I love poker. Even more, I love being a woman who plays poker. I enjoy tournaments, I enjoy cash, I’ve even been known to put my money down for the insanity of a live Sit ‘n’ Go.

Given my location in eastern New England, I mainly play in a local 25 table card room.  A couple of times a year I will venture down to Foxwoods or Mohegan Sun, and have taken trips to play in Vegas, Atlantic City, Maryland Live, and Montreal (for those who haven’t been there, Playground Poker is a great room).

Much of what has been written about women and poker has focused on issues of sexism and even misogyny. Although I am generally treated well by the vast majority of men (and women) at the tables,  I have definitely heard endless versions of “my ex-wife’s a shrew who stole all my money” and “I told my wife I was at work”.

So why do I love to be one of the 10% of women putting my chips down in a sea full of testosterone? Here are the Top Four reasons:

1) I love being the sole woman in a group of men. Often when I sit down to a table I am the only woman there. That is when I feel most in my element. I’m a sports-loving, beer drinking woman who hates to shop and couldn’t care less what the Real Housewives of Topeka are up to (OK, I may have verged into sexism myself there). I would rather talk about Carolina’s odds in the Final Four this year than where to find the best infinity scarf. Do people still wear infinity scarves?

2) I’m the real slim shady. As a suburban mom who analyzes data for a living, I love the instant thug cred of saying “I play poker.” I love the slightly horrified looks I get from non-poker playing friends and family. I love the feeling every time I sit down at an activity that has not been sanctioned by the PTA.

3) I chase the rare adrenaline rush in an otherwise mundane life. Texas Hold ‘em is (almost) never boring. The mere fact that money is on the table gets the heart pumping. Then there are all the big decisions, uncertainty when you are ahead with cards to come, and finally that moment when someone shoves all in on your nut flush. You just don’t get that feeling helping with math homework or nailing the perfect Bernaise sauce.  At the tables suddenly I’m Danica Patrick for a day.

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4) I love the look of shock in a man’s eyes when they realize I can play. Many men do tend to underestimate the skills of the average poker playing woman. I’m no Vanessa Selbst, but I know my way around a flop. So I love when men make certain assumptions about me and my play that are dead wrong. For one, it makes me more profitable. More importantly, I love that moment of recognition in the guy’s eyes when I have outplayed them. Nothing else in my life allows such immediate positive feedback. It may be even better than winning the hand.

The culture of the poker table, even with some of its darker elements, brings this woman great enjoyment and fulfillment. I am more my true self there than I am at work or in any other social situation.

So guys, I think I’m here to stay.


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