Monday, April 12, 2010

Women and the WSOP

2010 NAPT Mohegan Sun final table, photo by Joe GironAs I said I would do on Friday, over the weekend I ended up following the NAPT Mohegan Sun online, reading along to find yesterday afternoon that Vanessa Selbst had won the sucker, besting the field of 716 to take it down. (That there final table photo was taken by the great Joe Giron, by the way, who was there helping cover the event for the PokerStars blog.)

With that win, the Deuces Cracked instructor and Yale law school student earned $750,000, moving her career tourney earnings over the $1.65 million mark.

It sounded like the tournament played out in a similar fashion to the way the 2008 WSOP $1,500 pot-limit Omaha event did that Selbst won. There Selbst also built a big stack early on, then led the tourney almost wire-to-wire, using her chips and aggressive play to keep opponents from gaining any momentum against her.

I helped cover that PLO event for PokerNews in 2008, and it was probably the most exciting one I saw that summer. Some might recall that tourney (Event No. 19) was the one in which Jamie Pickering began ordering drinks for himself and the rail as soon as they had reached heads up, then started raising pot without looking at his hole cards, helping create a wild scene. Here’s a HBP post that discusses some of the craziness: “Reporting from the Eye of the Hurricane.”

I covered several PLO events that summer, and began noticing how women tended not to show up for those tournaments. The PLO event that Selbst won had 759 entrants, and I recall there being perhaps no more than a dozen women in the starting field total, if that. With 100 players left, Selbst had a huge chip lead, at which time I believe there were only two women left -- Allyn Jaffrey Shulman (who finished 41st) and Kathy Liebert (72nd). (EDIT [added 4 p.m. ET]: I should have also remembered here that the BwOP finished 86th in this one, as described in her recap of the event here.)

As Selbst won yesterday, a few of us on Twitter began discussing what her victory perhaps might signify in terms of women and poker. Like some of the other NAPT events, the Mohegan Sun Main Event will get an airing on ESPN in a few weeks (on May 10th, according to the schedule), so Selbst will get quite a bit more publicity for this one than she did for the 2008 WSOP win which was not televised.

As folks were tweeting comments back and forth, it was noted that Selbst was the last woman to win an open bracelet event at the WSOP. That’s when a question occurred to me. Who was the last woman to win an open no-limit hold’em event at the WSOP? Besides Annette Obrestad, that is, who won the 2007 WSOP Europe Main Event.

I posed the question, and pretty soon it became clear that perhaps I had asked a trick question. Had a woman ever won a NLHE bracelet at the WSOP that wasn’t in the Ladies, Seniors, Casino Employees, or Mixed Doubles events?

I could be wrong, but the answer seems to be no. Looks like a total of 12 women have won WSOP bracelets in open events. (Again, not including Obrestad’s 2007 WSOPE win here.) Jennifer Harman is the only one to have done it twice. Here’s the (unofficial) list:
Vera Richmond (1982, $1,000 A-5 Draw)
Barbara Enright (1996, $2,500 Pot-Limit HE)
Linda Johnson (1997, $1,500 Razz)
Maria Stern (1997, $1,500 Seven-Card Stud)
Jerri Thomas (2000, $1,500 Seven-Card Stud)
Jennifer Harman (2000, $5000, NL 2-7; 2002, $5,000 Limit HE)
Nani Dollison (2001, $2,000 Limit HE)
Cyndy Violette (2004, $2,000 Seven-Card Stud/8)
Kathy Liebert (2004, $1,500 Limit HE Shootout)
Annie Duke (2004, $1,500 Omaha/8)
Katja Thater (2007, $1,500 Razz)
Vanessa Selbst (2008, $1,500 PLO)
Enright’s win in a PLHE event looks to be the closest thing here. Enright has two more bracelets (in ladies-only events) plus that 5th place in the WSOP Main Event -- the best ever by a woman -- in 1995. Nani Dollison also has two more bracelets in ladies-only events.

One other interesting bit of WSOP trivia: The year Maria Stern won her bracelet in the $1,500 Seven-Card Stud event (1997), her husband, Max, also won two bracelets, including one in Seven-Card Stud/8.

Who will be the first woman to win a WSOP bracelet in an NLHE event in Vegas? Will it happen this year? Favorites would have to include Selbst, Obrestad, Liebert, and Vanessa Rousso, I’d think, though I wouldn’t be surprised if someone else breaks through to be the first.

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