By Jennifer Newell
Several decades ago, a gathering of women at a casino meant it was bingo time. A group of women near the poker room was a chance to bond while their male counterparts played nearby.
Times have changed. Women have been entering the game in numbers never seen before, and the WPT teamed up with Borgata this weekend to help further that movement. A sold-out crowd of women attended a brunch and poker seminar on Saturday morning to learn the finer points of the game from two of poker’s most impressive players.
Some of the Ladies Poker Brunch and Learn attendees had some experience at the tables but wanted to improve their game. Others had never played before – or had not played much beyond a home game – and came to the Borgata to learn more.
After brunch plates were filled, Deb Daly and Kellie DeCelis of Borgata Poker welcomed everyone, as did WPT’s Angelica Hael. The poker pros took it from there. Loni Harwood with her nearly $3 million in live tournament earnings and Air Force veteran and champion poker pro Jessica Dawley then took the microphones and began the instruction. From basic poker terms to the importance of position and ranges, they covered quite a bit of material and answered questions along the way.
The latter half of the instructional portion of the event brought women to actual poker tables with the pros and Borgata Poker representatives, where they were able to get a better feel for the concepts by putting them into action with chips and cards. The hands-on training solidified many of the concepts from the previous hour.
The WPT then raffled off 10 seats to the $100+20 Ladies Deepstack NLHE tournament that started at 1 p.m the same day. Five seats were originally offered, but the WPT doubled that number to give more women the chance to play.
Connie was one of the winners. “This morning’s Poker Brunch and Learn reinforced things that I already knew, but I gained more pieces of knowledge that will stick in my head when I go to the table in a few minutes. I feel ready!”
Marietta and Lisa, mother and daughter, respectively, both play video poker regularly but attended the Brunch and Learn to find out more about live poker. Marietta admitted, “It was hard at first because I’m not familiar with Texas Hold’em, but when we sat at the tables, it began to make more sense.” Both seemed a bit nervous about playing the tournament, but they were determined to do their best. “We’re as ready as we can be!” Lisa said.
Students became players shortly thereafter as the Ladies Event at the Borgata Winter Poker Open began. A total of 154 entries were recorded for the tournament, three times the size of last year’s event. The resulting prize pool was $14,938, with $4,407 reserved for the eventual winner.
As for the first-ever Poker Brunch and Learn, both WPT and Borgata representatives were pleased with the excitement generated for the event.
When first announced in late 2018, attendance was to be capped at 35 women, but those seats sold within one week. They then reopened it for more registrations, and those additional 10 spots were reserved quickly as well.
WPT Event Manager Cathy Zhao was thrilled with the turnout and the enthusiasm for poker exhibited by the women at the Poker Brunch and Learn. “This was a great experience,” she noted afterward. “We talked to a lot of women here about why they are so interested in poker and what opportunities they would like to see in the future.”
The significant interest in the event, feedback from attendees, and inquiries about further instruction for women were positive signs for organizers.
Women want to play. It’s just a matter of time before more of them have the tools and resources necessary to compete more frequently and in a wider range of poker cash games and tournaments.
Looking to win your way to a World Poker Tour event for your shot at becoming a WPT champion? Play for your chance on ClubWPT.com, where eligible VIP Members can play for over $100,000 in cash and prizes each month, including seats to WPT events, no purchase necessary.