Pioneering Women in Poker: Phyllis Caro, Part 2

phylliscaro2

Last week I wrote about how Phyllis Caro got her start in poker and how she ended up working with her husband at the time, Mike Caro, and founder of the Bicycle Club, George Hardie, to clean up poker in California.

People like myself who have been playing poker since the boom times have no idea how bad it was, especially for the dealers. As a dealer herself at one time, Phyllis can tell you some horror stories, but as she says, it was an accepted part of poker.

Players acted out and blamed the dealers for everything. She says players were not only verbally abusive towards dealers, but physically as well.  My husband Robert Turner described a horrific incident where a player actually got out a lighter and tried to burn a dealer.

It did not happen overnight, but Phyllis was instrumental in helping stop dealer abuse. Players were given warnings and then time out (yes, like children). Poker was changed forever once management took a stance against dealer abuse.

Phyllis continued to rise through the ranks from Dealer Coordinator to Vice President of Casino Operations of the Bicycle Club. In between, she worked tournaments becoming the first female Tournament Director making such innovations as starting the first non-smoking tournaments.

Always an advocate for women in poker, she started the annual Queen of Hearts tournament, which runs to this day; in fact, it was just held this Sunday at the Bike.

As Tournament Director of the Bike, she also ran the second largest tournament in the industry at the time, the Diamond Jim Brady. In 1993, when Phyllis became the Vice President of Casino Operations, she was the first female to hold that position in the industry.

In April 1990, the Bicycle Club was seized by federal authorities making federal government part owner of the most valuable asset ever seized at that time under federal racketeering laws.

The government appointed a trustee named Harry Richard to oversee operations at the Bike. Under the trusteeship, Phyllis fought to keep poker honest. As Phyllis says, “Mike ingrained the fact that all games should be honest.”

In 1995, Phyllis was hired as Casino Manager at Hollywood Park Casino and eventually became Director of Poker Operations where she continued making history.

Phyllis may be retired from poker now, but she will always stand for integrity in poker; she has committed her life to it.

Listen to me and Robert discussing Phyllis’ career on High Roller Radio here: https://youtu.be/bmhuFvCUw38

 

A Passion for Poker: Meet Hollywood Park Casino’s Ginger Lee by Patricia Chavira

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As I have written about before, women are underrepresented both at the poker tables and on the casino floor, so when I meet a woman who has both played poker and worked in a casino, I know I am talking to a very rare person indeed, and that special woman is Ginger Lee.

Ginger ended up in a card room like many women do—she tagged along with a friend. When she was a college student, she was asked if she would like to go to the Bike. She said yes thinking she was going to a bicycle shop.

Much to her surprise, she ended up at the Bicycle Club in Bell Gardens, California, one of the largest card rooms in the world. Little did she know that fateful decision would change her life.

When she was a waitress at a sushi bar, a customer who worked at Commerce Casino convinced her to apply for a job at the card room. In 1990, she learned to deal and passed her auditioned. She began working as a dealer but realized that to be a better dealer, she had to learn how to play poker, so she began playing after work.

Working With Poker Legends

linda-johnson

Linda Johnson, the First Lady of Poker

Ginger rose through the ranks being promoted to the tournament staff by her mentor Cheri Dokken, Commerce Casino’s tournament director for many years. She also had the privilege of working tournaments with legendary tournament directors Jack McClelland and Matt Savage.

Ginger began playing tournaments herself even meeting her future husband at the L.A. Poker Classic in 1992. She tells a funny story about registering another player for a tournament who never showed up. She didn’t want to be stuck for the buy-in, so she decided to play herself. It was her first No-Limit tournament. She ended up chopping it. Ginger is also a skilled 7-Card Stud player who has cashed in several stud tournaments.

In 2003, she dealt during the first season of the World Poker Tour to such poker luminaries as Phil Ivey and Gus Hansen. But the best part for her was working with her idol Linda Johnson, “The First Lady of Poker.”

After working at Commerce for 25 years, Ginger now works at Hollywood Park Casino as a shift manager with Director of Casino Operations Ramy Wahba. They worked together at Commerce for over 20 years.

Over her career, Ginger has learned that a casino’s success depends on customer service. As she says, “We are here because of the customer; we have to listen.”

With her passion for poker, you can be sure any casino that Ginger Lee works at is a place you want to play.

Patricia Chavira is a freelance writer and social media consultant specializing in poker.  She writes a column called the “Poker Scene” for Gaming Today. Follow her on Twitter @pinkchippoker.

 

 

Women in Poker: Chellie Campbell by Patricia Chavira

Chellie Campbell

I had the most amazing time in the Big O tournament at Hollywood Park Casino this Saturday. I made the final table with two other women, Chellie Campbell and Lulu Flippin, who ended up in second and first, respectively. As we played down to four players, I chatted with both women, which inspired me to write this article.

