At one time, there was a concerted effort in the world of online poker to attract more women to the game and make them feel comfortable staying in it. While most poker operators signed a female pro player to their roster of pros or featured an article here or there about women in the games, there was often a notable void in the online poker world.
That changed for a few years – around 2013 and 2014 – but faded away again. Today, there is outreach in some new ways to women in the poker world, but a lack of new initiatives and efforts is noticeable.
PokerStars was one of the first online poker operators to add women to its roster, with names like Liv Boeree, Celina Lin, and Vanessa Selbst leading the pack. There was also a Women’s Poker League that launched in 2010, along with the Women’s Special tournaments offered online on Sundays.
After Black Friday, however, PokerStars upped its game in 2013 by putting a greater emphasis on its female online players. Not only did Adrienne “talonchick” Rowsome become an integral part of Team PokerStars Online, but PokerStars Women became a focus for the site. A marketing manager was hired to work on initiatives aimed at maintaining female players and attracting new ones, and writers were hired to highlight those promotions as well as the accomplishments of women on PokerStars.
Full disclosure: I was one of those writers, hired on a freelance basis to write for PokerStars Women.
By the middle of 2014, however, the writers were released from their contracts, and the content for PokerStars Women stopped with the exception of two subsequent articles later that year. The PokerStars-sponsored European Poker Tour continued with its women-only events at various EPT stops, but online satellites for those events dropped off. The Women’s Sunday tournament continued, but there were no write-ups or features to showcase the tournament or its players outside of a dedicated Twitter account that remains somewhat active.
Of course, PokerStars still highlights its female pros with the spotlight regularly putting Boeree, Lin, and Selbst, as well as Team SportStar Fatima Moreira de Melo, in the news. However, most other women-centered promotions ended without notice or reason given and were never revisited on the widely-read PokerStars blog.
The most recent mention of women was a press release on March 8, 2017, which quoted Boeree, de Melo, and Lin in honor of International Women’s Day. That, however, was a press release and never appeared on the PokerStars blog.
That’s What She Said
The Two Plus Two forums have traditionally been an unfriendly place for women to contribute and voice their opinions on poker topics. As poker is a male-dominated game, so was the forum, and women often felt uncomfortable making comments. In truth, many were verbally attacked or insulted.
That prompted women like Katie Stone, a longtime poker player, to work with Two Plus Two to launch a separate section of the forum titled “That’s What She Said.” TWSS was heavily moderated by Stone to ensure it remained a friendly forum, free of men who wanted to tell women what to say and how to say it.
As the TWSS ladies forum @twoplustwoforum approaches its 4 year anniversary, we'd like to try and help even more women play and learn poker.— 2+2's Ladies TWSS (@twoplustwoTWSS) December 14, 2014
The forum was wildly popular for several years, though many of the participants were based in the United States. As online poker became less common among women in America after Black Friday, participation in the various threads trailed off. The forum now averages several comments a day but isn’t nearly as populated as it once was.
In the past year or two, other online poker sites have become much more attentive to the need for female faces in the game and signed numerous women as sponsored pros and ambassadors. Kara Scott was with PartyPoker but recently joined 888poker, a site that boasts of several other women like Sofia Lovgren and Natalie Hof. PartyPoker did its part by adding Jackie Glazier and Beata Jambrik to its roster. Both sites have increased the presence of women in live and online promotions.
Even so, there remains a significant void in the online poker world. Women are a vital part of the industry and essential for the growth of poker in general, but everything from articles to forums remains dominated by male commenters, writers, and subjects.
Live poker venues have taken more steps in recent years to ensure the safety of women at the tables and increase their comfort level in cash game and tournament rooms. There is a long way to go in that respect, but there has been some progress. But online poker could much more easily reach out to female players and increase the game’s popularity with that demographic, yet most internet operators are far less likely to take significant steps in that direction.