When we talk of the queens of poker, it’s not the card we are referring to, but the pioneering women who made history as professional poker players sitting around the table with men. These women entered where no woman had gone before. They added style and grace, but played the game like professionals. We honor these women because poker tournaments would still have been a man’s game without them.
The Early Days
We all know poker as a game of old dating back to the 1800s when Lottie Deno was a formidable force at the tables. Later, in the late 1800s, there was Mary Hamlin, Alice Ivers, Minnie Smith, and the mysterious Flash Kate, whose real name is still unknown. As poker games moved to casinos and there were designated poker rooms and invitation-only clubs, women seemed to disappear from the scene. That’s until the late 1900s at the Ladies’ Event in the 1979 World Series of Poker (WSOP), where Barbara Freer was the first woman to make the final table. Four years later, Vera Richmond took it up a notch and won a bracelet, becoming the first woman to do so; she walked away with $38,500.
Modern Day Queens
Jennifer Harmon was the first woman to have two WSOP bracelets from open events. She won the 2000 and 2002 open events. She’s had five WSOP final table appearances.
Anette Obrestad was only 18 when she won the WSOP Europe Main Event, becoming the first and only woman to do so.
We couldn’t have this list without mentioning Vanessa Selbst, one of the most successful players ever. She has three bracelets, two NAPT titles, and almost $12 million in winnings. Throughout her playing career, she has been a great ambassador for the game and an inspiration to millions.
- Barbara Freer is the first woman inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame.
- Vanessa Selbst tops the Poker Players All-Time Female Money List for $11,906,247.
- Joanne Liu from Taiwan quit her job in 2004 to become a professional poker player, which turned out well for her. Her career earnings are $3.1 million.
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We say we salute the likes of Kathy Liebert and Vanessa Rousso for playing well and successfully, becoming role models and inspirations for women worldwide. Now, an ordinary woman can watch the WSOP and see someone who looks like her. And because of these pioneers, there’s more diversity in poker.