It may be uncomfortable in 2021 to call something an activity “for men,” but in the case of poker it’s clear this perception is the reality. It’s not that there’s anything inherently masculine about the game. In fact, concepts of manliness and femininity have swapped and changed over the centuries, which shows that a lot of our notions are simply the fashions of the day. Take pink: the color is today associated with girls, but it was once the color of choice for men.
Similarly, poker has evolved as a stereotypically male game. TV shows like The Sopranos show the women doing the house chores, while burly men sit in smoky rooms playing cards. This kind of societal cue is passed down to people in real life, so that the concept of playing an all-female poker game seems somehow wrong. And yet, it’s not – and things are changing. Since it is not a sport that depends on physical strength, there’s nothing stopping women from taking the game by storm. Today’s world is simply far more accepting of and open to men and women who indulge in what would stereotypically represent the opposite sex.
So, here are a few reasons why poker is still thought of as a game for men.
Poker’s Greatest Players Have Been Predominantly Men
Among poker’s greatest players, the most accomplished and recognizable are men. A quick look at the big-name players down the years will show just how male-dominated the game has become. The likes of Alex Foxen, T. J. Cloutier, Patrik Antonius and Dan Bilzerian, as well as other bearded males top the lists. So, for any aspiring young woman, there aren’t too many female faces to look up to in the business. That said, it could all change in the future. Fatima Moreira de Melo is just one woman playing at the top tables. Vanessa Selbst won $12 million USD from poker, while Kathy Liebert and Annie Duke will also never have to work again after taking home substantial winnings.
Movie Poker is Male
Movies are among our most inspiring tools for young people. If you want to be a superhero or a top actor, it helps to see someone who looks and sounds like you in the lead roles. But poker movies have historically been full of men. Just look at the likes of 21, The Gambler, Cool Hand Luke and Rounders. The characters are mostly male, while the game itself is portrayed as the epitome of manliness. It is hard for aspiring women players to draw much inspiration from such films. However, Molly’s Game – based on the true story of Molly Bloom – might be a real game changer.
In 2021, women earn 82 cents for every dollar that men make. This inequity is sad given the times, and may be due to many factors that are far too complicated to discuss here. But it means that men statistically have more disposable income to spend on things like poker.
Women can start to make more of an impact in poker in the coming years. The reasons stated above for the male sway in the game can all be changed and rectified. Movies are beginning to cast more women in lead roles, which makes them more likely to star in poker films. The pay gap is slowly starting to narrow, meaning more women will be able to play with disposable income. And that should lead to more of the biggest hitters being female, and inspire a whole new generation to come.