Startup Advocacy Group Addresses Gender Disparities in Poker

It’s no secret poker is dominated by men in terms of quantity, but not always in skill. At most poker tables around the world, particularly at the WSOP, most players are male.  The Poker League of Nations (PLON), a women’s poker advocacy organization, strives to narrow the gender gap on the felt.

Heidi May Lena Evans

Heidi May (left) and Lena Evans (right) are proud supporters of the women’s advocacy group Poker League of Nations, an organization Evans cofounded. (Picture: CardsChat News)

PLON, based in 2017, has ambassadors across the world, including some of the most gifted girls in the game such as Kristen Bicknell, the 2017 GPI Female Player of the Year, Kitty Kuo who recently finished 2nd in the WPT Bobby Baldwin Classic, and Heidi May, a WSOP bracelet winner.

The women’s organization is hosting a”Ladies Week” event at South Point Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, only days ahead of the popular $1,000 buy-in WSOP Ladies Event that was won by one of its ambassadors, Heidi May, in 2017.

Ladies Week is highlighted by a $130 buy-in satellite into the WSOP Ladies Event on June 26 and a $300 buy-in ($1,000 for men) Helix Diamond Bracelet tournament with a $20,000 guaranteed prize pool on June 27. Other activities include a Helix Poker University training session with expert Jamie Kerstetter and a WSOP Ladies Week welcome party on June 26.

PLON is also hosting satellites on June 24 and 25 and two winners will get an entry into the 2018 WSOP Main Event. Eight seats are still open for the June 25 session.

Women in Poker by the Numbers

If you’ve walked through the Rio convention center throughout the 2018 WSOP, you might have noticed a shortage of girls in attendance.

At the 2017 World Series of Poker, there were 120,995 total participants throughout the summer, but only 6,516 were female, which calculates to 5.3 percent.

Even more troubling for the future of the match, females represented only 1.6 percent of the youngest market, ages 21-25. The average age of men at the 2017 WSOP was 41.26 and 44.28 for girls, a clear sign that younger guys are more interested in poker than younger girls.

Kristen Bicknell WPT

Poker League of Nations ambassador Kristen Bicknell poses with versions after winning a WPT cash game at the Esports Arena at Luxor in Las Vegas in May 2018. (Picture: wpt.com)

Although the above stats show a disappointing trend in poker, that trend can easily be reversed. Enter, the Poker League of Nations. Lena Evans, the organization’s co-founder, confessed that”girls, in general, are simply not taught to play with cards with their fathers or brothers,” and that young girls acquiring the proper bankroll”remains a huge hurdle,” but feels she’s a solution to this problem.

“Satellites obviously can help girls bear the cost of entry,” the Vietnamese poker player proposes. “We will need to create more opportunities for girls to begin learning and playing. This is another reason I created Helix Poker University, to not only create an additional revenue stream for poker experts, but to also help educate players — particularly girls,” Evans told CardsChat.

May knows a thing or two about earning a living at the poker table. She won the 2017 WSOP Ladies Event and contains over $320,000 in online poker earnings. The bracelet winner who hails from Australia addressed another issue that may be turning some girls off the game.

“There is a big problem in poker that definitely discourages girls from playing the game, and that is the way men behave towards us at the tables,” she informed CardsChat.

May said her mother”absolutely loves poker,” but”nearly every time” she goes to the casino to play, she gets sexually harassed and”no one ever speaks up.”

“I think it’s time to begin implementing harsh penalties for this kind of behavior,” May said. “When women know they are coming to play in a safe and friendly environment, I think they’ll tend to give poker a go.”

Ladies First Design

Ana Marquez, PLON’s Spain ambassador, has more than $1.1 million in life live tournament winnings, and she considers a great way to attract more girls to the match is for the poker community to”appeal towards women.” By that, she means more girls events”that provide packages into mixed tournaments.”

“Anything that promotes the notion that female gamers are welcome to the community,” Marquez said.

Kristen Bicknell, the reigning GPI Female Player of the Year and a Partypoker ambassador, says a woman winning the WSOP Main Event would”absolutely draw more girls to poker.”

“I am a strong believer that girls having great success in poker will help pave the path for others and show that it is possible to compete and win at high levels,” she said.

If a woman wins the Main Event someday, who knows, possibly Bicknell will be right that it will create another poker boom.

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