As I have played more Omaha in the past year, I noticed fewer women seem to play this game than hold’em, so when we got down to two tables, it was great playing with two other women. We chatted with the dealer Leslie, and were having fun. We only had to lose one more player before the final table, and it just happened to be the hand Chellie was in.

She won the hand at showdown, and her male opponent wasn’t happy. He kept berating her, and I finally had to tell him to stop criticizing her. He was knocked out in the next hand.

I had the pleasure of sitting down with Chellie after the tournament after Lulu told me how accomplished Chellie is in life and in poker.

Chellie started her career as an actress. While working at Walt Disney World in Florida, she noticed some of the men would bring their lunch and play poker in the barn where they rehearsed. Because she had never played poker before, she watched them once before she sat in the game. Naturally, she won all the money the first time she played; she was bitten by the poker bug.

When she moved back to Los Angeles, she played with friends in home games. They would go to Vegas every January and June to play poker. She honed her game by playing, reading books and watching old VHS tapes of the World Series of Poker.

When Hollywood Park Casino opened in 1994, Chellie played 7-Card Stud for two years before moving on to hold’em. She played that for six months before being introduced to Omaha by her friend Mitch.

When she sold her bookkeeping business in 1994 to teach financial stress reduction workshops, it gave her more freedom to play poker. Today you can find Chellie playing Omaha in L.A cardrooms. She is the redhead with the bright smile.

She has written numerous books including her latest “From Worry to Wealthy: A Woman’s Guide to Financial Success without the Stress.” Visit www.chellie.com for more information on this inspirational woman.

Patricia Chavira is a freelance writer and social media consultant specializing in poker. She writes a column called the “Poker Scene” for Gaming Today. Follow her on Twitter @pinkchippoker.

 

Poker from a Woman’s Perspective by Patricia Chavira

 

hot women

What does this have to do with poker skill?

 

My birthday was last Thursday, and to celebrate my husband said we can go to dinner at my favorite restaurant, or he could put me in a tournament. I chose the latter.

We chose the $10,000 guarantee Pot Limit E.O. Stud 8/Omaha 8 during the World Series of Poker Circuit at the Bicycle Hotel & Casino on St. Patrick’s Day.

I had never played Pot-Limit before, but with a little coaching and encouragement from my husband, fellow Gaming Today columnist and creator of Omaha, Robert Turner, I thought I’d take a shot. He has pushed me to play out of my comfort zone, and it has really helped me in all my games.

Where Are All the Women?

Crowded Poker Room

How many women can you count in this picture?

 

The first thing that struck me when I looked around the room was the lack of women in the field. There was one woman at my table and another one sitting a table away. Three women out of a field of 50 is a sad commentary on the state of poker in 2016.

On Twitter there have been numerous debates about the reason for this, and the answers have ranged from biology and cultural expectations of women to outright misogyny. I can only speak from my own experience, and I can say, when anyone—male or female—is starting out playing poker live, the environment is extremely intimidating.

We all have a responsibility to make newcomers feel comfortable. If you cannot be friendly, don’t be rude. When I was starting out, men would often remark on my play. I simply learned to say, “Where can I get your book?” and that would often end the conversation right there.

“Nice Rack”

Nice Rack

I don’t think he means my chips.

 

On the opposite end of the spectrum are the men who are too friendly. When I started playing poker in Los Angeles and Las Vegas, I would often have my dad accompany me. So when I would get a remark like “nice rack,” I would introduce the fellow to my father. One time the gentleman just racked up his chips and left.

Of course, being a woman at the table also has its perks and can give you a slight edge if you don’t let sexist behavior put you on tilt. I’ve had players say, “Honey, do you want me to call or fold?” I answer, and they do it. I wish I could get my husband to do the same!

I can’t say it enough, be courteous to your fellow poker player—male or female. The game will be better for all.

Patricia Chavira is a freelance writer and social media consultant specializing in poker. She writes a weekly column called the “Poker Scene” for Gaming Today. Follow her on Twitter @pinkchippoker.

 

 

Women in Poker: Sweeping Summer Tournaments by Patricia Chavira

Gina Hecht

Gina Hecht, Winner of WPT Legends of Poker Omaha 8 or Better

Women have been dominating some of the biggest tournaments of the summer. The winning streak started at the 2015 World Series of Poker in Las Vegas when Carol Fuchs became the only female winner of an open event this summer by winning the $1,500 Dealers Choice event on June 27. Fuchs, a screenwriter and film producer, topped a field of the best mixed game players in the world to win her first bracelet and the $127,735 first-place prize. The Dealers Choice is one of the toughest events in the entire series as it includes 18 different forms of poker.

