2010 is increasingly being referred to as “Year of the Woman” by the poker media and it is easy to see why.
So far this year, Liv Boeree has triumphed in San Remo at the EPT, Vanessa Selbst has topped an NAPT event, Annie Duke won the gold at the National Heads-Up Poker Championship and Katja Thater was named 2010 European Poker Tour Mixed Games Player of the Year.
But the poker table was not always a place for the fairer sex, the sport being heavily dominated by men. The first female poker player to win a WSOP bracelet was Jackie McDaniels, though that was a ladies only Seven Card Stud tournament (the first ever ladies tournament at the WSOP) in 1977. The buy-in for the event was $100, the smallest buy-in in WSOP history to this day and just 2% of the men’s Seven Card Stud tournament fee ($5,000). Clearly, this women-only poker tournament was nothing more than tokenism.
By the time Barbara Enright won the same ladies Seven Card Stud WSOP event in 1986, the buy-in was increased to $500, but that was still the smallest in the series by a distance and women in poker were still a novelty occurrence. Enright became the first female ever to win two WSOP bracelets, by repeating the feat in 1994, though few people were paying much attention.
Over the next two years though, Barbara Enright made the poker world take notice of women in the game.
1995 was the year that Dan Harrington won the WSOP Main Event, winning $1 million and beating 272 other poker players. At the final table was one Barbara Enright, who performed very well indeed and but for her pocket eights being outdrawn by undercards, she might well have improved on her 5th place finish, for $114,180. This was the first time a woman had made it to the final table of poker’s showpiece tournament and she had to be respected for the feat.
In 1996, Enright broke more records. In taking down the $2,500 Pot Limit Hold’em event, she became the first woman to win an open event at the World Series of Poker, as well as becoming the first lady to win three bracelets.
A queen amongst kings, Barbara Enright helped to pave the way for women to shine on the largest of all poker stages and has undoubtedly inspired the likes of Jen Harman, Annie Duke and Annette Obrestad, as they compete with the boys on equal terms and win.
Enright’s Main Event finish has yet to be bettered by a female poker player and was a truly memorable WSOP moment, but surely it is only a matter of time before one of the many talented young ladies goes one better?