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Annie Duke, easily one of the best poker players in the world (male or female), has said, “Poker is one of the only sports where a woman can compete on totally equal footing with a man, so I don’t understand why there’s a ladies only tournament.” That’s easy for her to say: she’s a confident player with years of experience playing poker especially with males. The same can’t be said of a beginner player, and for some women, the intimidation they feel from playing a table full of men is enough of a deterrent for them not to play poker at all. There are also people who think that ladies-only tournaments are sexist because they exclude men. While it is true that men are banned from playing in these events, the reason behind this is to create a comfortable environment free of male intimidation where beginner and novice female players can learn the game and gain confidence playing in tournaments, all with the hopes of increasing the number of women playing poker. The goal is not to exclude men, but to include more women.

Ladies-only tournaments were popular in the 1980s and were a major tool for female player proliferation, just as they are today. They faded away in the 1990s, only to see another surge in popularity in the last few years, no doubt helped by the success of online poker. Current research suggests that women make up 35% of online players, yet they only represent 10% of players in regular, co-ed tournaments. This shows that while lots of women are playing online, they’re not entering tournaments in the same numbers. There are countless reasons for this, but the most obvious is the need for women to feel comfortable and at ease when playing, which is why ladies-only tournaments are essential if more women are to play in regular events.

If you’re thinking about entering tournaments, but you’re inexperienced and a little nervous, the best thing you can do is to start playing in online tournaments. They run all day, depending on the site, and the registration fee (what you pay to enter the tournament: the buy-in and a fee for the casino (normally it’s just called the ‘buy-in’)) can be as low as a few pennies, which is great so you don’t lose a lot of money while you learn, and most importantly, they’re very comfortable you can play them in your own home! Read our tournaments page on how to get started it goes over the different formats and explains how to, well, start playing in online tournaments.

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A few excellent sites that we recommend for tournaments are Poker Stars and Full Tilt Poker. They all have sit & go tournaments starting every few minutes with various buy-in fees, and they also have scheduled, multi-table tournaments with huge payouts. Once your confidence is up, try entering an online satellite game where you can win the buy-in for more expensive tournaments, such as the WSOP or WPT. The above sites always include air, hotel and spending money in their WSOP and WPT buy-in tournaments’ top prize, so you know you’re going to have everything taken care of.

After building your bones playing in online tournaments, it’s time to take it up a notch and play in a live tournament, which is where ladies-only tourneys are useful. As already mentioned, they’re meant to provide women with a safe, comfortable environment in which to play poker. Like online tournaments, they come with different buy-ins, so keep on the lookout for tournaments you can afford to enter. Ladies-only tournaments are a great place to build your poker confidence, improve you competitive play and to meet other female poker enthusiasts. Once you’ve played a few ladies-only tournaments and have developed your skills and have become a more experienced player, you should make sure to enter regular, co-ed tournaments, which is where the big bucks are. After all, the goal of poker is to win money...

The following casinos and events offer ladies-only tournaments, but definitely keep your ears open for events going on in your area as more and more pop up while poker’s popularity rises:

The Bicycle Casino in California they have several throughout the year with affordable buy-ins.
The Commerce Casino they host Ladies Dream Weekend and go all-out to make the ladies feel welcome with generous gifts and an enormous buffet every night.
Ocean’s Eleven Casino in California they host the Ladies State Championship, which is a four-day event that has a reputation for being a lot of fun.
The World Series of Poker
The World Poker Tour
The U.S. Ladies Poker Championships every state has its own two-day event where the winner goes on to play against women from every other state in the hopes of taking home a sizeable portion of the $50,000 prize money and being awarded the national title.


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