Another notable achievement came on July 31 when Loni Hardwood won the 2015 WSOP National Championship at Harrah’s Cherokee in North Carolina. She took home the $341,599 first prize and her second gold bracelet. The final table included such notables as Daniel Negreanu, fresh off his 11th place finish in the WSOP Main Event, and Alexandru Masek, the most successful player on the WSOP Circuit with eight rings to his name. The final table was filmed by ESPN and will be broadcast on August 18.

Harwood now has over $1.6 million in live tournament earnings. She won her first gold bracelet at the 2013 WSOP in a $1,500 No-Limit Hold’em event. She had a spectacular run that summer as the then 23-year-old player from Staten Island, New York, cashed six times and made three final tables, tying Cyndy Violette’s 2005 record for most final table appearances by a female in a single series. Harwood won $874,698 at the 2013 WSOP, setting the record for the most money ever earned by a woman in a single WSOP in Las Vegas.

Women have also made an impressive showing at the World Poker Tour (WPT) Legends of Poker, running through Sept. 4 at the Bicycle Hotel & Casino in Bell Gardens, California. Three women have won events so far. Gina Hecht, an actress and producer, took first place in Event No. 6: a $235 buy-in Omaha 8 or Better on Sunday, August 2. The next day, Monday, August 3, Diana Yang topped a field of 242 players to win Event No. 9: the $150 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em Deepstack. Then on Tuesday, August 4, Wendy Weissman emerged victorious in Event No. 10: a $150 buy-in P.L.E.O.-Stud/Omaha 8 or Better.

While a debate rages about women in poker on social media, these female champions have proven they have what it takes to challenge the best poker players on the felt.

WSOP 2014: Year of the Woman

Poker Women

This is a great week for women in poker with events such as the Women in Poker Hall of Fame induction ceremony honoring Allyn Jaffrey Shulman and Deborah Giardina and the WSOP’s Ladies’ Championship. But the biggest story of the summer is Vanessa Selbt’s becoming the winningest female player in poker tournament history with her historic bracelet win in the $25,000 Mixed Max event at this year’s WSOP. She also became the first woman to hold the top spot on the Global Poker Index (GPI), a ranking of the top live tournament players in the world. Female participation in the WSOP has increased dramatically since I began playing in it the 1980’s, but we as a poker community can do much more to increase those numbers.

Last year, I wrote about this same topic, and it is a good time to revisit it. To move forward we must first honor the achievements of the pioneers that blazed the trail for today’s women in poker. No discussion would be complete without first talking about Barbara Enright. To this day, Barbara Enright is still the first and only woman to make the final table of the WSOP Main Event. She accomplished this historic feat in 1995 when she placed 5th. That was just the beginning of her firsts. She was also the first woman to win three WSOP bracelets and the first woman to be inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame in 2007 along with Phil Hellmuth.

Though no woman has reached the final table of the Main Event since Enright, two women came close in 2012–Gaelle Baumann, who placed 10th, and Elisabeth Hille, who came in 11th. Only two women have lasted the longest in the Main Event twice—Annie Duke in 2000 and 2003 and Marsha Waggoner in 1993 and 1997.

Loni Harwood’s spectacular run was the big story of the 2013 WSOP. The 23-year-old poker player from Staten Island, New York, won her first WSOP bracelet that year in the final $1,500 No Limit Hold’em event of the series. That win marked her 6th cash of the summer (accomplished by only three other players that year) and tied Cyndy Violette’s 2005 record for most final table appearances by a female in a single series. With $874,698 in tournament earnings for the entire summer, Harwood jumped to the No. 8 spot on the all-time WSOP money list for women that year. Harwood’s three final table appearances at last year’s WSOP was an impressive accomplishment for any poker player, male or female. Add to it the fact that the percentage of female participation is so small made her achievement all the more stunning.

Female players are every bit as skilled as male players, but I feel one of the fundamental problems facing women is the lack of opportunity and sponsorship. Sponsorship money is critical for competing in poker at the highest levels regardless of a player’s gender. Women make outstanding ambassadors for poker, and it is a mistake to overlook them for sponsorship opportunities.

It is time for both men and women, the legends of the game and the up-and-comers, to work together to increase the level of female participation in the game we all love. Women such as Lupe Soto work tirelessly promoting women in poker, but it is time we all do our part.

It is just a matter of time before a woman finally wins the Main Event. I have been playing poker for nearly 50 years, and I have had the pleasure of being at the table with some of the best female players in the world. They all have the makings of a champion, but to watch a woman win it all would be a historic feat I hope to see in my lifetime. Maybe this is finally the year….

Robert Turner is a legendary poker player and marketing expert. Robert is most well-known for introducing the game of Omaha poker to Nevada in 1982 and to California in 1986. He also created the Legends of Poker for the Bicycle Casino in 1995. He also was instrumental in helping create Live at the Bike, the first live gaming site broadcast on the Internet in 2002.

