How often should women be winning at the WSOP

Posted by Steve Ruddock on Jul 19, 2011 Posted in Op-Ed, WSOP News | No Comments »

A lot has been made in recent years about the number –or lack thereof—of women in poker tournaments. And even though there are a number of really strong female poker players populating the pro ranks, the ladies have also been stymied when it comes to winning at the WSOP, with their last open-bracelet coming in 2008 –women have been winning their fair share of other major tournaments around the world.

What I want to take a look at in this column is: What kind of success should women have at the WSOP, compared to how they have actually been performing. And then possibly give a few reasons why women are underperforming at the WSOP.

Basically this is completely about numbers, since I don’t think the small percentage of women who play WSOP events are weaker than their male counterparts –in fact I would guess they are on average better than males since the small number of women who do play are probably not recreational players. Mathematically, women make up about 3% of tournament fields, and all things being equal skill-wise, women should win 3 out of every 100 WSOP tournaments –or about 1.5 bracelets per year.

Furthermore, players have about a 1-in-750 chance of making the WSOP Main Event final table. So with about 200 women in the field each year, theoretically a woman should be represented at the final table of the WSOP Main Event every 4 years, which has definitely not been the case.

Basically, women, even though they only represent 3% of the fields, have been seriously underperforming at the WSOP. Over the past 200 WSOP open events women should have six wins, they have ZERO! Over the 40+ years of WSOP Main Events women have placed only a single representative at the final table –Barbara Enright in 1995– an absolutely unbelievable cold-spell.

Now there are a number of reasons why women might not be living up to expectations, variance is likely the main culprit, and another possibility is that expectation is playing a role in their performance. With the added pressure due to the current dry-spell as well as the stereotype of women being weak poker players, with each passing tournament the story just gets bigger and bigger –women are 0-for-208 straight tournaments at the WSOP. And when a woman does make a final table, even if she is ignorant of the history or the implications, she is immediately bombarded with questions from the poker media, and every woman in poker starts cheering her on. Therefore she finds herself under even more pressure to perform, as if playing for a WSOP bracelet wasn’t enough pressure already!

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