"This is a man's world," declared James Brown in his infamous hit song, and in many ways, there isn't a truer statement about poker. Though women still only make up only about 2% of any given live tournament field, our numbers are growing, especially in cash games and even more so online. A look at the top ten female live tournament earners reveals that this list is still dominated by that first generation of great women players, but that many of poker's newer faces are hot on their heels, like Annette Obrestad (#2) and the trio of Vicky Coren (#11), Vanessa Rousso (#12), and Anna Wroblewski (#13), who all come in just outside the top ten.
10. Cyndy Violette ($1,262,309)
Cyndy Violette has spent the better part of the last two years focusing on the West coast's cash-game action but still lands on this list at #10 after a long, decorated career. She won her first WSOP bracelet in the 2004 $1,000 Seven-Card Stud Hi/Lo event and has made 27 World Series cashes, 11 of them final-table finishes. She's also a familiar face to fans of televised poker, with her runner-up finish to Erik Seidel in the $2,000 No-Limit Hold'em event at the 2007 WSOP immortalized on ESPN in addition to her appearances on "Poker After Dark," "The Poker Superstars Invitational," and GSN's "Poker Royale." Violette is a Full Tilt Poker pro, practices meditation, eats healthier food than you or I could ever stomach, and can often be found terrorizing the $100-$200 stud games at L.A.'s Commerce Casino.
9. Lucy Rokach ($1,285,417)
Lucy Rokach is the epitome of consistency in tournament poker. Remarkably, she lands on this list without even having made a six-figure tournament score. Rather, she's made a steady living in poker over the last fifteen years, playing primarily in lower buy-in events. In only sporadic appearances at the WSOP she's cashed six times including two final tables. These days she sticks primarily to festival events in her native Britain.
8. Barbara Enright ($1,309,080)
Barbara Enright still holds the distinction of making the deepest run by any woman at the Las Vegas WSOP Main Event with her fifth-place finish in 1995. Enright has been playing poker longer than most online wunderkinds have been alive and is the proud owner of three WSOP bracelets, two earned in ladies seven-card stud events and the third in the 1996 $2,500 Pot-Limit Hold'em event. Based out of L.A., Enright most recently won the ladies event at the WSOP-Circuit stop at Caesar's Palace for over $15,000.
7. Mimi Tran ($1,460,342)
Though Mimi Tran is closing in on $1.5 million in earnings on the tournament circuit, she has amassed untold millions playing high-stakes cash games. Mentored by Barry Greenstein, Tran has made 18 WSOP cashes including four final-table finishes in seven-card stud and limit hold'em. She's also done extremely well on the World Poker Tour with four cashes and a third-place finish at the 2006 World Poker Finals at Foxwoods, for which she banked $472,228. Like Violette, Tran is focusing more on cash games these days, but in 2009 already made three in-the-money finishes in preliminary events at the L.A. Poker Classic.
6. Clonie Gowen ($1,639,064)
Clonie Gowen's lawsuit against Full Tilt Poker has been making more headlines as of late than her poker play, but Gowen is coming off the best year she's ever had as a poker player. In 2008, Gowen earned close to a million dollars from tournament play including a first-place finish in the $5,000 No-Limit Hold'em event at the Bellagio Cup, another win in the $5,000 No-Limit Hold'em Championship Event at the 2008 World Poker Open in Tunica, four WSOP cashes, and her third win on NBC's "Poker After Dark." She also made deep runs in the $15,000 WPT Doyle Brunson Five Diamond Classic at Bellagio, finishing 10th, and at the main event of the 2009 Aussie Millions, where she finished 32nd.
5. Joanne "J.J." Liu ($1,965,047)
In March 2007, while five months pregnant, J.J. Liu made the highest finish in an open WPT event when she came in second to Ted Forrest at the Bay 101 Shooting Stars, earning $600,000. There really is no tournament too big or too small for Liu, who plays everything from $15,000 buy-in WPT events in Las Vegas to $300 ladies events in Southern California. Always dressed to the nines at the table (and often wearing a hat that contains feathers, sequins, or both) Liu's most recent major victory came with her win at the $2,400 main event of the Venetian's Deep Stack Extravaganza VI, for which she banked over $167,000.
4. Jennifer Harman ($2,216,287)
Jennifer Harman will be the first person to tell you that she's not really a tournament player. Rather, the diminutive mother of twins prefers the high-stakes limit cash games where she's earned millions over the last decade-plus. With the encouragement of her best friend, Daniel Negreanu, however, Harman started playing more tournaments in the wake of the poker boom and racked up the results, with a fourth-place finish at the $15,000 WPT Five-Diamond Classic in 2006, a runner-up finish in the £2,500 H.O.R.S.E. event at the 2007 WSOP-Europe, and a 3rd place finish at the 2008 WPT Bay 101 Shooting Stars. Harman has 22 cashes at the WSOP and has won two bracelets in open events, earning her first in the $5,000 No-Limit Deuce-to-Seven Draw event in 2000 (a game she had never played before that afternoon) and her second in the 2002 $5,000 Limit Hold'em event.
3. Annette Obrestad ($2,635,212)
Now 20 years old, Annette Obrestad burst onto the world stage when she won the 2007 WSOP-Europe Main Event at age 18, becoming the first woman to win a WSOP Main Event and the WSOP's youngest-ever bracelet winner. About six weeks later, she played in the EPT Dublin and added another $429,000 to the till with her runner-up finish, proving that the online sensation was no flash in the pan when it came to live tournaments. Most recently, Obrestad made a deep run in the 2009 Aussie Millions main Event, finishing 21st.
2. Annie Duke ($3,630,164)
If this were a list of the most famous female poker players, Annie Duke would top that list handily, with a list of television appearances that would out-do half the clients at the William Morris Agency. Duke has successfully and lucratively parlayed her poker successes into mainstream media recognition and is even due to take a seat in Donald Trump's boardroom on the next season of "The Celebrity Apprentice." Before Hollywood came calling, though, Duke ground it out for years as a successful tournament player, making 35 WSOP cashes, 13 final tables, and winning her first bracelet in the 2004 $2,000 Omaha Hi/Lo event. Duke is also an extraordinarily well-rounded tournament player, excelling in limit mixed games while most of the poker world remains fixated on no-limit hold'em. In the last three years at the WSOP, Duke has made three final tables—in stud hi/lo, limit hold'em and the inaugural Omaha hi/lo-stud hi/lo mixed event.
1. Kathy Liebert ($4,970,289)
While many of these women are playing a more limited tournament schedule or focusing more on cash games in recent years, Kathy Liebert has continued to travel the circuit full-time and has pulled away from the pack in terms of tournament earnings. In the last year alone she's made five WSOP cashes, finished third in the $10,000 WSOP World Championship Pot-Limit Hold'em event, notched another third-place finish at the WPT North American Poker Championship, and made a deep run at the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure and the WSOP-Circuit stop in Tunica. Liebert is also the owner of a WSOP bracelet, earned in the 2004 $1,500 Limit Hold'em shootout. She's a mere $30,000 away from becoming the first and only woman ever to win more than $5 million in tournament poker.