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19/01/2011 No. 99
he Guardian Poker Column
Victoria Coren
Wed 19 January 2011
Poker: The 'ladies only' tournament

Victoria Coren had misgivings, but playing in a women-only tournament she had fun and won money

At the PCA poker festival in the Bahamas, I played a "ladies only" tournament for the first time since the World Series of Poker in 2001.

Back then, I wasn't a serious player. Very few women were. This was a novelty tournament, held on Mother's Day, for the wives, girlfriends and mums of the "real" players, ie men. All the entrants got a rose to take home, and the tournament director asked spectators to give us a round of applause "for looking so lovely".

Poker has changed since then, and so have I. None of us looks lovely nowadays. I'm joking. I look amazing. I'm joking. The game has changed because of the internet; women who were put off by poker's late hours, distant locations and open aggression are now playing at home without these obstacles.

Meanwhile, I play poker all the time, I don't fear any opponent and I like to take my shot against an open field. For a while, I disliked the very principle of women-only tournaments (why the handicap? This isn't weightlifting, it's a game of cards), until I was persuaded that they are great for newcomers who are shy to transfer into the male-dominated live arena. Anything that brings in new players is good for the game. I just felt they weren't for me.

This year, a fellow female pro told me I was an idiot. She reminded me that poker is all about looking for the best spots to win money. A limited field, with many relative newcomers, was bound to offer value. So I gave it a spin and made the final, winning $9000. Almost more importantly, it was an enjoyable and different couple of days.

I might play a few more ladies' events this year. Fun and money; what more can you ask from the game?
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