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Top Ten Stories of 2010: #8, The Year of the Woman

Vanessa Selbst

If you’ve ever set foot in a card room, then you know first hand that women are heavily underrepresented in the poker world. Usually about five or six percent of tournament fields are female players; therefore, when a woman goes deep in an event, especially a major, it’s a big deal. For example, ESPN’s broadcast of the World Series Main Event, focuses intently on the last woman standing every year. In the past few years, both Tiffany Michelle (2008) and Maria Ho (2007) were recipients of this coverage and have parlayed their fame into an appearance on CBS’ Amazing Race and deals with UB. More exposure for women in poker leads to better endorsement deals with online sites because higher visibility translates to higher marketability.

This year, because a plethora of women had considerable success on the felt and increased their exposure tenfold, 2010 will be forever known as the Year of the Woman in poker.

Don’t believe us? Just look at some of the results:

Annie DukeNBC Heads-Up Championship1st$500,000
Vanessa SelbstNAPT Mohegan Sun Main Event1st$750,000
 Partouche Poker Tour Main Event1st$1,823,430
 EPT London High Roller4th$226,910
Vanessa RoussoWSOP Heads-Up Championship8th$94,956
 WPT Doyle Brunson Five Diamond World Poker Classic3rd$358,964
Liv BoereeEPT San Remo Main Event1st$1,698,300
Annette ObrestadEPT London Heads-Up1st$187,788
Young-Shin ImAPPT Cebu Main Event1st$134,142

It all began in March when Celebrity Apprentice runner-up Annie Duke won the NBC Heads-Up Championship. Duke successfully navigated her way through the 64-player bracket tournament, defeating Erik Seidel 2-1 in the final match to become the first woman to win the event. Despite the victory, Duke was upset about the state of women in poker saying, “One of the disappointments for me that with this huge boom, the percentage [of women] hasn’t changed in tournament poker.”
The very next month Vanessa Selbst and Liv Boeree kept the ball rolling by shipping the NAPT Mohegan Sun Main Event and EPT San Remo Main Event respectively. These two very impressive victories sent the poker world ablaze and fortified the “Year of the Women” movement, which peaked right before the World Series of Poker.

The movement hit a speed bump in June, however, when at the WSOP no woman won a bracelet outside of the Ladies Event, which was mess in itself. In recent years, men have made it a point to play in the Ladies Event – because they can – and because the constitution prohibits open functions like poker tournaments from excluding players based upon race or gender, but this year some of the bickering became very nasty. The highly anticipated WSOP rookie Annette Obrestad didn’t help matters either when she told ESPN that playing in ladies events is “Easy money…I’ve always said that girls suck at poker.”

Instead of stepping in and grabbing the torch for female players, Obrestad did her best to spike the torch on the ground and stamp it out. Ironically she is one of the women who had a decent series, cashing four times for over $40,000.

After a bracelet-less WSOP and a quiet August, the Year of the Woman talk dropped to a whisper in the poker world. Skeptics of the movement were pleased to see that their predictions came to fruition, including Daniel Negreanu who bet the under on .5 bracelets for women at the Series. He also laid 9-1 odds that no woman would make the Main Event final table and won that bet, as well.

The tide turned in September, however, when Selbst final-tabled the Partouche Poker Tour Main Event – eventually winning it when it reconvened in November – and finished fourth in the EPT London High Roller. Selbst wasn’t the only woman to win at EPT London either, Obrestad, whether she carries the torch or not, took down the heads-up event.

The movement continued east into Asia where, in November, Korean Young-Shin Im won the APPT Cebu Main Event. It was Im’s fourth final table in two years and her victory marked the third continent on which a woman won a major tournament in 2010. Most importantly, she outlasted her boyfriend Kim Gap Young, who finished in third place, and took home $47,215.

The year ended on a high note in December as Vanessa Rousso finished third in the WPT Doyle Brunson Five Diamond World Poker Classic. The field was tough and the final table was stacked with pros including John Racener, Kirk Morrison, Andrew Robl, Ted Lawson and eventual winner Antonio Esfandiari. The final table will be airing sometime in 2011, providing more exposure for women in poker.

The importance and potential impact of the Year of the Women cannot be overstated. This past year, millions of dollars were won by a handful of women who proved that gender is an afterthought when it comes to skill and ability. Vanessa Selbst’s results are especially important because they aren’t just impressive within the female ranks – they rival most top-notch males.

There is a visible lack of female poker players in the world and if ever there were a time for female boom it would be now. Who knows when, if ever, a catalyst like the 2010 Year of the Women will ever return.

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