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Online Poker News Archives - January 5, 2006

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Copyright 2006 Times Newspapers Ltd.

January 5, 2006

Women find poker is their strongest suit

Author: Adam Fresco and Jessica Berry

BY DAY JoJo Hastie organises charity events and private functions. At night she is one of a growing band of women who are taking over the male dominated game of poker.

Three years ago the image of poker was of large men chomping on equally large cigars in dark, smoky rooms with bottles of beer and tumblers spread around. But in the past year the number of female players has risen dramatically. More than a third of the tens of millions of online players are now women.

The women are also heading out and playing face to face. At a recent ladies-only tournament in Chelsea, 30 young professional women turned up to play Texas No Limit Hold ‘Em, the most popular poker game.

Ms Hastie, 26, started playing cards a few months ago, taught by her boyfriend, and entered her first mixed-sex tournament a few weeks ago. “It was really good fun. I came third out of 20 people and won £250,” she said.

“A lot of my female friends now play and they come round for dinner, we have a few glasses of wine and then the cards come out.

“Poker is seen as a guy thing but now there are a lot of middle-class ladies who play and for a lot of them it is not about the money — they can afford to lose and the prizes do not make any difference — it is about the social aspect.”

Another player at the Chelsea tournament was Mary Caldecott-Smith, 34, who runs a gardening club. She said: “There are no men here and it is so relaxing.”

Relaxing it may be but that does not stop the bluffs and double bluffs being used by the increasingly competitive women. Shiobhain Brennan, 35, a property developer, said that playing a women-only game was much more fun.

“Playing with men can be very daunting. There’s lots of testosterone and male egos. Here there’s no bravado, no having to big it up, no trying to psyche you out.”

The women-only games are devised by Julian Morel, 36, who runs The majority of his clients are in property, PR or fashion, and the prizes of manicures and facials are not why they turn up.

Mr Morel, who also organises corporate poker events, said: “It is the new social thing for women to do and gives them a chance to surprise their partners when they say they are going out for the night.”

Three years ago, when online poker started to become popular, Natasha Ellis was earning £14,000 a year as a travel writer. Now she has more than tripled that salary working just four or five hours a day, four days a week.

“I can make up to £1,400 a week now and it is all tax-free. I play a lot online but also in live tournaments. I think when women play they don’t let their ego get in the way of their strategy, unlike men, who may go all in because someone has annoyed them.”

Ms Ellis, 34, recently came 15th out of 600 people in the online world championships and, despite being the only woman in the Scottish Championship, reached the final table.

Conrad Brunner, European marketing manager at, one of the biggest sites, estimates that out of 3.5 million players on his site 900,000 were women.

“To try to give a more aggressive masculine impression they will invent their own identity, so when a player gets totally outplayed by ‘Dark Destroyer’, who uses an Arnold Schwarzenegger photo as a screen image, they may in fact be losing to Mrs Smith-Warner, mother of three, from Tunbridge Wells. You just never know.”


·Players are dealt two cards that only they can see. Betting takes place, then “the flop” is dealt — three cards face-up in the middle of the table

·More betting, then the dealer deals “the turn” — the fourth card that all players can see — before they bet again. Then “the river”, the final card seen by all players, is dealt

·Another round of betting. Players make the best hand of five cards out of the two they are dealt and the five on the table, called community cards

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