Allyn Shulman: Women share the spotlight at the World Poker Tour event


Angelica Hael and Linda Johnson kick off the WPT Ladies ChampionshipLadies looking for their next event should check it out Card player Women in Poker page. Find information on all known upcoming women’s events, as well as details on past tournaments and winners. Get the latest women in poker news, interviews and features, and access links to women’s poker organizations.

December was an exciting month for female poker players.

Congratulations to Poker World Tour and the fabulous job they’ve done promoting women to their recent WPT World Championship festival held at the beautiful Wynn Las Vegas.

To celebrate their 20 years of success, the WPT they partnered with Wynn and, among other fabulous and successful tournaments, offered an inaugural telecast Women’s championship event with a $200,000 guarantee. This is the biggest guarantee ever for a women’s event.

None of this would have happened without the determination of a strong and courageous girl, who impresses everyone she comes in contact with. With a distinct Aussie accent and no-nonsense attitude, like WPT Vice President of Global Tour Management for over a decade, Angelica Hael is a hottie. She has come up with innovative ideas for women who the WPT coined as “creating women-focused initiatives” aimed at welcoming, including and encouraging women.

For example, before Women’s championshipthe WPT organized a Ladies Meet Up Game, hosted by poker pro and commentator Jamie Kerstetter. The girls met the likes of Linda Johnson, Jan Fisher, Veronica Brill, Sofia Lövgren, Kathy Liebert, Xuan Liu, Katie Kopp, Ashley Sleeth, Kyna England, Angelica Hael and WPT again Lynn Gilmartin, just to name a few.

Angelica HaelThey were all playing low-limit poker together. There were gift bags, candy, mystery jars with envelopes containing $100 Wynn gift cards or futures WPT buy-ins, not to mention the laughs, cheering and excitement. As time went on, everyone started talking about the woman’s televised tournament, who had already won a seat, and which venues were giving away more seats.

Seats could be won from places as far afield as Bestbet Jacksonville and Seminole Hard Rock Hollywood in Florida, Jack Cleveland Casino in Ohio, Choctaw in Oklahoma or even the Maltese Poker Festival in Europe. ClubWPT as well as other online rooms had seats to give away with Women in Poker Hall of Fame Inductees as bounties.

The WPT she has also partnered with several prominent women’s organizations by providing seats to them and thereby honoring and elevating the prominence of the organizations themselves. The Women in Poker Hall of Fame has given away spots as well as Women in Poker and the Poker League of Nations. Hael did a great job of including every possible location and organization creating such a hype that the guarantee was not only met, but nearly tripled.

“The WPT World Championship festival is set to be a record-breaking event and we wanted to make sure it also showcases our commitment to increasing the presence of women in poker,” Hael said ahead of the event. “We can’t wait to shine a spotlight on these amazing women of the Women’s championship with a televised final table for our 20th anniversary broadcast show.”

The Women’s championship it was well managed by tournament director Wynn Ray Pulford. Midway through the first day, First Lady of Poker Linda Johnson stood up and graciously thanked the tour and Wynn for providing such a great experience for women. My partner Card player the columnist was barely audible amidst the applause of the ladies, all 578 of them.

Allyn in the WPT Ladies ChampionshipThis was a tournament like no other. The ladies were laughing, some were drinking, some were all dressed up or in funny costumes, but everyone was having a good time. It was uplifting to all present. It was a place to see and be seen.

Towards the end of day 1, I was nearly triple my average when I moved from a softer table to one with many big stacks. Almost immediately, Dusti Smith beat me, decimating my stack and catapulting her into possible position to reach the final table, which she did.

We downplayed for quite a while, and when the 72 remaining women went home, they were tired but satisfied to be in the money. When I got home, I was so pumped that I don’t think I fell asleep until 3am, but not before I learned that my friend Louise Francoeur was in first place and won over a million when the average stack was under 400,000 .

The heartbreaking story in my book was on Day 2 when Francoeur made good with QQ but lost to Kathy Liebert’s AK. Naturally, all poker players have been on both sides of that roll. But after enjoying two days of the chip lead, having gone to bed the night before with two and a half stacks more than the average stack, in the blink of an eye, Louise was out in seventh, narrowly missing the televised table after two days of stellar play. The AK would come to haunt Liebert as she was eliminated from the final table with the same hand that got her there when she faced Lina Niu’s pocket sixes.

I spoke to Louise, asking her about that last excruciating somersault. As a woman of class that she is, she said he would be unhappy for whoever she lost since she and Liebert were both playing very good poker that day. Besides just missing the final table with all its glory and celebrations, what really struck Louise was when she learned that Virgin Voyages was giving away free cruises to the six finalists, with a super duper special room for the winner!

