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A female professional poker player describes the attitudes of male poker players, and explains how women can use these attitudes to get away with bluffs.
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By Cat Hulbert
(From Blackjack Forum XXIV #1, Winter 2004/05)
© Blackjack Forum 2005

Playing poker with men is stimulating in a different way than playing only with women. The majority of men perceive woman as a passive creature who is incapable of high limit competition. You will have to become more aggressive to survive, but you can also use your feminine wiles to outwit your opponent at any monetary limit. When men stare at a pretty face (or chest) some lose interest in everything other than acting like Mr. Nice Guy. Reward them with a smile when they check. The more capable you are of boosting the male ego, the greater chance you’ll have of bluffing them. And if your bluff does succeed, don’t ever show; compliment him instead on how devilishly smart he plays.

Another advantage, when facing a bet from Mr. Nice Guy, is that you can always just ask, “Geesh, did you make that straight?” The more your male opponent craves female attention, the more truthful he’ll be. Flirting works best for the woman who is not overly aggressive and simply plays by the book.

There’s also the type of male opponent I call Daddykins. He’ll want to show-off to his little girl how much he knows about poker. This type of man longs for appreciation. Listen, nod respectfully, never challenge an opinion, and mentally catalog what he’s giving up. The more a player divulges how he plays, the easier it is to develop a strategy to beat him. An added bonus is he may also be a good player and teach you something valuable.

Use all your natural born assets, which includes your superior female sixth sense. Who understands a flying hormone better than us? Study your opponents; try to feel an opponent’s emotional highs and lows. When a person is upset his “mad” turns into aggression whether he has the cards or not. Don’t choose these times to try and outplay him with deuces. It seems like it should be the reverse, doesn’t it? No, even hormonal men can get lucky; so don’t be the one that dumps off her money and allows him to get his equilibrium back. Wait for a hand that is unquestionably the best and then be prepared to risk your stack. And remember – don’t make any good lay-downs at the river because we don’t care if he bluffs us before the chips go in, but after you’ve made a full round investment – CALL!

What if you’ve never won a beauty contest? (Personally, congratulations.) You are not weaponless, whatever your appearance, because just being a woman unsettles most men and you can use that to your advantage. The quiet woman has the ability to strike unexpectedly, and her raises will be taken seriously. You can limit your field more easily and your aces will hold up more often. But just because you can’t turn 10 heads in a row doesn’t mean you can’t always look well groomed and confident. You can’t fight the fact that looking good equates to feeling good about yourself. And confidence wins pots.

What if you’re a lifetime member of the National Organization of Women and find manipulating opponents with your feminine wiles offensive. Don’t let being a feminist be a negative. My main point is to understand what impression you are making at the table. If you sit down with a chip on your shoulder, there will be some man who can’t wait to knock it off. He will try to outplay you, and if he has more experience than you, he will succeed. So drop the attitude. Our objective is to win money, not prove the superiority of the sexes. You won’t be able to bluff with as much success as Miss Pretty, but you will get your good hands called more often. Be patient, your time will come. And don’t fall prey to chauvinistic remarks. You’ll hear plenty, and if you let it throw you off balance or put you in an attack mode you may as well brand a V for victim on your forehead.

Fearless, aggressive, and sharp-witted women aggravate the macho man the most. Be prepared to be disliked by some, and if this is a problem, coat yourself with an additional layer of shellac before leaving the house. You will always be the minority sex in a public cardroom, so don’t start any battles without provocation. Eventually there will be a man that is just as smart as you, plays better, and has sharper quills. Be prepared to back down and count to ten. Again, we’re not at the table to prove anything, we’re here to make money.

Not all men think women are inferior players. Don’t compartmentalize; size up your male opponents correctly from the start. The more experienced players, even if they are misogynistic, won’t let ignorance affect their reasoning.

One way to enhance your image is by never whining over bad luck or asking for set-ups. Remember, you only make your opponents feel good to see you miserable or out-of-control. In fact you are building up their confidence by displays of ill emotion. If you recognize it when you feel like pulling a stun gun out of your purse, GET UP and take a break. Go outside, look up at the blue sky, feel the breeze, remember the good things in your life – your baby’s smile, your dog’s wagging tail, anything that will transport you out of your self-inflicted mental darkness. And if you can’t shake it off, go back to the table, pick up your chips, and think like Scarlett, “Tomorrow is another day.”

Eventually you will earn the respect of your male opponents if you consistently play a tough game. Yet if you are seeking admiration you’ve chosen the wrong outlet or profession. High limit poker is tough, often hurts like hell, and only the resilient, determined, disciplined woman or man will experience a financially happy ending. ♠

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