Female poker players are taking men on at their own game and winning

  • Recent years have seen a steady increase in number of female pro players
  • Current stars include Brit, Liv Boeree and Indian player Muskan Sethi

Today is International Women’s Day, which seems an apposite time to report on the latest success of the world’s leading women players.

Poker, like most professions outside of midwifery, has traditionally been male dominated, and it is only in the last five years that female players have started to break through.

Professional poker player Liv Boree is one of the top female poker players in the world. (Image: World Poker Tour)
Professional poker player Liv Boree is one of the top female poker players in the world. (Image: World Poker Tour)

 

“Who says women can’t play cards? We can achieve anything we want to if we follow our dreams”
Poker Pro, Muskan Sethi

Don’t be fooled: the women who have made the grade are there on merit, rather than as some sort of token gesture of inclusivity and diversity. Players such as Englishwoman Liv Boeree have been credited with inspiring a new generation of girls to take up the game, and the best of the bunch certainly aren’t there to make up the numbers.

One woman who knows what it’s like to take the men on at their own game is Muskan Sethi. The Indian player narrowly missed out on the chance to win $1 million in Shark Cage, a British televised poker show.

“I might have finished second but the experience was priceless,” recalled Sethi. “Who says women can’t play cards?” The 27-year-old has been forced to shrug off plenty of sexist jibes since becoming India’s first woman professional poker player, but she remains undaunted. “We can achieve anything we want to if we follow our dreams,” she insists.

Her fellow countrywoman Suchi Chamaria Agarwal recounts a similar experience. The 28-year-old competed in last year’s World Series of Poker in Vegas and is married to the game – literally, having become one half of a professional poker power couple.

Capitalising on false assumptions

“The reactions of people have changed,” Niharika Bindra, another poker pro, told The Economic Times of India. The shrewd player speaks of having capitalised upon the preconceptions of her male counterparts who have been swift to assume that she is the weak link at the table. Bluffing Bindra is a recipe for failure: “That’s not gonna fly with me,” she avers.

India is a country whose women have historically struggled more than most to enjoy an equal footing in society. While the success of a handful of women players doesn’t herald an end to sexism, the signs are encouraging.

Few male players today would dispute that the best women are more than capable of relieving them of their chips. With poker now viewed as a glamorous means of making money – regardless of the realities – expect to see many more women stepping up and laying their cards on the table.

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