It must rank as one of the more obvious additions the European Poker Tour this year. In all there are sixteen events taking place in this festival of poker, but while one might look like another from the rail, it’s hard to mistake today’s side event as anything other than a Ladies event – the first in EPT history.
Call them controversial, touching as they always do the sensitivities of those who rightly state that poker is a mental game without the distinction between men and women. Be that as it may 15 tables of women are now playing a no-limit hold’em freeze out as the EPT main event plays on in the background, a field that has shattered expectations.
That’s all in part to a PokerStars promotion encouraging more female players into the game. We expected 40 players but got 120 for a £200 buy in no limit hold’em tournament: 5,000 starting chips, 30 minute levels and a winner some time tonight, taking the lioness’s share of a £23,000 prize pool.
Melissa Hayden alongside Veronica Dabul
When PokerStars launched freeroll qualifiers to win a seat, spending money and a night at the five star Hilton Metropole, 7,500 entered, a good start for what may well be a regular event on this year’s tour. Following London the next highlight will feature at the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure, where a $1,000 buy in event will also mark the PokerStars sponsored High Heels Poker Tour grand final on Paradise Island, when Team PokerStars Pro Vanessa Rousso will chair a ladies camp before the three day event begins.
EPT presenter Michelle Orpe
For now thought there’s the London title to win. As well as newbies to the game, giving live poker a twirl for the first time, there are some pros in the mix, including those from Team PokerStars Pro; Celina Lin, Fatima Moreira de Melo and Veronica Dabul.
As a consolation to the first ten players eliminated, each will receive a signed copy of Vicky Coren’s new book: For Richer, For Poorer. But despite a cheerful atmosphere, with a few more hugs and more make-up than you’d normally see in a place like this, only one book has so far been given away. The competition here is fierce. They’d rather buy their own with some prize money.
Here are the PokerStars UK qualifiers for this event…
Susan Fiona Belton
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A little while into the event, Mad Harper caught up with one of the players. Here’s her report…
Jaded, cynical poker reporters – and even jaded, cynical poker players – could benefit from a chat with Margaret Forster, currently at Table 31 in the EPT London Ladies event.
Margaret – “maggiemay65” online – is one of those people who makes you realise all over again what a great experience tournaments are.
The 52-year-old grandmother, who sells cleaning products door to door, has been hosting a family-and-friends home game in Belfast for the last four years. The buy-in used to be a £1 but in a fit of wild extravagance, the friends recently upped it to £2.
Online, Margaret plays low-stakes cash and the 45-player $1.10 45 Sit and Goes which she has won “quite a few times”. When PokerStars launched freeroll qualifiers to win a seat to London for the £200 Ladies Event, plus spending money and a night at the five star Hilton Metropole, 7,500 women players entered. Maggie didn’t think she stood a chance but her friends egged her on to have a go and now she’s in London, for the first time in 41 years, and having the time of her life.
She has already seen Boris Becker, Chris Ferguson and Humberto Brenes among the many stars wandering around the Kings Suite of the Hilton Metropole but has yet to spot Michael “Beppe” Greco from EastEnders who is still – just – in the main event.
She said: “I am absolutely thrilled to be here. I didn’t think I had a chance at all but here I am. It’s fantastic – my first ever live event and I’m loving it. It’s very different from playing online – people seem much more conservative but it’s been great meeting other people that I play against and seeing them in real life”.