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Women Rule the Day at Bay 101
It was rather fitting that the poker world descended upon Bay 101 in San Jose for the WPT Shooting Star Monday, the same day the rest of the planet celebrated International Women’s Day.
After all, Bay 101 has seen deeper runs by women than any other venue on the World Poker Tour.
At the 2007 edition of the popular bounty event, Joanne Liu made runner-up to Ted Forrest in an attempt to become the WPT's first female champion.
Then last year, veteran pro Kathy Liebert matched the feat, finishing second to 2009 champion Steve Brecher.
Liebert's runner-up finish helped push her up and over $5.6 million in career tournament earnings, making her far and away the number one earning female poker player of all time.
Being the number one female player in the game is not exactly the reason Liebert plays, but it's certainly an honor she cherishes.
"Being a top poker player is more important to me than being a top female poker player," she said. "But being the top woman in poker is something I'm proud of. There are a lot of women trying to catch up to me."
One of the women chasing Liebert is two-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner and respected high-stakes cash game pro Jennifer Harman.
Though Harman, who currently sits fifth on the all-time female money list and made the final table at Bay 101 in 2008 finishing third, really sees herself as just one of the boys.
"I look at myself as a poker player," she explained. "I don't believe in the whole gender thing because this is a co-ed sport.
"You shouldn't get kudos for being a woman or a man, you should get kudos for being a great poker player and that's all."
International Women's Day is about celebrating the economic, political and social achievements of women past.
But even as women like Liu, Liebert and Harman continue to achieve in poker, it appears many men on the felt refuse to treat them as equals.
"I think some men treat women with no respect at the table and some men treat women with too much respect," said Harman. "For me, since I'm like old furniture in this business, they just treat me the same as anybody else. They don't play any differently against me because I'm a woman, but I know with some women they do."
Regardless, Harman, who booked her first major cash in a poker tournament 16 years ago, says the game is changing all the time and more women are flocking to it every day.
"When I first started, I would walk into a poker room and there would be me," she said. "Now you walk into a poker room and there are one or two women at every table.
"I think it's grown and it will continue to grow. A lot of women are still intimidated, but I know they enjoy the game and they want to do it, they just need to take that next step, because poker can be a lot of fun."
Liebert says she feels a lot of love and support from female fans of the game, many of whom she sees following her lead.
"I always have women coming up to me and telling me they are rooting for me," she said. "And they feel like if I'm a woman and I can do it they can do it to."