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Women in poker have been marginalized throughout the history of poker. Even as women began to play in greater numbers in the past two decades, they’ve continued to face numerous types of discrimination. In light of that, many female players connect with ladies-only tournaments in order to share experiences and feel more comfortable in the games.

During the poker boom, mostly during the latter years, the poker industry recognized the need to welcome more women to the game. PokerStars launched the PokerStars Women initiative with tournaments, leaderboards, and events for their female players. And women took it upon themselves to start a women’s section, called “That’s What She Said”, on the famous Two Plus Two forums. This created- a place for female players and fans to discuss the game without fear of sexist and misogynistic comments. However, within the last year or so, those kinds of programs faded.

While many women continue to play in live cash games and tournaments around the world, the lack of initiatives to welcome and embrace female players has slowed any progress that was made in beginning to equalize the game. But there was always Ladies Week, an unofficial but very popular week during the summer when women gathered in Las Vegas to play in a plethora of ladies-only tournaments and share their love of poker.

The options from casinos this year, however, leave many women feeling that Ladies Week may be disappearing as well.

What Ladies Week Means to Players

While Ladies Week was always hosted during a week in June in past years, the scheduling of the WSOP, ARIA, and Planet Hollywood ladies-only tournaments on July 7-9 this year changed everything. Players now have to carefully navigate those events if they hope to play in the WSOP Main Event as well, and they will have to arrive more than a week earlier if they want to play in the $888 Crazy Eights NLHE event at the WSOP.

In addition, there are only three ladies-only tournaments around Las Vegas this summer, though Lupe Soto of LIPS (the Ladies International Poker Series) is in the process of working on two events that will coincide with them. This will offer more activities during that time.

PokerUpdate caught up with Donna Houle, a longtime poker player and former owner of the Pink Ladies Poker Tour. She lives in Las Vegas and looks forward to Ladies Week each year, as she is able to connect with women from around the country in person and at the poker tables. She noted that the bad scheduling began in 2016. “The WSOP effed up Ladies Week last year by changing the date of the Ladies Championship to just before the Main Event and Fourth of July. Previously, Ladies Week was in June, and all of the casinos catered to us, but it was all based around the WSOP,” she explained. “Now, WSOP has it listed after the Fourth of July on July 7 — one day prior to the Main Event. That totally jacks up Ladies Week, and many women don’t travel here for it anymore. It’s unfortunate because so many of my friends got together to have dinners, party, and play tournaments, but that’s not happening as much anymore.”

Another longtime poker player, Kim Scott of New Hampshire, expressed her frustration with this year’s schedule as well. “As I started seeing the different Vegas poker series schedules being published over the last month, my heart began to sink as I realized many of them did not include ladies-only tournaments. This year, there are only two ladies-only events besides the WSOP, as opposed to past years when you could find a ladies-only event almost daily during Ladies Week. Why my heart sank at the schedules is because the events in the past were always well-attended and wanted and enjoyed by many. I would understand deciding not to continue with the tournaments if they were poorly attended, but this isn’t the case. It is disheartening to see many casinos deciding not to continue with ladies-only events, as I feel they help provide a stepping stone to many beginning female poker players who may be too intimidated to play in open events. They also continue to provide tough competition to more advanced female players who enjoy the competition that can be found in ladies-only tournaments.”

The Future of Ladies Week

It seems that many are discovering that casinos and tournament organizers don’t prioritize the ladies-only events and fail to consult the women of the poker community when setting the schedules. That realization, however, may lead to changes next year and moving forward.

LIPS organizer Soto is working hard to solidify plans for a few events for this year’s Ladies Week, but next year looks more promising. “Next year, I’ll work on the full week of events and hopefully get more properties on board again.”

Soto may be able to garner more support than ever from the dedicated women of Ladies Week, who may be willing to work with her to organize a better and more comprehensive slate of events for 2018. And if enough women complain to the casinos for poor scheduling and tournament structures for ladies-only events, they may be inspired to pay more attention to those events in planning for future series.

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Jennifer Newell

Jennifer has been a freelance writer in the poker industry for a decade. She left a full-time job with the World Poker Tour to tell the stories of poker. She now lives in St. Louis, writes about poker while pursuing other varied interests, and speaks her mind on Twitter… a lot.

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