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Women and Poker

Female Poker Players

Shirley Rosario"Whatever women do they must do twice as well as men to be thought half as good. Luckily, this is not difficult." -- Charlotte Whitton

Several years ago I wrote an article on Poker Profits and Sexual Politics. Since then, the poker landscape has changed drastically and so has the number of female poker players who regularly enjoy playing the game. Women are still a minority, but the percentage of players who are women has increased a lot.

What hasn't changed so much is the ability to make money from sexual politics. Even more than before it is important to remember that as a group women play better poker than men, especially when considering relatively new players.

The main reason there are more men who are top poker players is because more men play poker. That's simple enough. On percentage basis though, I just don't understand why so many men refuse to see what is also obvious: the average level of play for women players is higher than the average level of play for men players. The vast majority of tremendously awful players are men. Even more important, the group of mediocre long-term losers is, IMO, proportionally higher for men. And then even more, novice male players play dramatically worse, especially online -- in large part because they tend to play higher limits and in bigger games than their skills merit. In other words, weak male players are more likely to delude themselves into thinking they can beat bigger/tougher online poker games than women are.

A lousy female player playing $1/2 is a much better player than a lousy male player playing $30/60. You measure poker by the application of mathematical edge, which means if you bet $30 that you can eat 50 eggs in two minutes, you are a worse bettor than if you bet $1 that you can eat 50 eggs in two minutes.

This is all extreme generalization of course, with a lot of exceptions, but men normally bring all sorts of things to the table that women do not: they drink more, they smoke more, they eat more --- and they let their macho egos get in the way of how they play far more. Women win and lose in moderation. Men go off like rockets and sleep in cars (or worse) when they lose.

Sexism is the last refuge of the insecure, and, the really stupid also. It has been suggested that since men are more aggressive means they are more inclined to study poker. If only that were true. Instead it seems much more reasonable to blame the innate aggressiveness of the male for how men throw themselves into poker games blindly, without thought or study or the skill level to succeed. In all life I'm hard pressed to think of one example where men aren't, on average, more thoughtless and more who-cares-about-consequences than women. And this certainly carries over to poker.

Misapplied testosterone is the biggest killer of poker players that there is (just like in the rest of life too). Unbridled ego is the doom of successful players. Sensible people, winning players, find the quickest way around or over walls. They don't try to break them down with their foreheads.

Sensible aggression is crucial to winning poker, but misapplied aggression is one direct path to being a loser.

See also Poker Stereotypes