfire!
PN: What are some of the poker rooms, both online and live, that support the LIPS Tour?
LS: We have had an enormous amount of support from both the online and land based casinos. Just to name a few, Ocean's Eleven, who is sponsoring the LIPS Tour Grand Championship in April, The Bicycle, Canterbury Park, Normandie, Hollywood Park, Hawaiian Gardens, Bay 101, The World Poker Open with Gold Strike & Binion's Horseshoe and to top it off, all the World Series of Poker Circuit stops with Harrah's (Rio, Atlantic City, Lake Tahoe, New Orleans and Rincon)!
The online casinos are also a major part of our tour because many women are home bound and do not have access to land based casinos. Gaming Club Poker is co-sponsoring our Grand Championship, Victory Poker, Aloha Poker, Poker Host, have hosted tournaments and soon Full Tilt Poker will be added!
We are adding casino partners all the time. It's fabulous how many casinos realize women as the next source for poker growth and are willing to support us in introducing women to their venues!
PN: You have spoken frequently about your affiliation with the WSOP Circuit. How much help has that been for LIPS?
LS: Affiliating with the WSOP has been amazing. These tournaments are tough, fun and a fantastic way for women to be introduced to higher stakes events. Many ladies do not yet feel they can compete in a WSOP event and the tour has given them a taste of what it can be like!
Additionally, Harrah's WSOP has displayed enormous support by including a ladies event, and by allowing LIPS to be a part of it. They understood our mission, and basically showed the world how important it is to support the growing number of women entering the game!
PN: The next stop for the LIPS Tour is at the WSOP stop in Las Vegas. How can a prospective player learn more about the event and future activities of LIPS?
LS: Actually, we have four events that same weekend! There are opportunities all over the country: the Rio in Vegas, Bay 101 in San Jose, Canterbury Park in Minnesota, and the Bicycle in Los Angeles. Our schedule is listed at LIPSTour.com and it changes very often. So make sure you're on the mailing list if you want to be updated on our events.
PN: What is the big prize for the women competing on the LIPS Tour?
LS: While the World Series in June is huge for us, the LIPS Tour Grand Championship will be on April 30th at Ocean's Eleven Casino. Not only will the winner be the LIPS Tour Champion, they will also earn their entry into the Ladies' Event at the World Series! The day before the tournament starts, there will be $30 satellites running from 1-4PM. There is no pre-registration for those events, so we encourage the ladies to come to the felt!
PN: Recently the "Battle Of The Sexes" completed on GSN. What is the distinct difference between men and women at the tables?
LS: I have often asked that question of our players. Most answer that we can be aggressive and warm at the same time. Not only can we play the mechanics of the game, but we have that instinct, "woman's intuition", that comes in handy! And, of course, Kathy proved it by winning the Battle!
PN: Finally, Lupe, what can women do to advance their game?
LS: Practice, practice, practice! Ok, study too! Read everything you can about the game and apply it. We truly believe the only reason we don't see the same number of women in the main events as we do men is sheer numbers. Traditionally, this has been a man's game. When women become more and more comfortable at the tables, in tournaments, in bigger events, we will see the shift! Until then, we champion all women with great showings at tournaments!
PN: Thank you very much for your time, Lupe!
LS: Thank you, too!
I would like to thank Lupe for taking time from her busy schedule to talk to us. For the next great woman poker player, the LIPS Tour is waiting for you! This weekend will be a huge one for the tour, with four tournaments going on, all leading up to the LIPS Tour Grand Championship on April 30th. More information on the group and its tournaments, including the Grand Championship, can be found by visiting www.lipstour.com.
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