The 2021 WSOP Ladies Event drew 644 entries, while popular open field events get nearly ten times as many players

Pilot Episode Of New Poker Show ‘Lafaya Way Poker’ To Highlight Women’s Issues

Women comprise half of the globe’s population, yet make up only a small percentage of the multi-national crowd at the 2021 World Series of Poker. The Ladies’ No-Limit Hold’em Championship, which ran from Oct. 11 to 13, drew 644 entries, compared with upwards of 5,000 for other popular events.

Discussions of that player paucity, as well as women’s triumphs and tribulations at the table, may soon be leaving the poker rooms and entering prime time. Tomorrow and Friday, therapist and poker player Lafaya Mitchell will be in the city recording a television pilot the company will then shop to networks.

During the show, called Lafaya Way Poker, Mitchell and her guests will play poker and discuss issues beyond gender. However, that’s the topic for the debut episode.

The independent company’s timing is perfect for recording the pilot, considering the excitement that always surrounds the WSOP Main Event. That begins on Thursday at the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino.

“[The TV pilot is] kind of a cross between a talk show and poker game,” professional poker player Christina “Chris” Read posted last week to  the Women’s Poker Association (WPA) group on Facebook. “I will be the first special guest and the topic is women in poker.”

Issues facing women in poker

To help her with talking points, Read asked the women of the WPA group about issues they face.

There was a clear winner for the top complaint among the 126 comments her post received by Monday night. The majority of commenters said they were tired of being underestimated, harassed or intimidated by men who play poker.

That wasn’t the only complaint however. Some group members mentioned that issues like childcare needs had kept them from participating in the series.

Typically, the WSOP takes place over the summer when children are out of school and can, for instance, be sent to sleepaway camp.

This year, due to COVID, it’s been pushed back into October and November. Online Poker Report confirmed through a call to the venue last week that the Rio doesn’t offer childcare. It also requires that all minors must be accompanied by an adult while moving through the hotel or casino. Players say they can hire a babysitter who will come to their room at the Rio, but that the service is quite expensive. Besides, with the school year underway, children need to be in class.

Childcare options would boost attendance

That childcare need and event scheduling will be among the issues Read – an Atlanta-based professional poker player with $176,743 in total live earnings, according to the Hendon Mob database – told OPR she’ll be discussing tomorrow in the show pilot:

“A little investment in childcare would go a very long way for attendance in these tournaments!

“I have played home cash games for about 13 years, and it’s always me sitting around the table with nine guys. I always ask the question, ‘Where are your wives?’ and always get the same answer, ‘At home with the kids.’

“I did not start poker until after I was 40 for the very same reason. My daughter, who is now 33, has a totally different relationship with her husband – but she set those expectations from the very beginning.”

Poker Power and the WPA released a survey three months ago showing 66% of women in poker are 45 or older.

Women in the WSOP

If you’re looking for a snapshot of professional poker player demographics, the WSOP is perhaps the best place to get it.

There was no women’s event last year, as the series took place almost entirely online. GGPoker, which sponsors the women’s final tables, told OPR it tallied 644 entries in 2021, 968 in 2019 and 696 in 2018.

Meanwhile, OPR estimates that more than 5,000 players will vie for the world championship in the 2021 Main Event. That’s down from WSOP’s counts of 8,569 players in 2019 and 7,874 in 2018, and based on the overall drop in attendance for this year’s series.

Read told OPR women’s representation in poker is about more than the WSOP:

“What’s needed is a total shift in our society. It’s getting [there] inch by inch, but will take a while.”

Still, the WSOP tallies from the women’s event don’t tell the whole story. Women play just about every event at the series, including the Main Event. They’re simply outnumbered by the men who play.

On Monday night, professional poker player Stephanie Rivkin tweeted that her appearance at this year’s Main Event will be notable in that she’ll be playing while pregnant.

The New Jersey resident is married to fellow pro Jason Rivkin. She tweeted a photo showing her satellite win, with a screen name referencing her maiden name, Hubbard:

“I guess my preggo self is making a trip to Vegas #WSOP”

- Heather Fletcher is the lead writer with OnlinePokerReport. She's a career journalist, with bylines in The New York Times, Adweek and other publications. Reach her at [email protected]
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