Why Aren't More Women Playing Poker?
While men and women are separated into different groups when playing most other sports and games, poker is one of the few in which the two genders compete with no discrimination.
However, there is no doubt that the global poker player pool is dominated by men, who make up more than 90% of the field in most poker tournaments and cash games, both live and online.
Since there is nothing barring women from playing poker, I wondered why so few females play the game and what main factors still make poker a predominantly men's game.
This is exactly what we will try to answer today and even discuss what it would take to make poker a more balanced game between the two sexes.
Poker Came Up as a Male Game
When it was first invented, poker was a game played by the nobles in France. As you could expect, the nobility was dominantly male at the time, and the noblewomen could not play cards for money as openly.
As the game made it across the ocean, the cowboys, outlaws, and gunslingers adopted it, again a dominantly male population. It is not a surprise that all of this made the game somewhat stigmatized among the more respectable groups at the beginning.
This changed over the centuries as poker made its way into the mainstream, but even these days, poker is heavily associated with gambling, alcohol, and everything that goes with it, causing many women to stay away from it altogether.
Women Are Typically More Risk-Averse
If I was to say that men are naturally more prone to taking risks, someone might interpret it as sexism. However, an article published in the Harvard Business Review under the title "Do Women Take as Many Risks as Men" summarized numerous scientific studies that concluded that women are more risk-averse than men.
If this is true, which the science seems to confirm, it is natural that there would be more male poker players than females. After all, poker is a game of risk and chance with no certainties, which makes it ideal for the risk-takers among us.
Poker can also be played as a hobby, and you can treat it as purely entertainment. However, if you do, it's not likely we will see you at the poker tables on a daily basis, which means you won't make up a significant part of your local player pool.
On the other hand, the professional poker players and the hardcore gamblers who are typically found at the table every night are almost all men who are not shy to get in the mix and risk their money on a poker hand.
Poker Is Not a Female-Friendly Environment
Whether we like to admit it or not, men can't always control themselves around women, especially when alcohol is involved.
Unfortunately, poker games tend to have alcohol flowing, which often leads to at least one of the male players flirting or even openly harassing the females.
Some ladies don't mind this and are more than happy to take the drunk players' money at the tables and take advantage of the bad plays such players are likely to make.
However, more often than not, females don't appreciate being treated as sex objects or demeaned by men, and they will rather avoid such an environment altogether.
Even when other players do not directly target the ladies, poker is a game that tends to lead to heated arguments, emotional outbursts, and other scenes that men are simply more comfortable with than women.
Of course, I am not saying that all men misbehave towards women in poker games and that there aren't some perfectly respectable games out there, but many professional female players admitted that is a problem they are facing on a daily basis when playing.
Women Can Succeed in Poker
All this said, women can be perfectly successful at the poker game, and the likes of Vanessa Selbst, Liv Boeree, and Jennifer Harman, with many others, have all proved that with their successful poker careers.
Yet, it takes a unique female character to play poker at a good level and remain calm around all the negative things that the poker atmosphere can carry around.
The high-stakes tournament circuit is a very professional kind of poker environment, which is why plenty of ladies have had success in this arena, as they can concentrate on the game itself there.
When these things are taken out of the equation, the ladies clearly have what it takes to be great poker players, and some of them have shown us just how well they can handle the pressure and the financial risks associated with the game.
Should Poker Be Divided Like Other Sports?
With so many other games and sports played in different categories for men and women, the question of whether we should have male and female poker games isn't beyond reason.
However, experience has shown that poker works really well as a mixed game where both sexes have the opportunity to sit and compete at the same table.
Female poker tournaments have long been a thing. While it makes sense in terms of game promotion among the fairer sex, I hardly disagree with any arguments that men and women should play the game completely separately.
If anything, poker players should work hard on making the ladies feel comfortable in poker rooms and at the tables, as this is beneficial for everyone. What's more, acting like a pig at the poker table the moment a lady sits down only makes a guy look pathetic, nothing more.
If we can all remain gentlemen when playing poker and keep the competitive nature of the game on a civilized level, the numbers of female players are likely to start rising in the coming years, as the popularity of poker continues to rise globally.
On top of that, poker rooms are starting to hire more female ambassadors to reach poorly represented audiences, so we are on a good path.