Women in poker

Mar 13, 2010 at 10:20 p.m. ET

Thanks to Lady Gaga, we all know how to put on a good "Poker Face." But beyond that hypnotic hit, how much do we really know about the game of poker? Surprisingly, an increasing number of women are bluffing their way up the ranks in online and live poker tournaments.

Poker Bootcamp

According to PokerStars – the world's largest poker website with more than 31 million members around the world -- nearly 3300 women play online poker for money at least once a month.

Photo Credit - Poker Stars pro Vanessa Rousso -- standing in the blue sweat shirt and hat-- is teaching at the High Heels Poker Tour Academy boot camp.

Luck Be a Lady

Victoria Coren

During the annual PokerStars Caribbean Adventure (PCA) at the Atlantis resort in Paradise Island, Bahamas, professional poker players Victoria Coren and Vanessa Rousso gave me an inside peek into the world of lady luck. The sprawling Atlantis resort, meticulously modeled after the mythical underwater city of Atlantis, was the perfect ostentatious setting for the biggest poker festival outside of Las Vegas.

"As a poker player I want to stay in the game and win," Coren says of the PCA tournament. "But if I get knocked out [of the tournament], oh look, I'm in a place with sunshine, dolphins, and a waterslide down a pyramid. I'm not in such a bad mood."

At age 12, Coren was introduced to poker by her teenage brother. "I thought it was a good excuse to hang out with teenage boys," the personable poker pro says. "Now there are still a lot of teenage boys playing poker but I'm 100 years older than all of them."

The thirty-something London native shown in the picture above, is also a journalist and has a newly published memoir, "For Richer, for Poorer: A Love Affair with Poker."

"In the memoir, I pose the question whether I never got married or had children because I was too busy playing poker, or if I'm busy playing poker because I never got married or had children?" she says. "It's about being married to the game and the lifestyle. Some people would say it's soulless and it's all about money. On the other hand, you fly around the world and meet great people from all walks of life."

But are many women still too intimidated by what's traditionally been a man's game?

"When you're sitting down in any situation and you stand out," explains Team PokerStars pro Vanessa Rousso, "you feel awkward and it can distract you."

Rousso and Coren, agree, however that playing for free online is a great way to get comfortable.

"Women can go online, pick an anonymous name, and know one knows whether they're male or female or what they look like," adds Coren. "I seriously think there are women getting bossed around at work, picked on by their boyfriends, and bickering with their friends who can go online and take revenge at the poker table."

Another way to brush up on poker is to join a boot camp like the High Heels Poker Tour Academy and Rousso's Big Slick Bootcamp.

"Women make great poker players. We have great instincts and are very patient," says the 27-year-old graduate of Duke University. "Patience is the number one skill needed in a tournament. Learning how to play isn't rocket science. The toughest part is not getting in your own way. It's having the self-control and discipline to stick to the correct strategy -- to fold when you're supposed to and not play that reckless hand when you're frustrated."

To help you get started, here are Victoria Coren's tips for the beginner female poker player:

Never play for an amount of money you can't comfortably afford to lose.
You have to play for an amount where if you lose it, you can happily think of it as spending it on something fun.

Don't take anything too seriously.
Whatever kind of people you are up against, find it all comical. If people are rude, feel sorry for them.

Never forget that it's a game and it's not supposed to be upsetting.
Get involved in satellite competitions. I wouldn't advise any beginner poker player to spend $10,000 on a poker tournament. The great thing about PokerStars is that you can play online for small amounts to win into bigger events. There are players at the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure and it cost them $10. They played a $10 hand online and spun it up in satellites. Satellites didn't exist when I was a young player, and it's the most amazing experience you can get practically for free.

Vacation Like a High Roller


You don't have to be a poker star to enjoy your stay at Atlantis, but it helps. The pricey resort's current special offers a fourth night and companion airfare for free, plus kids stay and play for free. Be prepared, however, to spend at least $50 per person per day for food and beverages. Additionally, there's a $15 per day fee to use the fitness center and a $14.95 per day Internet charge (to save, use the library in the Coral Towers for 15 minute intervals of free access).

The Atlantis resort is home to more than 50,000 exotic sea animals representing more than 200 species and includes several hotels – the family-and-spring break-friendly Beach Towers and Coral Towers, the Royal Towers with the iconic bridge suite, and the luxury Cove Atlantis. Room quality and customer service at the older, moderately-priced Coral and Beach Towers are hit-and-miss, so if your budget will allow it, double down on a room in the upscale, all-suites Cove Atlantis, where the staff is courteous and attentive.

The Cove opened in 2007 and offers a welcome escape from the resort's casino crowds and young partygoers. The hotel's color scheme is copper and mother of pearl is displayed in the opulent, wood-and-mosaic-accented open-air walkways. Each modern room has a breathtaking view of the Atlantic ocean and the Atlantis dolphins, which are eager to swim with you (for a fee of course). Soak your cares away in the spa bathroom's deep Kohler tub with Red Flower "Ocean" bath salts, or take a dip in the Cove's adults-only pool before you dine in style at the gourmet Mosaic buffet.

No matter what Atlantis hotel you choose to stay in, singles, couples, and families will have a blast at Aquaventure, the resort's fun-filled 141-acre water park of slides, river rides, and the 60-foot "Leap of Faith" vertical drop. The Dig's marine life exhibit featuring clownfish, neon-green Moray eels, piranha, and psychedelic-like jellyfish, is another highlight.

Find more on women in poker on SheKnows

Interview with poker star Jennifer Leigh