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The Rise of Women in Online Poker: Trailblazers and Rising Stars [2023]

Shane C

May 8, 2023

Women holding two aces

In a male-dominated sport, female poker pros are often outnumbered with only five percent of the playing field being women. As the game has grown to be more competitive than ever, this estimate plummets to even lower depths, especially in the high-stakes arena. Looking at the year-by-year data, results show that only two players on average make the top 100 rank. While female numbers remain low in comparison to their male counterpart, there are still a select few who have found success well within the poker industry. 

Vanessa Selbst (USA)

Top Women in Poker - Vanessa SelbstFor over a decade, Brooklyn native Vanessa Selbst dominated the field, crushing fairly amongst the toughest contenders while consistently topping the Women’s All-Time Money List. The retired American pro bagged a multitude of accomplishments including 3 World Series of Poker bracelets and back-to-back North American Poker Tour Main Event titles amongst others. Throughout her career, the 37-year-old amassed a total of $11,906,246 in total live winnings before leaving the limelight in early 2018.

Best Live Cash: $1,823,430 - 2010 Partouche Poker Tour Main Event 

WSOP Bracelet(s): 3

Year WSOP Event Prize (USD)
2008 $1,500 Pot-Limit Omaha $227,933
2012 $2,500 10-Game Six Handed $244,259
2014 $25,000 Mixed-Max No-Limit Hold’em $871,148

Kathy Liebert (USA)

Kathy LiebertLas Vegas-based Kathy Liebert ranks second behind Selbst with $6,426,752 in recorded live tournament earnings while towing one WSOP bracelet under her belt. The 54-year-old American pro lists an impressive lineup of deep runs, having made six World Poker Tour final table appearances, a third-place finish in the 2005 Borgata Poker Open, and 83 WSOP money finishes dating as far back as the 90s. 

Best Live Cash: $1,000,000 - 2002 Partypoker Million $8,000 Limit Hold’em

WSOP Bracelet(s): 1

Year WSOP Event Prize (USD)
2004 $1,500 Limit Hold’em Shootout $110,180

Kristen Bicknell (Canada)

Kristen BicknellThree-time GPI Female Player of the Year, Kristen Bicknell quickly rose the ranks in recent years, having secured several hefty wins as well as her third WSOP bracelet in the 2020 online games held in GGNetwork. The Canadian superstar boasts a record of $5,277,276 in total live earnings with $3.4 million of that, coming from her crowning years, 2018 and 2019. A force to reckon with, it definitely won’t be surprising to see Bicknell at the top of the boards sooner or later.

Best Live Cash: $408,000 - 2019 Poker Masters $25,000 No Limit Hold’em

WSOP Bracelet(s): 3

Year WSOP Event Prize (USD)
2013 $1,000 Ladies No Limit Hold’em Championship $173,922
2016 $1,500 Bounty No Limit Hold’em $290,768
2020 $2,500 No Limit Hold’em 6-Handed (Online) $356,411

Annie Duke (USA)

Top Women in Poker - Annie DukeKnown as the Duchess of Poker, Annie Duke earned the rights to her name, being the only woman to win the NBC National Heads-up Poker Championship in 2010 as well as her $4,270,548 live tournament winnings. Throughout her 7-year career, Duke’s earnings from WSOP events alone amounted to $1.16 million on top of the $2 million top prize she claimed from the 2004 Tournament of Champions. While it has been over a decade since Duke made a showing on the felt, the retired pro remains to be among the top female winners of all time.

Best Live Cash: $2,000,000 - 2004 WSOP Tournament of Champions

WSOP Bracelet(s): 1

Year WSOP Event Prize (USD)
2004 $3,000 Omaha High-Low 8/OB $137,860

Maria Ho (USA)

Top Women in Poker - Maria HoTaiwanese pro Maria Ho’s poker career kicked off in 2007 at the WSOP Championship Event where she emerged as the last woman standing, placing 38th out of 6,358 players for a $237,865 payday. Following that success, Ho continued to make deep runs in major events, earning her the reputation as one of today's top female poker players. To date, Ho’s live tournament earnings have reached the $4 million mark with an additional 2019 Global Poker Award for Broadcaster of the Year, solidifying her popularity across the industry even more.

