The game of poker can certainly seem like a man’s world in terms of demographics, and indeed, most tables will have a higher proportion of males to females present on any given day.
But just because millions of men enjoy poker either as a hobby or profession doesn’t mean that women aren’t welcome, and today you’ll find an increasing amount of gender equity among the game’s elite players. Year by year, the balance continues to shift, so much so that more top flight professionals are members of the fairer sex than ever before.
The new generation of women now embracing poker as a viable career option are following in the footsteps of a long line of female poker luminaries.
Players like Barbara Enright – who won an open event bracelet at the World Series of Poker (WSOP) in 1996, one year after nearly winning the WSOP Main Event with a heartbreaking fourth-place finish – highlight that list. Along with her victories in the 1986 and 1994 WSOP Ladies Championship events, Enright became the first woman to earn a pair of gold bracelets, as well as the first to make it three. She was also the first woman inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame.
Kathy Liebert and Cyndy Violette – both of whom made history in 2004 by winning open bracelet events at the WSOP, also paved the way for women to gain greater traction within the industry as the poker boom dawned.
Below you’ll find a list, presented in no particular order, detailing the accomplishments of the top 10 female poker players today…
10 – Vanessa Selbst
The all-time leader in terms of tournament earnings for female players, Vanessa Selbst’s $11.72 million in earnings gives her nearly double that of her closest competitor in Kathy Liebert. That total also puts the 31-year old Selbst in 23rd position on the full all-time earnings list, squarely between legends Scotty Nguyen and Allen Cunningham – both of whom have 20 more years’ worth of cashes to their credit.
Before pursuing professional poker Selbst excelled as an academic, attending the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) before transferring to Yale University to complete her undergraduate political science studies. She returned to Yale to earn her law degree in 2012 and recently passed the bar exam during a hiatus from the tournament circuit.
Hailing from a such a scholarly background, navigating the poker rules for different games and variants came naturally to Selbst, who excels in both No-Limit Texas Hold’em (NLHE) and the mixed-games format.
Among her long list of major triumphs, Selbst has won WSOP open event bracelets (2008, 2012, 2014), in addition to main event victories in European Poker Tour (EPT), North American Poker Tour (NAPT), World Poker Finals, and Los Angeles Poker Classic competition.
Selbst has won at least $1 million for a single tournament cash on three separate occasions, winning the Partouche Poker Tour Main Event for $1.82 million in 2010, claiming the 2013 PCA Super High-Roller title for $1.42 million, and topping the one-table Super High-Roller Celebrity Shootout in 2015.
9 – Samantha Abernathy
Just 24 years old, Samantha Abernathy landed her first career live cash just two years ago. Prior to poker, the native of Atlanta, Georgia studied Design at Savannah College of Art and Design, before working as a freelance graphic designer and photographer.
She accumulated 45 cashes for $100,000 in earnings on the live tournament circuit between 2014 and January of this year, playing primarily as a cash game specialist, before a breakthrough performance at the Aussie Millions Main Event. After paying $10,600 in Australian dollars, Abernathy outlasted a field of 732 players to finish in third place, taking home A$625,000 in winnings.
While she still has a long way to go, Abernathy’s progress has defined by steady upward trajectory thus far. Even better, as evidenced by her headline-making (and successful) prop bet to ride her bicycle from Las Vegas to Los Angeles in under 72 hours, Abernathy’s natural star quality could attract more women to the tables down the road.
8 – Jennifer Harman
A legend of the game in the eyes of poker players who know better, Jennifer Harman climbed to eighth on the all-time money list for female players with $2.7 million in live tournament earnings, the bulk of which came well before the era of fattened fields and swollen prize pools.
Harman also won two open event bracelets at the WSOP, her first in the $ 5,100 No-Limit Deuce to Seven Draw event in 2000, followed by a $5,000 Limit Hold’em title in 2002.
Her first tournament cash was earned way back in 1994, but Harman made her bones as a high-stakes cash game grinder who frequented the biggest games in the world. A fixture in the famed “Big Game,” competing for nosebleed stakes alongside legends like Doyle Brunson, Phil Ivey, and Daniel Negreanu, Harman also became a regular on television’s High Stakes Poker series.
7 – Liv Boeree
London born Liv Boeree has amassed $2.99 million in live tournament earnings since 2007, putting her at sixth on the all-time money list for female players.
In August of last year, Boeree notched a third-place finish in the €25,500 High Roller at EPT Barcelona, good for a $449,383 score. Along with modelling for magazines like Maxim on the side, Boeree is an accomplished online poker player as well, regularly taking down titles on the virtual felt and serving as a sponsored pro for an industry leading site.
Boeree was also named as the manager of the Global Poker League’s (GPL) London Royals ahead of the inaugural season.
6 – Victoria Coren Mitchell
The proverbial “jane of all trades,” Victoria Coren Mitchell works as a television host and writer while also remaining quite active within the poker industry.
Sitting in 9th on the all-time money list for female players, the British icon took down the EPT San Remo Main Event for $660,947 in 2014.
5 – Loni Harwood
After winning two WSOP Circuit rings in 2012, Loni Harwood broke out in a big way the following year at the WSOP proper.
Cashing six times, reaching three final tables, and winning her first gold bracelet, Harwood was the star of the summer in 2013. She currently occupies the 12th position on the all-time money list for ladies.
4 – Cate Hall
A relative newcomer to the tournament circuit, Cate Hall has only been playing for a little over a year now, but she made a splash during the last six months.
With two final table appearances on the World Poker Tour (WPT) to close out 2015, Hall navigated large fields filled with top-flight pros, proving that she’ll be a force to reckoned with as she gains a greater level of experience.
3 – Maria Ho
Routinely tabbed as the woman most likely to win the WSOP Main Event one day, longtime pro Maria Ho has backed that status several times, even emerging as the “Last Woman Standing” by navigating through 6,000+ player fields in 2007 and 2014.
With $ 1,888,515 in live tournament earnings, the newly appointed manager of the GPL’s L.A. Sunset franchise holds the 10th spot on the all-time money list for women.
2 – Hui “Kitty” Chen-Kuo
Known to her friends simply as “Kitty,” Hui Chen-Kuo has racked up an impressive total of more than $1 million in live tournament earnings, all while still searching for that elusive big score.
This makes Kuo one of the more consistent performers on the circuit, with 74 cashes coming in casinos and tournament venues located all across the planet.
1 – Allyn Jaffrey Shulman
A member of poker’s venerable Shulman family, Allyn Jaffrey married industry publisher and poker pro Barry Shulman in 2003.
In 2012 the Shulmans, along with Barry’s son Jeff, became the first family to have three members make final tables at the same WSOP. And Allyn Jaffrey secured family bragging rights that year by winning her first gold bracelet, and $603,713 to boot, in the WSOP Senior’s Championship.