Poker pro Vanessa Rousso tells us why there aren’t more winning women on the poker circuit

2006 should have been the year of the woman at the World Series of Poker, so what happened to Vanessa Rousso?

We desperately wanted a woman to win the Main Event – it would have done wonders for the game – but with only 270 female entries in a field of almost 9,000, the numbers didn’t add up. We caught up with Vanessa Rousso, who cashed three times in this year’s WSOP and made a final table in the $5,000 Short-Handed event, to find out what’s going wrong.

PokerPlayer: We really thought this year might see more of a balance between men and women but only three percent of the Main Event were female. Are you disappointed?

Vanessa Rousso: If you look at the WSOP in general, although no ladies won a bracelet, in terms of the numbers playing we’re doing really well. I cashed in three events and in each of these there were four women and 800 men. I know Isabelle [Mercier] made a final table, Cyndy Violette got a third place – I mean women are making final tables. I am disappointed in the numbers in the Main Event though. I think a lot more could be done to market poker to women. I think a lot of women have the natural skillset – you know, a good strong basis in maths, confidence, competitive instincts, logical skills – there are women out there like that.

A lot of the old school say a woman can never win the Main Event…

That’s definitely not true – it’s just a matter of time. Give it 10 years. Hopefully it’ll be me.

But how are things going to change? Traditionally we’ve been against women-only tournaments – we love the fact that everyone plays poker together. But are we looking at it from a male perspective?

I have two answers. I see and understand the perspective that there are some women who are intimidated by sitting down with guys; so having women-only tournaments gets more women into the game. It’s a temporary solution to a problem with a more long-term focus on getting women into the game and eventually leading to full integration. It’s a similar problem that existed with racial integration in schools in the 1960s – whenever there’s a majority/minority situation it takes special solutions like affirmative action.
But as a poker player and as a woman who’s played women-only tournaments, I see problems. They aren’t as rewarding, the blind structures are generally faster, the chip counts are generally lower, and it adds up to a situation that doesn’t really benefit skill and that’s bad. That perpetuates the negative stereotype about women being bad poker players. If they had a better structure, more skill-conducive, it could be a more positive asset. It also means it’s a lot harder to make a name for yourself on the female circuit as the tournaments are based more on luck.

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