I’ve taken to grabbing onto small moments of joy in this world; they call them “glimmers”. Rather than the opposite, “triggers”, things that set me off in negative ways, glimmers are small moments of happiness, wonder, and sacred awe. Recently I went to see a panel hosted by PokerStars during the NAPT (North American Poker Tour) discussing women in poker. It gave me a glimmer and an afternoon filled with hope, optimism, and purpose.
I walked into the large event area on the second floor of Resorts World where the NAPT was being held after a long 12 years’ hiatus. It was like entering a realm of poker Narnia, with room after room filled with tables and barely repressed excitement. I didn’t know if I’d know many people at the event. I had watched the previous panel that PokerStars had held in London, and was thrilled to be able to see the panelists in person.
The PokerStars Live! Panel
I was instantly greeted by someone at the event before I even made it to that level of Narnia. She was warm, friendly, and ushered me in the right direction. As people who’ve read my writings in the past probably know, I would get lost in a closet. I have gotten lost two blocks away from my home. In another life I might be Magellan, but this one ain’t it.
I was enveloped by the rest of the people that had already arrived at the event, and was offered coffee, croissants, freshly cut fruit, and more. I finally met Rebecca McAdams Willets, Director of Partnerships, PR and Consumer Engagement from PokerStars, in person. She was the host of the panel, asking incisive and smart questions. I met Jennifer Shahade, chess champion, and Alex O’Brien, science writer and poker player, and saw Erin Lydon the President of Poker Power who I first met at a Ladies’ Meet Up Game last year and formally met Maria Konnikova, the New York Times bestselling author who I’ve seen in person, but was geeking out way too much previously to make actual conversation.
Jennifer, Alex and Maria are all authors, which adds another element of awe for me. Jennifer’s new book is Chess Queens, and Alex just released The Truth Detective. Maria’s book The Biggest Bluff came out in 2020 and I bought it as soon as it was released. PokerStars gave every attendee a copy of the books, and the authors were right there to sign them. I wasn’t expecting this and I was thrilled.
Erin has been front and center at numerous speeches recently, traveling the country talking about Poker Power’s mission four years in. Her passion and determination inspire me every time I see her.
I ended up sitting in the front row with Linda Johnson, the venerated Poker Hall of Famer and WSOP bracelet winner. Linda started the poker charity Poker Gives with other poker industry legends including Mike Sexton and Jan Fisher. Jan was also in the front row with Lupe Soto, a Women in Poker Hall of Famer who created LIPS (Ladies International Poker Series) amongst many other industry initiatives.
Poker Knowledge and Experiences Empower More Women
The panel was moving and thought-provoking, with Maria explaining how poker can give us skills that can potentially help us in the rest of our life. To paraphrase her, the ability to deal with bad beats, to look at moments when we lose but we know we got it in with the best hands are invaluable. Finally knowing when we run hot, to lean into it and realize how fortunate we are, to play our rush and capitalize on it.
Most of the authors added that the psychology of poker, risk taking, the ability to bluff and to call a bluff are all important skills outside of poker. Erin concurred, as that’s one of Poker Power’s biggest missions. They want to find a bridge for the “knowledge gap, the confidence gap and the bankroll gap” that women face in poker.
Attendees were encouraged to bring women who had never played poker before. After the panel, beginners and intermediate tutorial sessions were held at nearby poker tables.
When I first started watching poker on ESPN, it felt like a vast world that I could never be a part of. When I got my first job in poker at the WSOP, I was giddy and excited and the whole event was thrilling. I was even happy when I learned I had to interview Johnny Chan in front of way too many observers.
I would find out after that first year that the women of poker are generally warm, kind, inclusive, and informative. PokerStars getting behind this panel, inviting brilliant minds to speak, makes me feel hopeful. The panel is a glimmer that I get to take home with me along with my books, and just as precious.
Image credits: PokerStars Live!