Final table of the women's championship“Oh man, I want a cruise!” she laughed. “But I have to say from top to bottom, the WPT it is first class. They did everything right with friendly people, a great facility and a mood unlike any other women’s event. I don’t usually like women’s events, but this was fabulous.”

I met Women In Poker Hall of Famer Kathy Liebert, who cashed impressively WPT First championship ($45,000), the WPT World Championship ($19,150), and the WPT Women’s championship ($28,847), adding to his nearly $7 million in career earnings.

“Women’s events have changed from the old horseshoe days,” Kathy said. “It used to be a social event and now the women are very competitive and good while being much more friendly and outgoing which makes it a very fun tournament. I decided to play after taking out the main event and was just enjoying playing a lot of hands and ended up rebuying a lot and going to a lot of different tables, all of which were tough.

When asked about her two foundational hands with AK, she said, “Poker has a lot of variance and flipping is part of the game. Sometimes you win the flips and sometimes you don’t. It balances out in the long run.

The TV table was so exciting, there was an overflow room with a big screen TV and booze flowing. All members of the Women in Poker Hall of Fame have been invited guests. We were greeted and escorted to the Latour ballroom vip seats like royalty. I sat next to JJ Liu who was wearing a hat so big and gorgeous, he had to hold one side down so people could see. We all laughed at it, including JJ.

Before the tournament, the WPT put on a short but great show that included a video showing pictures of successful female poker players. It was clear now what the WPT understood as “focused on women”.

By now everyone knows the results of that final table. The best-known pros at the table, Jamie Kerstetter and Kathy Liebert, were the first two to go, winning $21,934 and $28,847, respectively. Though Olga Iermolcheva bullied the table for hours, it was Lina Niu who ultimately took the lead, winning $105,136.

Jennifer Tilly, Terry King and Angelica HaelBut the tournament wasn’t the only highlight of the month for women in poker.

Since the 1990s, Lupe Soto has worked tirelessly for women in poker, starting Poker Chix, the first online poker forum for women. She has since created the first women’s poker tour, International Women’s Poker Series (LIP). In 2008 you founded the prestigious Women in the Poker Hall of Fame to showcase those who excel in the poker industry as players or industry professionals.

WiPHoF is loved by the poker world and represents one of the biggest accolades in the industry. Lupe also founded the Women’s Poker Association, a 501c3 non-profit organization created to uplift and empower women in poker. And next year she has even more in store for women.

Another star and staunch advocate for women, Linda Johnson, has been a driving force in the poker world. In 1993, Linda bought Card player magazine. As a publisher, Linda has become an ambassador for the poker world, traveling to more than 200 cardrooms. She has co-written three books on poker and has been instrumental in helping establish many influential poker projects including the World Poker Industry Conference, the World Poker Players Conference and the Tournament Directors Association (TDA extension).

It has been a major force in establishing the WPT for which she served as the studio announcer during the first six seasons. Her involvement in poker promotion led to her being chosen as the original president of the Poker Players Alliance (PPA). Linda is currently on the board of directors of TDA extension and LIP. Additionally, in 2008 she was inducted into the Women in Poker Hall of Fame. As a female voice in the poker world, she makes us proud!

Angelica’s day of reckoning has come as she was finally recognized as a major force for women in poker. On December 14, 2022, Angelica was inducted into the Women in Poker Hall of Fame at the PokerGO studio in Las Vegas alongside Terry King, Vanessa Selbst and Jennifer Tilly. Master of Ceremonies Jan Fisher was entertaining as always, lightening the mood before Adam Pliska’s heartbreaking speech in Angelica’s honor.

Angelica has made it a mission to develop the WPT Women’s Poker Initiative, which has started serious discussions about women in poker across the industry. The WPT Women’s championship it was just one example of what will happen for women in the future.

*Photo courtesy of the World Poker Tour. Thanks to Hayley Hochstetler and Drew Amato

Allyn Jaffrey Shulman has been a criminal defense attorney for 40 years. As a constitutional law expert, she has testified before the North Dakota Senate regarding online gaming. The Card Player Poker Tour Main Event champion from Venice has earned more than $1.6 million in his career in tournament play, including a World Series of Poker bracelet after outlasting a massive field of 4,128 in the senior championship. The former Poker Player Alliance board member was inducted into the Women in Poker Hall of Fame in 2014. Shulman is currently writing a book about her experience as a woman in a man’s world. You can find her on Twitter @ajaffrey.

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