Chamani Breaks Through for South African Women at WSOP

Ronit Chamani
Ronit Chamani might be the only female South African playing at the WSOP.

Ronit Chamani is second on the all-time money list for female South African poker players and she’s poised to become the most successful South African woman ever at the WSOP.

Chamani, who has been playing poker for roughly seven years, splits her time between poker and running a business in Johannesburg but she’s still managed to rack up over $100,000 in tournament results.

Chamani told she learned poker from an ex-boyfriend and loved it so much she was soon doing everything she could to get into the private games that made up the Johannesburg poker scene at the time.

“I spent a while trying to get into a game in South Africa but it was very much a guy thing back then,” said Chamani.

“Eventually a group of guys let me into their game and I ran like god for about three months even though I didn’t really know what I was doing. Then they just stopped calling me,” she said.

“Back then there weren’t any poker games in casinos so it was all private games. So unless you knew someone and unless the guys had the balls, excuse my language, to let a girl in it was pretty limited,” she said.

“But luckily it was about the same time that poker really started growing in South Africa,” added Chamani.

A Passion for Poker Fuels Results

Predominantly a cash game player, Chamani decided at the last minute to play tournaments at this year's WSOP. It’s a decision that quickly paid off.

Ronit Chamani
"When I found poker I finally understood what passion was."

She’s already cashed twice this summer, finishing in the money in the first $1,500 Re-Entry event and 31st in the $3k Pot-Limit Omaha event, the first big PLO tournament she’s ever played.

“I’m mostly a cash-game grinder but my backers were very persistent,” said Chamani.

At time of publishing Chamani was still alive in the $2,500 Four-Max event with 40 players left. She’s already guaranteed $7,524 but she’s got her sights set squarely on the $392,476 first-place prize.

With over $107k in results Chamani is the second highest earning player among South African women. And if she finishes 16th or better in her tournament today she’ll become the leading female South African in all-time WSOP cashes.

Both those titles are currently held by Melanie Banfield who has $283,969 in MTT earnings.

“I’ve loved a lot of things in my life but I was never truly passionate about them. When I found poker I finally understood what passion was,” Chamani told

“I’ve been playing really seriously for three years now and I’ve had cashes here and there, ups and downs. I’ve grown as a person and learned discipline and patience.

“It’s been a very humbling, very wonderful experience,” she said.

The South African Poker Boom

Raymond Rahme
Raymond Rahme is the Chris Moneymaker of South African poker.

Like Chris Moneymaker in the United States and Joe Hachem in Australia, 62-year-old South African Raymond Rahme sparked a poker boom in his home country when he finished third in the 2007 WSOP Main Event for over $3 million.

“Poker was growing a bit beforehand but when Ray Rahme came third in the Main Event there was a definite boom in South African poker,” explained Chamani.

“I think it’s the same thing everywhere. Once people are exposed to poker and have a chance to play they fall in love with the game,” she said.

In addition to Ray Rahme, a number of successful poker players are coming out of South Africa.

Darren Kramer, second on the all-time money list for South Africa, has almost $1 million in earnings, including a final table on the EPT and three six-figure wins at the All Africa Poker Tournament in Swaziland.

Kramer has already cashed once at the 2012 WSOP.

Jarred Solomon is third on that list, thanks in part to three final tables at the WSOP, including a massive runner-up finish last year in the $10k Pot-Limit Hold’em Championship.

More and more South African poker players are showing up at final tables around the world and thanks to people like Ronit Chamani, a few of them might be female.

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