Ladies MUG Makes a Triumphant Return at the 2023 WPT World Championship Festival

By Christina Bradfield
December 09, 2023

It felt like just yesterday – not last year – that I attended my first Ladies MUG (Meet Up Game). The World Poker Tour had already awed me as I walked down beautiful hallways at the Wynn and the Encore that led me to the Ballroom where most of the poker tournament action was happening. The class and opulence set a new standard of tournaments for me in 2022. When I walked into the Ladies MUG in the Wynn poker room this December 8th at 9am, the energy and excitement and pure warmth that greeted me felt like a hug.

The combination of dedication and determination by Jamie Kerstetter, Angelica Hael and the WPT to move women’s poker forward in a supportive and warm environment brought out professionals and beginners alike.

Ladies MUG Jamie Kerstetter

The first time I played live poker it was at Buffalo Bill’s at Stateline, NV. It was neither warm, bright, or supportive, nor were there any other women, but my instantaneous love for live poker kept me at my seat for hours and a live poker player was born. One of the many refrains I often hear is that “if a woman doesn’t have an amazing first session playing poker, she’ll usually never return.” Thinking of my own first time, I’m awed that I did return and kept playing. But if this Ladies MUG was someone’s first exposure to live poker, I know with 100% certainty they’ll be back for plenty more.

Jamie Kerstetter’s involvement has been pivotal in making this event happen, and is integral for its success along with the WPT’s support. Jamie is a venerated poker player and commentator, Creative Producer for WPT Global, with total live earnings of about $800,000 according to the Hendon Mob.

Jamie Kerstetter Angelica Hael

Jamie Kerstetter and Angelica Hael

Tables were full almost from the beginning with dozens upon dozens of ladies firing away fast and furious at the felt. There was cheering (I may have joined in), mimosas were flowing, dogs were pet, and — most importantly — games were played. Complementing with camaraderie, there were 19 splash pots where the winner received amazing prizes, including: a $100 Wynn gift card, Kate Spade jewelry, Faded Spade cards, RunGood apparel, and two grand prizes of an $1100 WPT Prime seat.

Ivonne Montealegre

Ivonne Montealegre wins a $100 Wynn gift card in a splash pot

Lindsey Kludt, Angelica Hael, Sherry Pluskota, Tara Smith, and Ivonne Montealegre were amongst the attendees.

Angelica Hael, one of the biggest supporters of this event, showed up to support the Ladies MUG. She has been with the World Poker Tour for over 10 years and is WPT’s VP of Global Tour Management, has been awarded the GPI Industry Person of the Year and was inducted into the Women in Poker Hall of Fame last year.

When I asked Tara Smith, the President of the Women’s Poker Association, why she felt this event was important she answered “There’s a lot of people that showed up today that have never played a hand of poker in their life. It provides a comfortable space for women to play, whether you’re a super senior in the community of poker or fresh, and you can enjoy yourself, not be intimidated, have a great time and excel your game.”

Tara Smith

Tara Smith

2023 WPT Ladies MUG: Where Poker Meets Pure Happiness

The closest I’ve come to the cheering and pure happiness of the tables at the Ladies MUG was when I convinced one of the tables I was playing at the Grand Sierra Resort in Reno to do the wave on New Year’s Eve. The difference with the Ladies MUG is that nobody needed to be coaxed; it was pure fun and effervescent energy, as if happiness had escaped into the Wynn poker room. It even drew people in from the casino floor, wanting to be a part of whatever fun was occurring.

Heather Schwartz and Kaitlyn Jeffers ended up being the lucky winners of the $1100 WPT Prime Seats. However, I think we all won something at the 2023 Ladies MUG. I always feel hopeful and filled with joy after these MUGs. I feel hope that more women are joining, are finding their tribe of poker players, and are leaving with their own piece of happiness.

WPT Passport winners

Heather Schwartz and Kaitlyn Jeffers, with their prizes



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Christina Bradfield poker author
Written By.

Christina Bradfield

Christina Bradfield is an author currently living in Las Vegas. Her love for poker began at a young age when her mother introduced her to Texas Hold’em in a home game where she learned not to put her cash winnings in her pockets.

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