Poker Heroines Blast Stereotypes
The macho world of professional poker may not be the sort of environment where you would traditionally expect to see women flourishing. It’s a setting where alpha males, hard stares and - stereotypically at least - hard drinking are the order of the day.
But those preconceptions are being challenged by a generation of female poker players who are claiming their own place at the gaming tables.
When British journalist and TV presenter Victoria Coren Mitchell (above) became the first two-time winner of the European Poker tour this summer she arguably did more to bring poker out of the shadows than anyone - male or female - has done in long time.
The 41-year-old scooped the equivalent of USD 638,849 from her week’s involvement in the continent’s premier poker tournament. In the process she generated a buzz of interest in what is increasingly being seen as a highly developed - and increasingly respected - form of ‘mind sport’.
Coren Mitchell, who is married to British TV actor David Mitchell, sought to promote the game as an inclusive and female-friendly form of recreation. She told reporters:
"It's an incredibly inclusive game, for men and women, for old or young."
In the same way, Coren Mitchell insisted her own high rolling status should not be seen as any sort of barrier to taking up the game at a more modest level.
The same intrinsic excitement is available via the internet where Canadian oriented sites like Maple Casino and 32Red offer sort of test of skill and nerve that Coren Mitchell enjoyed at a fraction of the cost.
You can click here to play at 32Red online casino to see just how easily, affordably and enjoyably you can experience the buzz that Coren Mitchell was talking about for yourself.
Sites like 32Red, Go Wild Casino and High Noon Casino offer environments where learning the intricacies of different games - poker is not the only show in town after all - is more forgiving than the more daunting setting of an actual card table.
Coren Mitchell’s aspiration - "I want women to feel encouraged and not be put off, but the bigger thing is everyone should feel very welcome" - is entirely consistent with this sort of feminine reclamation of what has, for too long been seen as a singularly masculine source of enjoyment. Everyone has to start somewhere.
Coren Mitchell is by no means the only woman to have hit the big time.
American Vanessa Selbst is a professional player with career wins exceeding USD 10.5 million, making her the most successful female player of all time. She ranks at 21st in the list of all-time money winners.
Canada’s Xuan Liu and Isabelle Mercier are also amongst an elite band boasting career winnings in excess of USD 1 million.
It has to be admitted that old stereotypes do die hard. There is still a significant gender divide at the top end of the poker world, and that is reflected at less vaunted levels as well.
Still, a great deal of the marketing that accompanies online gaming sites is recognisably geared towards a male audience with a certain amount of ‘glamour’ in one form or another much in evidence.
It is on that basis that the likes of Coren Mitchell, Vanessa Selbst and their like deserve some recognition. Not only because they are evidently such intelligent and successful women in their own right: Coren Mitchel is a big media star in the UK with a career spanning TV, radio and newspapers; law graduate Selbst established a foundation in 2010 funding projects that fight for racial justice and economic equality. These are seriously impressive women.
But in blazing a trail into the macho world of big game poker, they are self-consciously and bravely making the world a more gender balanced and a better place for us all.
The fact that they are such strong advocates for inclusion and equality as they do so only adds to that standing.
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