On Saturday, February 2, 2008, history was made in poker, with an audience of the game's stars on hand to witness the induction of Linda Johnson, Barbara Enright, Susie Isaacs and Marsha Waggoner as the inaugural class of the Women in Poker Hall of Fame (WiPHoF). The event, held at Binion's, was attended by 180 poker professionals, family and friends.
Mike Sexton served as master of ceremonies and did an exemplary job. The first speaker, Margie Heintz, was the first woman to deal a WSOP event, and she spoke of the early female gamblers such as Poker Alice, Madame Dumont and others. Next, Dianna Donofrio, who has worked in poker for over 20 years, presented thanks and acknowledgements to women in today's poker world such as Janis Sexton, the first woman to hold a assistant tournament directors position at the 2007 WSOP, and Kathy Raymond, Cherie Dokken and Deborah Giardina, all women who can claim firsts in poker in many capacities. Finally, founder Lupe Soto acknowledged the current women professionals who are making their mark in poker, such as Kathy Liebert, Vanessa Rousseau, Mimi Tran and others.
Each inductee was prefaced by an introduction by one of the four WiPHoF board members. Barbara Enright was the first to be introduced, by Suzanne Carter, who highlighted Barbara's long and distinguished career. When Barbara took the stage, she was in a light but comic mood that set the tone of the speeches to follow. Barbara said, "I would like to thank the board for this honor, and my husband Max Shapiro for writing my speech, which I am not going to use, but I cannot start this women's event without a very special guest. This person hasn't arrived, and I do not believe we can start without this person."
In astonishment, the whole audience began looking around and whispering, "Who can this 'special' person be?" Someone in the crowd yelled out, "Who is it?"
Barbara replied, without missing a step, "Jose Canseco! He never misses a women's event! He must have opted for the ladies event today at the Commerce!" To everyone's delight she received a roar of laughter and applause.
Next, Maureen Feduniak introduced the second inductee, Susie Isaacs. Susie was kidded about her infamous temper and equally bad manner in which she loses and wins. In her past, there apparently had been monthly scoldings by her then-boss, Linda Johnson, that Susie finally took to heart and began making her poker career a more player-friendly experience. Keeping in jovial spirit, Susie took the podium and began her acceptance speech. To the amusement of the crowd Susie brought out one of her many books, this one her latest. When she announced that she would like to read something from the book, Barbara Enright replied from her seat, "The whole book?" which drew a roar of laughter from the audience.
Susie then offered a passage from her new novel, White Knights and Black Hearts, which was spoken with touching eloquence. Quoted in part, Susie read, "I know a lot of you are surprised by this. Believe me, no one is more surprised than I! Nowhere on the earth is there a more diverse and interesting group of people than in the poker world. I am honored!"
Linda Johnson was introduction by Allyn Shulman. Allyn covered the most recognizable aspects of Linda's long, illustrious career and asked her to take the stage. In all her class and grace, Linda thanked the many people who had put long and tiring hours, days and weeks into the preparation of this event. One in particular that Linda mentioned was Gyla Whitlow from Houston, Texas, who had produced the a slide show serving as the stage's background. Linda acknowledged family and friends when she mentioned that her mother, who was in attendance, was not so enthusiastic long ago when Linda told her she was quitting her job and moving to Vegas to become a professional poker player. Linda asked her mother, "So what do you think now?"
Her mother replied, "I'm very happy she did!"
Finally, Marsha Waggoner was introduced by Karina Jett. Marsha's 30-year poker career was highlighted and teasingly told by Karina that drew smiles from even Marsha's poker-pro husband Kenna James. Marsha thanked everyone for the honor of being there and spoke softly about her long career. Her passion, devotion and persistence in bringing the game to women who otherwise never would enter a poker room was very moving to everyone in the room. As her husband videotaped her acceptance, Marsha said, "I want to thank you, husband, and my daughter, and best friend Mel Judah, who just flew in from Australia to be here today to share with me in this very special honor."
Featured speaker of the event was none other than Jan Fisher. Jan is the best storyteller of all times and best friend to Linda Johnson for the past 17 years. Keeping a comic tone and making reference to the fact that she wasn't being inducted in the inaugural class, Jan kept everyone laughing throughout her roast of the four inductees. Each recipient was given a toy gift recognizing her unique qualities. Linda Johnson was given a shark shovel referencing her poker ability, Susie Isaacs a ribbon for the 'most improved attitude', Barbara Enright a toy chainsaw for her buzzsaw ability to cut through the players, and Marsha Waggoner a can of air freshener… as she was described as "the breath of fresh air in the poker room." Jan also poked fun at herself, as did Mike Sexton when he introduced her as the "eternal bag lady for Linda Johnson."
In closing, the chosen charity for the WiPHoF, Breast Cancer Angels, was highlighted by chairperson Jacqueline Britton, who thanked everyone for their generous contributions.
A $560 no-limit tournament was hosted by the organization and drew 68 players. To no one's surprise, Barbara Enright won. Double congratulations to Barbara!!