Best Live Cash: $540,020 - 2011 WSOP $5,000 No Limit Hold’em

Annette Obrestad (Norway)

Top Women in Poker - Annette ObrestadHaving found success in her early years, Norwegian prodigy Annette Obrestad caught everyone’s eye when she won the inaugural World Series of Poker Europe for over $2 million before turning 19 years of age. Obrestad began her poker career in online platforms Full Tilt, PokerStars, and UltimateBet, raking in just above $800,000 in less than a year. The superstar’s record stands to be just shy of $4 million with her last cash from the 2018 WSOP games.

Best Live Cash: $2,013,733 - 2007 WSOPE £10,000 No Limit Hold'Em Event

WSOP Bracelet(s): 1

Year WSOP Event Prize (USD)
2007 £10,000 No Limit Hold'Em Event $2,013,733

Liv Boeree (UK)

Top Women in Poker - Liv BoereeGarnering the nickname "Iron Maiden", British pro Liv Boeree made her breakthrough following her win at the 2010 EPT Main Event for her career-best cash of nearly $1.7 million. The 37-year-old bracelet winner boosted her success following a coaching experience with top pros Annie Duke and Phil Hellmuth among others. Her 2010 EPT win signified a huge boost to her track record amounting to $3,852,996 and counting.

Best Live Cash: $1,698,300 - 2010 European Poker Tour Main Event

WSOP Bracelet(s): 1

Year WSOPE Event Prize (USD)
2017 $10,000 Tag Team No Limit Hold'Em Championship $273,964

Vanessa Rousso (USA)

Vanessa RoussoRetired American pro Vanessa Rousso basked in the spotlight during the early 2000s to the tune of $3,554,328 in accumulated earnings. Rousso successfully bagged multiple six-figure wins and a lineup of deep runs including a fifth-place finish at the 2010 World Series of Poker Heads Up No Limit Hold'em Championship. Aside from her achievements on the felt, Rousso served to be Team PokerStars for almost a decade, carrying the name "Lady Maverick".

Best Live Cash: $700,160 - 2009 EPT High Roller Championship

Maria Lampropulos (Argentina)

Top Women in Poker - Maria LampropulosHaving entered the poker scene in 2014, Maria Lampropulos quickly built up her poker career with $3,377,912 in winnings to show for. The past seven years have been fruitful for the Argentinian pro with her first appearance in the 2016 WSOP games resulting in five money cashes. Aside from her biggest payday in the 2017 Partypoker MILLIONS, Lampropulos won PokerStars Caribbean Adventure’s Main Event the following year for another seven-figure score.

Best Live Cash: $1,255,004 - 2017 Partypoker MILLIONS £5,300 No Limit Hold'Em

Joanne Liu (Taiwan)

Top Women in Poker - Joanne LiuTaiwanese pro Joanne "JJ" Liu found her love for the game of poker back in the mid-1990s, with her first recorded score being a 4th-place finish in the 27th annual WSOP. Three decades later, Liu has amassed $3,356,854 in winnings including two WPT final table appearances, one of which was a close second at the Bay 101 Shooting Star tournament for her best live cash to date.

Best Live Cash: $600,000 - 2007 WPT Bay 101 Shooting Star Championship Event

Conclusion

The ten highlighted women are just a small sample of the successful female segment; there are dozens more who failed to make the cut yet has proven time and time again that their capabilities shine above the rest. Looking back, a few honorable mentions, such as Barbara Enright - the first woman to be inducted in the Poker Hall of Fame - and Linda Johnson - "The First Lady of Poker" and one of the founders and announcers of WPT - have strongly made an impact on the overall growth of the game. 

There is also Russian-American writer Maria Konnikova whose writing career found success by applying gameplay strategy in real life and Natural8 ambassador Hui Chen "Kitty" Kuo who has captured the attention of the poker community in recent years for her impressive performance in the field, banking over $2.5 million, a few shy of making the top 10. 

These female players' personal accomplishments are more than just that; their work is regarded as an inspiration to the growing number of female players as well as those looking to find success across the modern poker scene.

Image Source: Pokernews