Our Voices: Interview extract with Women’s Sunday winner Natalie Bromley

May 27, 2021inPoker

Back on March 7, just ahead of Intentional Women’s Day, PokerStars lowered the buy-in of the Women’s Sunday to $22 and added tickets to the Sunday Million 15th Anniversary.

Since then, after receiving feedback from players on PokerStars female insights community Our Voices and on other platforms, the $22 buy-in will remain at that level making it more accessible for female players of all levels!

But who won the IWD event you ask?

It was lawyer and recreational poker player Natalie Bromley from Burnley in England.

Natalie spoke to the Our Voices team about how she got into poker, what led her to continue, her experience playing in the Women’s Sunday, what we at PokerStars can do to improve, what it’s like to be a woman in poker, and the challenges of being a female poker player.

We’ve got a snippet of the Q&A here but to read Natalie’s full Q&A go to Our Voices.

Our Voices is a space where PokerStars directly encourages and engages in discussion on both female-focused and general topics, activities and ideas.

PokerStars is calling women from the world of poker; those who work in the industry; enjoy time at the poker table; or those who are new to the game to come together to discuss and give feedback on a wide range of topics and ideas with the aim of ensuring the game is as inclusive and engaging as possible for every player. Join ‘Our Voices’ here.

Natalie Bromley

Name: Natalie Bromley

From: Born and raised in Burnley, Lancashire

Occupation: Property and insolvency lawyer and recreational poker player

How did you get into poker and what drew you to the game?

My husband started playing in 2008. At that stage I was studying at law school and all of my free time was taken up with revision, exams and essay writing. He needed his own hobby to fill his spare time.

Fast forward 12 months and we realised we had to find a way to combine our respective hobbies and enjoy them together.

So, we ‘did a deal’. He got a season ticket at Burnley FC and I learned how to play poker. So, you could say that I started playing poker to maintain marital harmony…

How did you feel when you started playing? What led you to continue?

Largely terrified.

I was initially drawn to poker as I had only ever seen it play in the movies and casinos and it just seemed so sexy and glamourous.

The early days were daunting. I was nervous, unsure about rules and etiquette and very conscious of making a fool of myself.

Same online really; trying to find your way around a lobby when you haven’t played before is some task.

I remember at my first EPT, I was so star struck seeing Daniel Negreanu that I bumped right into Phil Ivey and nearly knocked him to the ground! Not cool.

I have since made a concerted effort to look after new players and try and teach them the ropes. I have a very competitive personality and poker filled the desire to win where sport had thus far failed to (I cannot think of a single sport I am even competent at).

That is what led me to continue. The thought that if I worked hard and used the resources available to me, there was a possibility I could be the best one day.

How did it feel to win the IWD Women’s Sunday event and win the Sunday Million Anniversary ticket?

I have been trying to win that tournament FOREVER so I cannot tell you how ecstatic I was.

I had already locked up a third place, two second places and four other final tables, but I couldn’t find that elusive win. But even though there was relief to final lock up that title, to win it during IWD celebrations just made it even more special.

IWD is a really important event and I had spent the weekend reading some really inspiring stories of trailblazing women. That must have put me in a good state of mind, as I had a really weird feeling going into the tournament that this was going to be the one.

I know there are many in the game who advocate positive mental attitude – here is a real example.

The added value of the Sunday Million Anniversary ticket made the final table strategy really interesting. The Sunday Million is such an iconic tournament and everyone wanted to play in the 15th Anniversary tournament so the seat bubble was more intense than the cash bubble.

There were players in that tournament who would have so valued winning that ticket, and who don’t have the bankroll to play the Anniversary event, so I feel very privileged to have been given the opportunity.

Women’s Sunday winner Natalie Bromley

What has your experience of playing in the Women’s Sunday been like?

It’s a really tough tournament to play in! There are some really talented female players and ladies’ tournaments tend to play fast and aggressively. If you put your chips in that pot in the Women’s Sunday, you’d better be prepared to be playing for your entire stack.

What advice would you give to women who would like to get into poker?

I know that many women are nervous about taking the plunge; society still places a certain stigma on poker players and not many feel comfortable entering a casino. So, there is little point just saying, “go for it”.

Instead, I encourage women to do their research and educate themselves on the game. Knowledge is power and will provide them with the tools they need to protect themselves and enjoy the game safely.

I would also encourage them to join a female community group – there are plenty online that are easily accessible via most major social media networks. They can ask any questions they need to in a safe environment whilst making the friends they need to support them as they take their first steps.

We are truly lucky to have some many supportive female groups who will champion your successes, no matter how small, and also build an almighty support network around you.

Do you feel that poker is level playing field? Why?

Poker is a game of skill that requires one tool; your mind. There should be no advantage in being of a certain age, race or gender.

You will face a varying degree of abilities at the tables, as some players are just technically stronger than others, but as with any sport improving your own performance requires a dedication to learning and improving and that is in your own hands. Every single person started the very same level as you and has the ability to be the very best.

And what a beautiful thing that is.

How would gender balance improve poker?

Well there is an obvious commercial answer to this, isn’t there?

Poker thrives because of its players: the more players you attract, the bigger the fields, prize pools, festivals and headlines become. It is good for the survival of the game and creates buoyancy.

So, the question then becomes “Why more women … why not just increase fields by attracting more men?

It feels disappointing that we are still having to say this in 2021, but the vast majority of work, recreation and life experiences could be improved by an increased awareness of diversity and inclusion at all levels. Improving gender balance is a fundamental part of that fight and should be an ‘easy win’ in a game as globally accessible as poker.

We should be creating an environment where people of all age, race and gender have peers in visible positions. Once women feel empowered to play, and we have more women in the field, table experiences change. The toxic masculinity decreases. Conversations are different.

This is particularly relevant in live poker and one of the main reasons I choose to spend my free time and holidays playing live poker is that I get to interact with so many characters from all walks of life and each with a story to tell. Having a balance of male and female players on a table will provide depth and colour to those stories.

Where does it need to go? What would you like to see?

I think most people would agree that seeking gender parity – a 50:50 split – is an unreasonable target.

It feels that the main focal points should be a) breaking down any barriers preventing new female players getting into the game and b) improving the experience for those players once they get here.

We want women to be given the opportunity to play, and also feel welcome when they do. Do any of us really want to live in a society where not everyone feels a sense of belonging and where barriers are put in place arbitrarily?

Major brands need to put more women in senior roles behind the scenes and as front-facing ambassadors. We don’t need to see models who you have taught to play the game, just so you can give the male players something to look at.

We want to see the elite female players front and center, because we admire their game.

One of the challenges female players face is the constant juggling of life and the pressures on their time. Not everyone can spare the hours in the week that they need to invest in poker.

I have often thought turbo events would help, where women can play for a couple of hours or so and still be in with a chance of winning money.

To read the full interview with Natalie, check out Our Voices. To become a member, you can sign up here.

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