He has spent over 30 years in casino marketing and player development and has served as an executive host at the Bicycle Casino and MGM. He is currently working with his new companies Crown Digital Games developing mobile apps and Vision Poker, a poker marketing group.

Find Robert on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/thechipburner and on Twitter @thechipburner.

2013 WSOP: Year of the Woman

2013 WSOP Bracelet Winner Loni Harwood

2013 WSOP Bracelet Winner Loni Harwood

As I was reviewing the statistics for the 2013 World Series of Poker (WSOP), one in particular stood out.  With 79,471 total entries, women players represented a mere 5.1% of the field. Yet, at the same time, female cashes represented 9% of the total money won.  This is an encouraging fact.  Female participation in the WSOP has come a long way since I began playing it in the 1980’s, but we as a poker community can do much more to increase those numbers.

To move forward we must first look to the past and honor the achievements of the pioneers that blazed the trail for today’s women in poker.  No discussion would be complete without talking about Barbara Enright.  To this day, Barbara Enright is still the first and only woman to make the final table of the WSOP Main Event.  She accomplished this historic feat in 1995 when she placed 5th.  That was just the beginning of her firsts.  She was also the first woman to win three WSOP bracelets and the first woman to be inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame in 2007 along with Phil Hellmuth.  Enright is still racking up those chips.  To date, her total live tournament winnings exceed $1.5 million.

Though no woman has reached the final table of the Main Event since Enright, two women came close in 2012.  In fact, both Gaelle Baumann, who placed 10th, and Elisabeth Hille, who came in 11th, are tied for the biggest Main Event payday awarded to a woman with $590,442 earned by each.  By percentage, Baumann has the best record of any woman in the Main Event as she finished in the top .15% out of a field of 6,598 players. Only two women have lasted the longest in the Main Event twice—Annie Duke in 2000 and 2003 and Marsha Waggoner in 1993 and 1997.

This year, Loni Harwood’s spectacular run was the big story of the 2013 WSOP and was chronicled in a PokerNews article titled, “Loni Harwood Setting Records at the 2013 World Series of Poker” by Pamela Maldonado.  The 23-year-old poker player from Staten Island, New York, won her first WSOP bracelet this year in the final $1,500 No Limit Hold’em event of the series.  That win marked her 6th cash of the summer (accomplished by only three other players this year) and tied Cyndy Violette’s 2005 record for most final table appearances by a female in a single series.

And the records do not stop there.  The $609,017 first place money she won surpassed Allyn Jeffrey Shulman’s record set in 2012 of the largest payday awarded to a woman in a Las Vegas WSOP event. With $874,698 in tournament earnings for the entire summer, Harwood has also jumped to the No. 8 spot on the all-time WSOP money list for women. That total was also the most a woman has ever earned at a single WSOP in Las Vegas.

Harwood’s three final table appearances at this year’s WSOP is an impressive accomplishment for any poker player, male or female.  And the fact that the percentage of female participation is so small makes her achievement all the more stunning.  Harwood has just embarked on her career and has many more final tables in her future.  Some legends of the game have amassed an impressive number of WSOP final table finishes including Cyndy Violette at 12, Jennifer Harman at 11 and Marsha Waggoner at 9.  2013 marked not only the 10-year anniversary of Chris Moneymaker’s historic win in the Main Event that helped spark the poker boom, but 2003 was also the first year 10 women made final tables at the WSOP.  2012 saw 14 women final table the WSOP and that number will only continue to grow.

Female players are just as skilled as male players, but I feel one of the problems facing women is the lack of sponsorship.  No matter what a player’s skill level, sponsorship money is critical in being able to compete in poker at the highest levels.  When online poker went live in Nevada, I noticed the new sites were mainly reaching out to male players.  I feel women make even better ambassadors for poker, and it is a mistake to overlook them.  It is time for both men and women, the legends of the game and the up-and-comers, to work together to increase the number of female players so that someday in the not-to-distant future we finally have a female World Champion of Poker.

Robert Turner is a legendary poker player and marketing expert. He is most well-known for introducing the game of Omaha poker to Nevada in 1982 and to California in 1986. He created Live at the Bike, the first live gaming site broadcast on the Internet in 2002. He also created the Legends of Poker for the Bicycle Casino in 1995.

He has spent over 30 years in casino marketing and player development and has served as an executive host at the Bicycle Casino and MGM Grand.  He is currently working with his new companies Crown Digital Games developing mobile apps and Vision Poker, a poker marketing group.

Find Robert on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/thechipburner and on Twitter @thechipburner. 

Robert can be contacted at robertturnerpoker@gmail.com for consulting, marketing and teaching.