Louise Butler, Ireland’s first professional female poker player has called for more girls to join in the game at pro level, saying that it’s not just ‘a man’s world.’
Speaking to the Irish Sun, Ms Butler recalled playing poker at Galway University with her friends, where she’d very often be the only woman in the game.
She played for fun for many years, but only decided to give professional poker-playing a shot when she was living in Australia in 2014.
It went very well, and Ms Butler quickly realised that she could make more money per hour playing poker than doing anything else.
She is now sponsored by Party Poker, and can often be found playing up to 15 games at a time – although she maintains that she keeps a close watch on her bank roll and never plays above a $109 buy-in.
Women in Poker
Ms Butler says that she wants girls to feel comfortable when they play poker and for them to know that they can take part in the game and feel at home there.
She recalls recently being at the Irish Poker Open and having girls coming over to her and telling her that having a visible female poker player as a role model had encouraged them to take their own game more seriously.
She said that it was important not to be put off, either when playing online or offline, by the different ratios in gender. Especially, she added, when it came to playing poker online, where most people don’t know anything about you, including whether you’re a man or a woman.
Even though it wasn’t the first time male poker players have been rude to her, Ms Butler said most cases were few and far between – although she did not downplay how unpleasant it could be for women to go through such an experience.
“When you go to a tournament event, it’s 95 per cent men which is pretty mad for something that is essentially a mind sport.”
“There’s no reason we can’t do as well as the guys really, but it can be a bit intimidating.”
"The vast majority of the guys who play poker are happy to see a girl playing, they’re really welcoming,” she added.
Poker in Ireland
Poker is one of the most popular games in Ireland, and has been producing pro-level players for several years, including Andy Black, Dermot Blain, Marc MacDonnell and Dara O’Kearney.
Ireland is also the home of the Irish Open, which is widely considered to be one of the world’s oldest ongoing poker tournaments, having been established by Irish bookie Terry Rogers in 1981 after a fortuitous trip to Las Vegas.
But women playing at professional levels remain thin on the ground, even here. “Ireland has always really punched above their weight in poker but there hasn’t really been a woman so I hope to change that a little bit,” Ms Butler commented.
She also cautioned that poker was not an ideal game for people with addictive personalities, and warned that poker heads at all levels – whether playing professionally or just for fun – had to plan for losses when playing.