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Women have been playing poker since its inception, but despite such a long history, until recently, they have been mostly absent from the male-dominated world of poker. There are numerous reasons for this, but probably the most significant is that many women feel intimidated playing against a table full of men. But with the advent of online poker, there has been a major shift in the poker paradigm over the past decade, with increasingly more women playing both online and in brick and mortar card rooms. Online poker has given women the opportunity to learn the game in a stress-free environment devoid of gender politics, thus effectively removing the one major hurdle impeding women’s participation.

Online poker sites’ player data show that more women are signing up to play than ever before: Poker Stars reports that a decade ago, women comprised only 10% of their players. Today, that number is at 25% and growing. Full Tilt Poker found a 17% increase in female players in just three years from 3 to 20%. According to the publisher of Woman Poker Player magazine, Maryann Morrison, women are the fastest-growing demographic in poker and she puts their online presence at 35%. Although live card rooms and casinos have also seen a rise in women players, they can’t boast similarly impressive increases as online sites. A 2005 survey by the World Poker Exchange found that women are six times more likely to prefer to play online as opposed to men.

Women find the anonymity in cyberspace appealing, where they can play under male or gender-neutral names and not have to contend with some of the negative aspects of playing live with a group of men, such as being hit on. Many poker sites have generous sign-up bonuses that further attract women, such as Full Tilt Poker, who will match your bankroll deposit by 50%! Also, since so many women are new to the game, they find online tutorials helpful in learning how to play. Poker Stars has an excellent tutorial, along with other teaching tools. They’re one of the most popular and reputable sites available and worth checking out especially if you’re a new player.

Online poker allows women to not only play in the comfort of their own homes, but because the games are so fast, they get to play a lot of hands and get lots of practice in. As their skill improves, this gives many women the confidence they need to play against a room full of men. It is in this environment live that being a female can be used to your advantage.  For example, many of the top pros think it’s fine to flirt with male opponents if it’ll help you win remember, psychology is a huge part of poker and you’re trying to get your opponent to make a bad decision.

Another major issue in poker is table image; the minute you sit down, before you even place your first bet, the other players are sizing you up and making generalizations about your game. By just being female, your opponents have already made an opinion about how you’re going to play. Women are seen as being:

  • Tight
  • Weak
  • Emotional
  • Passive/not aggressive
  • Less likely to bluff than men
  • Having less ‘gamble’ than men

 

Of course making a broad assumption based on gender is just plain nonsense as not all women play the same way and more importantly, most women don’t play according to those generalizations. For example, even though women can be more emotional than men in the outside world, the reverse is often seen at the poker table: men are the more emotional player. Part of this is due to the fragile male ego and the fear of losing to a girl; some men will stay in a hand longer than they should to prevent this from happening. According to poker legend Barbara Enright, “They whine at the table…Whenever they have a bad hand, they throw their cards at the dealer. They have more fits and more tantrums [than women].”

GTR Research Corp. did research about female player trends and found that on the whole, they’re more cautious players than men and when they bluff, they respect the odds more. They also take more notes on players (many sites have this feature where you can easily save a few thoughts on a player’s strategy and style), and over time, women show more improvement than men.

The following are positive characteristics of female players:

  • Patient
  • Discipline
  • “good intuition”
  • able to read men better than men can read women

 

Just as we make generalizations about female players, we do the same with males. They tend to bring more of everything to the table: they drink, smoke and eat more, but they also tend to be over-aggressive more than women. Their unchecked display of testosterone is a major reason men lose chips to women. (Women and men tend to be equally aggressive online.) Some men are quite happy to have a woman at their table that they’ll play softer than they should while other men tend to call more hand against female players just to stay in the action (or not lose to a girl). Some pro players complain about this as they occasionally lose to bad beats (the male’s hand was initially weak and should have been folded, but they lucked out on the turn or river to win the hand).

The men can be broken down into several types. The first is the ‘gentleman’ player: he’ll check you more often than bet or raise as he doesn’t feel right taking your chips. Another type is the ‘macho’ player: he’s already been mentioned before these men will play hands to the end as they desperately don’t want to lose to a female. Treat them like a loose player. Older gentleman play tight games, businessmen and professionals like to play for fun and don’t mind burning some chips in the process, and young players (particularly those new to the game) have a lot of ‘gamble’ in them and will play aggressively.

Knowing that generally you’re going to be played more than other players because of your gender, here are some tips you should know:

— Enright suggests that women should trust their first instinct as it’s usually the right one.

— Don’t take your cards personally and make sure you have the same response every time when you first look at your hand. Whether you’re dealt a strong or weak hand, make sure you maintain the same poise and gestures you don’t want to give tells other players could pick up off you.

— Try to be more aggressive if you’re not usually. Women are socially conditioned to be passive and pleasing, but you must learn to lose those traits in poker and adapt your level of aggression to your situation. The goal is to use your sensible aggression against a male players’ misapplied over-aggression.

— Take risks and go beyond your comfort zone.

— Maintain a sharp, winning table image. This means don’t dress like a ho, don’t wear headphones (yes, a lot of pros wear them, but as a beginner or intermediate player, it’s best not to) and don’t keep short stacks of chips in front of you.

— If you want to make more money, a lively, talkative table will most likely be more productive than a quiet one. Try to sit close to the expert players if you can these tend to be more profitable.

— Bluff, but only very rarely. Players to bluff: new players, a player who just recovered from almost going broke and a player who thinks you’re tight. Players not to bluff: a player with a short stack and a loose player who calls everything.

— Stay focused, don’t talk too much, listen to your opponents and don’t get emotional.

— Play online! There’s no question that women have benefited from online poker and if you haven’t already signed up with a site, you should do so. Poker Stars is an excellent site with live support, sign up bonuses and free tables with all sorts of games and limits for you to practice on. The more hands you play online, the more comfortable and skilled you’ll be at playing poker.

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