Women Who Grabbed the Poker Universe in 2014

December 28th, 2014 | by Kaycee James
Vanessa Selbst women poker

Vanessa Selbst is once again dominating this year’s female class of poker stars. (Image: highstakesdb.com)

Women’s poker is a key demographic that most industry insiders would like to see grow at a faster rate than it currently is. Historically a man’s game, but the participation of women in poker has risen over the past few years.

In 2014 however, the trend seemed to stall, a notion that is troubling for the continued development of Internet poker and the card game as a whole.

Online rooms severely struggled to stay profitable and active in the three U.S. states with enacted legislation. The main issue remains declining player pools and empty tables.

One obvious solution to reversing this regression is to tap into the largest non-engaged class of people: women.

With so much potential benefit from attracting females to tables, this year had both positives and negatives in achieving that goal. Here’s what changed, what didn’t, and what to expect over the next 12 months.

What Changed: Big Names Bust

Poker’s leading ladies struggled to win big in 2014, with the exception being Vanessa Selbst and Victoria Coren Mitchell, who are 24th and 126th respectively on the yearly money list. Vanessa has raked in $2,309,566 and Victoria has pulled in $716,808, the only women listed in the top 200.

Other top female pros had less than stellar years. Below are a few notable top 10 all-time earners and their 2014 totals through November:
– Kathy Liebert: $70,125
– Annette Obrestad: $8,614
– Vanessa Rousso: $1,734
– Joanne Liu: $266,482
– Jennifer Harman: $9,944
– Liv Boeree: $212,905

What Didn’t: Women Keep Winning

Though having a female pro at one of the game’s final marquee tables would greatly aid in bringing new ladies to poker, overall girl power is strong, as more than 300 have now banked over $100,000 during their careers. This large group of strong female poker players makes it all the more likely that one (or several) could find themselves at a predominant championship table in 2015.

The rise in poker popularity among women might come as a surprise considering just once has a lady reached the World Series of Poker’s Main Event finale. Barbara Enright accomplished the rare feat in 1995, placing 5th. Another heroic run would be monumental to appealing to new faces.

What Didn’t: Sex Still Sells

Vanessa Rousso poker

Once one of the most promising female poker players, Vanessa Rousso has struggled as of late. (Image: worldpokertour.com)

Poker is naturally a sexy game. The risk, large stakes, and the mental fortitude that a winner possesses gives them a certain aura. However, poker is overwhelming male, something card rooms have hoped to change. The two giants, PokerStars and 888poker, know sex sells, which is why several of their sponsorship deals are as much about the beauty of the player as their actual game skills.

While Vanessa Rousso is 5th all-time in female earnings, the blonde stunner has largely disappeared from the game. Since 2012, Lady Maverick’s cashed just five times for a total of $44,282, with $25,000 of that coming at the 2013 NBC Heads-Up No Limit Hold’em championship.

888poker hired Sofia Lövgren as an ambassador even though she’s 188th on the career female money list. This year she’s cashed a total of $31,773, a far cry from the earnings a pro would typically need to receive a big-name sponsorship. Tiffany “Last Woman Standing” Michelle, who became a sensation for her 2008 17th place WSOP finish, is now focusing her time on other endeavors such as television and acting.

What Changed: Female Exclusives

PokerStars Women is a gender-specific marketing effort in the way of exclusive live events, weekly tournaments, quick games, social features, and even strategy tutorials. It provides curious players with a safe forum to enter and get accustomed to playing online.

While some argue segregation is a bad thing for poker as the game isn’t physical but one of mental strength and skill, most leading ladies feel otherwise. “At least from the stories I’ve heard women tell me, there are definitely a lot of women that came into the game strictly because of women’s tournaments,” Vanessa Selbst said this year. “So, I just think they’re a great idea.”

What to Expect

Female poker is alive and well. Hundred’s of women have career totals surpassing $100,000, and it is only a matter of time before one ends up not just becoming the face of women’s poker, but mainstream poker as well. That’s a bet many would be willing to make. As additional states around the country continue to welcome Internet gambling to their regions, poker will only continue to grow

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