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14/04/2006 No.43
he Guardian Poker Column
Victoria Coren
Friday April 14, 2006
How to play poker
(How to play has been running from issue 16)

The Women's Poker Open was an interesting experiment. Women are not generally considered to be the best poker players. True, our results don't compare well with men's in the world rankings. But women make up a tiny proportion of the field, even today. If only nine women are playing in a 250-runner event, it's daft to draw gender conclusions from an all-male final.

Also, the rankings relate only to tournaments (which call for aggression) rather than cash games, which reward the more feminine qualities of patience and guile. A limited time period and rising blinds demand more position-bluffing. In tournaments, it is not enough to outthink your opponents; in the right situation, you have to push them around as well. I am rather proud to say that this is not a predominantly female characteristic.

I sometimes wonder whether poker is a woman's game at all. Women have the ability to be great players - greater possibly than men, especially in cash games. It's a question of whether they want to. The still-high ratio of men to women on the poker scene, despite the game's new social acceptability and the efforts of casinos and TV producers to lure ladies in, must mean something. Online poker is a helpful development for women: aggression is easier, and perhaps more fun, from behind a computer screen. But in the end - as an addict, I'm not afraid to say this - poker can be a bit geeky. It's obsessive-compulsive, very mathematical, and involves a lot of record-keeping. In those respects, it is quite male.

So don't be fooled by the media: poker is still a male-dominated game, and will probably stay that way. In the push for female markets, casinos and television imply that women should be playing, and are missing out if they don't. But the point of feminism, in all things, is choice. Like drinking pints, watching football or returning to work after childbirth, women can now enjoy poker without stigma. And, like those things, there's no shame in refusing the option either. Victoria Coren is a writer and occasional tournament player .

. WPT Online!