James Brown might have been right when he said that this world is (unfairly) dominated by men, but he was also right when he suggested that this “man’s world” wouldn’t be “nothing” without women.
Poker is often described as a microcosm of life and that fact manifested itself reality once again this year after the women of the game helped take the industry to new heights.
From moving in previously male dominated circles to raising the profile of the game on a national level, poker’s leading females proved once again that our humble game wouldn’t be anything without them.
So, without any further procrastination, here’s a recap of 2015’s leading women:
Always one of the top women in poker, Harman came into her own in 2015 with two main moves.
First, her continued work with various charities, such as the Nevada Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (NSPCA), proved that she’s as generous in real life as she is ruthless at the felt.
Helping to raise thousands for the charity through a variety of initiatives, including her annual poker event at Planet Hollywood, Harman’s charitable efforts would have been enough on their own to earn her a place on our annual review.
However, being a veritable legend in the game, she also had cause to celebrate in 2015 when she was indicted into the Poker Hall of Fame.
Only the second female to receive such an honor, Harman was one of the top picks during the round of public voting and was eventually nominated by her peers in a final ballot.
Following her inauguration in November, Harman dedicated the award to her mother and explained that she’d always felt “at home” at the poker table. Moreover, she was pleased that she’d help to inspire more women to take up the game of poker.
Another regular feature of any poker list focusing on women, Vanessa Selbst showed once again why she’s one of the top players in the world in 2015 by winning the Super High Roller Celebrity Shootout.
The made-for-TV tournament featured a selection of high stakes poker pros and celebrities and was featured on NBC Sports. Over the course of two-single table tournaments, Selbst was able to overcome the likes of Daniel Negreanu, Antonio Esfandiari and Doyle Brunson as well as celebrities such as Don Cheadle, Norm Macdonald and Hank Azaria to bank the top prize of $1 million.
Adding yet another chunk of change to her already bulging bankroll (she now have more than $11.5 million in live tournament earnings), Selbst pledged to use some of her haul to fund Venture Justice.
Set-up to provide funding for non-profit and charitable start-ups, Selbst’s latest venture is just another example of her already flourishing charitable portfolio.
In fact, on top of continuing her mission to fund non-profit start-ups, Selbst also hosted another charity poker event in 2015. Titled Blinds & Justice, the tournament featured a host of high profile pros, including Daniel Negreanu, and raised more than $160,000 for New York’s Urban Justice Center.
When it came to raising the profile of poker in the public’s eye, no player’s efforts were able to match Vanessa Rousso’s. Back in August it was announced that Rousso would be taking part in this year’s Big Brother.
Although she listed her profession as a DJ (something she now does alongside poker), it didn’t take long for Rousso’s poker brain to kick into gear.
Falling back on her education in game theory and experience at the felt, Rousso was able to manipulate the house dynamics in order to aid her move towards the title.
Although she eventually hit the rail in third place, Rousso’s run gave her a huge amount of exposure in the US and that, unsurprisingly, gave poker a huge amount of exposure.
Far from living up to the stereotype that most people assume poker players fall into, Rousso proved that the game’s leading players are extremely adept at critical thinking, tactics and strategy.
While Rousso may have disappointed with her third place result, the overall effect on the game as a whole should certainly be seen as a win for everyone in poker.
Maria Ho has also combined poker with TV work and those skills were recognized in September, 2015, when she was named as the host for Poker Central’s Twitch channel.
While securing a job as a host for a poker network might not normally earn someone a place in an annual review, Ho’s appointment was significant because it was part of a larger industry movement.
Over the last 12 months the poker community has gradually embraced the online streaming world and Ho’s role as presenter for Poker Central was another development in this relationship.
Although Poker Central is beamed to households across the US, the company also launched a dedicated Twitch channel which means fans can log on and watch the latest action via their desktop or mobile device.
Without realizing is, Ho has become a figurehead for the poker community and its latest innovations.
To conclude our review of 2015’s leading female poker players we couldn’t ignore Kelly Minkin. Thanks to a slew of successful runs on the live tournament scene, Minkin was able to top the GPI’s 2015 Player of the Year table when filtered by gender.
Despite flying under the radar when it comes to women in poker, Minkin enjoyed a breakout year in 2015 and managed to leapfrog the likes of Liv Boeree and Loni Harwood after securing more than 1,700 GPI ranking points.
Much of her success came courtesy of the WPT Lucky Hearts Poker Open. Finishing in third place behind Mike Dube and Brian Altman, Minkin was able to bank $262,912.
Aside from earning her a boatload of ranking points, the prize was her biggest live win to date and more than enough reason for use to include her in our countdown of leading women in poker for 2015.