How Women in Poker are Changing the Game

min read
A woman reveals her hole cards, which are a pair of aces.
BetMGM Oct 26, 2023, 12:06 PM

Historically, poker has been considered a man’s game. Gambling as a whole attracted more men because it was originally seen as an activity for the male-dominated world of shady characters and criminals. Even though women have had online access to all casino games for a while now, statistics have suggested that female players tended to lean toward luck-based games such as jackpot slots or online roulette. 

However, times are changing as more and more women are joining the professional poker scene. Despite the poker industry’s taboos and gender bias, many women have thrived and left their mark on the game. Join us as we look at the state of the women’s poker industry and what the future holds.   

The Current State of Women’s Poker

Head out to any land-based casino and you’ll almost certainly notice an obvious difference between the number of men and women playing at the tables and slot machines. The same will likely happen when you enter a friendly game of online poker or a live dealer casino game. The sad reality is that the world of gambling and poker has always been dominated by men. 

At present, there are still significantly more male than female gamblers. What’s more, a study conducted in 2013 and published in the National Library of Medicine reported that in terms of engagement in or frequency of gambling, men (69%) gambled twice as much as women (36%.) Another study revealed that men were 7.5 times more likely than women to become problem gamblers.  

Below, we take a look at why this popular pastime seems to attract more men than women. We also look at what the future might hold for women who love to play at casinos online and which fierce females are making a name for themselves in the industry.  

Why Is There a Gambling Gender Gap?

The jury’s still out on this one. Ask any number of experts, and each one is likely to give you a different answer. The dominant explanation is that there are more male than female gamblers simply because men still earn better than women due to the gendered salary gap; consequently, men generally have more disposable income to spend on online poker tournaments or at land-based casinos.

Other people say the reason is not finance-related at all but rather due to the fact that most women have less free time than most men. Even though gender roles have been greatly redefined over the past few decades, for the majority of families, it’s still true that women play the more dominant role when it comes to caregiving and other household duties.

Although somewhat stereotypical, a third theory holds that men are “by nature” more competitive and likely to take bigger risks than women. This could be why men may feel more inclined to participate in competitive casino games such as Texas hold’em poker.

Finally, some experts believe that many women who might be interested in gambling may not feel comfortable or safe playing at a casino where they’re surrounded by men and stand out from the crowd. This is one of the reasons why most women who gamble tend to do so online. That said, if a female player visits a casino with men who are less than thrilled to be beaten by a woman, casino staff are there to ensure her safety. That’s why it’s important to make sure you know who to notify or what to do when players cheat at a poker table or act disrespectfully. 

What Does the Future Hold for Female Poker Players?

Looking back, there’s no denying that the gambling industry has always been characterized by a lack of female players. The question is, is this starting to change? According to research, the answer is yes. Studies have revealed that women make up 30–40% of iGaming participants – that’s people participating in any form of online betting. This is considerably higher than the proportion of women currently gambling at land-based casinos.

There’s no doubt that online gambling has opened up an exciting world for women from a variety of backgrounds. After all, it’s much more convenient to join an online game at a casino than it is to drive to one. 

As word spreads about how many women enjoy playing slots, live dealer blackjack, poker and other casino table games online, there’s a high probability that more women will try their hand at virtual gambling. With more universal marketing, female spokespeople and ambassadors for casinos, women who felt left out will be inspired to join this new trend. In short, the future of gambling looks bright for everyone who gets a thrill from taking a little risk – regardless of their gender.

Notable Women in the Poker Industry

The more female gambling is seen and normalized, the more comfortable women feel about trying it out. Luckily, plenty of incredibly talented women are already taking the industry by storm. Here are a few trailblazing female poker players who are defying biases. 

Vanessa Selbst

Selbst is arguably the best-known female gambler of all time. Born in 1984 and holding a law degree, she’s the only woman ever to be ranked No.1 in the Global Poker Index. So far, Selbst has raked in $11.8 million (and counting) in live poker tournament earnings.

Kristen Bicknell

Another woman to pay attention to is Kristen Bicknell, a Canadian poker player with an impressive $5.1 million in live poker tournament earnings. In 2017, she was ranked the no.1 female professional poker player in the world. 

Annette Obrestad

Obrestad is a Norwegian poker player who has made waves in the industry from a very young age. Born in 1988, she won a World Series of Poker bracelet in 2007, making her the youngest person ever to accomplish this feat. Note we didn’t say the youngest female but the youngest person.  When she isn’t playing online poker, Obrestad spends her time creating content for YouTube, including videos chock-full of poker tournament tips.

What Can We Learn From Women in Poker?

The successes of women in poker prove that poker is an empowering game. Poker teaches us to make bold moves and take calculated risks. It teaches us to think ahead and be strategic. It helps us “fake it ‘til we make it.” In short, poker makes men and women more confident while teaching real-life risk-management skills. 

The successful women on our list were not discouraged by the lack of representation or discriminatory behavior in the poker scene. Instead, they used the way they were probably underestimated to their advantage, to fuel them, or for the perfect bluff. Even if you’re the only woman at a poker table, or if you’re seen as the fish, build your strategy, improve your poker range balancing, and master your playing style and aggression to take those who disparage you by surprise and steal the pot! 

Discover the Best Online Poker at Betmgm

No matter what your gender, age or level of experience, you’ll always be able to access the best poker, blackjack and other online casino games right here at BetMGM. You can play online blackjack with live dealers, or choose a challenging poker variation from our wide selection. For something more relaxing, explore our slot catalog which features thousands of themed slots to choose from. 

Register with BetMGM to begin your online gaming adventure.

Actress Vanessa Hudgens flipping casino chips next to the text "The King of Casinos"
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Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.

Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.