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    Monday, November 28, 2005

    Women Hit the Felt

    Women are sitting down the poker table:

    A 2005 survey by the World Poker Exchange, a gambling site based in the Caribbean, reported that women are six times more likely than men to play poker online. Anonymity on the Internet is undoubtedly a large draw for women.

    But the clink of chips on a green-felt table is an irresistible siren song for many women, even if most of their poker-room opponents are men.

    "I'd say 15 percent of the players at any of our daily Hold 'Em tournaments are women these days," said Gary Taub, poker director at Sycuan Casino in El Cajon. "Go back five years, and that figure would not be 1 percent. They are coming out of the woodwork now; they aren't scared anymore.

    Apparently, women are a bit scared, as they're playing poker online more than at a table with men.

    Cat Hulbert says sexual tension comes into play when women sit down at a poker table.

    To outplay the boys, Cat Hulbert offers "tips for competitive women."
    "Women who know how to play the game have several advantages over men, but the biggest is that their sexuality is distracting," said Hulbert. She is a Los Angeles poker pro, poker instructor and author of "Outplaying The Boys: Poker Tips for Competitive Women."

    "I have a friend who plays high-stakes games at the Bellagio (in Las Vegas) who says that whenever a woman sits down at the table, he immediately thinks about whether he could bed her," Hulbert said. "He says it doesn't matter how good-looking she is.

    "This definitely affects a man's focus."

    Jennifer Tilly can certainly be distracting.

    Besides being a solid poker player, the Oscar-nominated actress (for 1994's "Bullets Over Broadway") is drop-dead gorgeous and not averse to wearing cleavage-revealing blouses and dresses at Nevada poker tables.

    That may not have helped Tilly when she won a WSOP bracelet by taking the 2005 Ladies Tournament (advice from her boyfriend, poker pro Phil Laak probably had more to do with it).

    But Tilly, 46, certainly employs her wiles and charms, belying her ditzy on-screen persona, in holding her own at Hold 'Em among the big boys of professional poker.

    Lipscomb, who has played poker for years in addition to producing it on TV, said "player for player, women are better at poker than men."

    The reason? Sex appeal.

    Great. To sum up: women are good for two reasons.

    1. Their boyfriends are good coaches.

    2. They "distract" men with their sex appeal. No word yet on how that affects that online poker tournaments for which women are turning out in droves. What? Don't they want to exploit their sex appeal for a big win?

    And here's another great moment:

    "Some men, if you smile at them across the table, they'll fold. Others seem angry that you are there, or play more aggressively against you than against other men," she said.

    "Smart women can use all of these things to their advantage."

    I think smart women want equality. But that's just me, unfortunately.

    There are also mother issues for men, Hulbert said, when it comes to the significant minority of older women – including many retirees – who frequent poker rooms.

    "An older woman player can be unsettling for some men. They don't suspect she might bluff, for instance," she said.

    "I have a friend whose mother is 70 and plays every day. She's not a very good player, but she has a good winning record because she bluffs so much and gets great value out of lousy hands."

    So, maybe you can win without appealing to sex? (Only if you're elderly.)

    "Poker is a great game for me because I love studying people and I love psychology," Scott said. "Poker is such a great way to learn about life, about how men treat women and how women relate to men. I'd spend all day at the table if they'd let me.

    "And to beat a bunch of smug boys – that always feels good."

    For women, poker is about figuring out relationships and playing out the "Battle of the Sexes". For men, it's about cash and competition. Go figure.


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