Know the Hand You’re Dealt

NOVEMBER 4, 2013
Hollywood POP hosts Poker Women Book Launch and Party

Photo Credit: Jenny Kawa / Hollywood POP Gallery

When I think of poker, I imagine James Bond wearing an impeccably tailored suit, gambling and naming drinks after women as a pick up line. A power play matched with a snarky comeback, but the women never play a hand themselves.

Not the case with Poker Divas, a company started by Ellen Leikind with that precise purpose: get women to learn poker, and in so doing teach them to apply lessons from the poker table to the boardroom. Learning how to read an opponent, gauging benefits versus costs, and most importantly, learning your own strengths.

On an autumn night in New York, a group of women got ready to channel our inner poker badasses at the direction of the Poker Diva herself, Ms. Leikind. The game had always somewhat intimidated me – when college boys tried to teach me in days gone by, it resulted solely in yelling and me praying for someone to want to play ‘War.’ As such, Lady Savant Wines were a more than welcome guest and after a few glasses I was ready to get my gamble on. When they announced the winner would not only go on to a tournament, but that lucky lady would win a pair of shoes from M Shoe Design, all bets were off (not even that sorry for the pun) and I was out for chips and glory.

Ellen started with my inner fourteen year old’s dream come true: a personality quiz! As it turns out, this is where the real life application comes into play: you’re not going to go into business with someone you don’t know, so why would you go to the poker table? There are four distinctive types: the incredibly submissive, the cautious, a still somewhat reserved crazy, and the wild ones. And color me absolutely shocked, but I fall solidly in the crazier section of the poker personality types.

Once we had all discerned our type and those around us, play really got underway. We laughed and congratulated each other on well-played hands, a sort of camaraderie that was really wonderful to see for women: yes, we’re competing, but we’re still rooting for each other.

Hollywood POP hosts Poker Women Book Launch and Party

Photo Credit: Jenny Kawa / Hollywood POP Gallery

As the tournament began, I realized just how relatable all this was and how much we can learn from each type. Learning to temper my impulses from the more conservative, holding back from throwing it all in the pot on a whim. We got down to the final hand and it was between myself and another player, and I fulfilled a bucket list statement with, “I’m going all in.” And just like that, I won the tournament…a two pair with a little bitty kicker. Not a particularly unstoppable hand, I just knew it had to take the cake.

If there is anything I can take away from this, it’s the confidence that learning something like that gives you. Yes, we are women and it’s 2013. We can sing about our feelings while riding a wrecking ball and we can rule the world. But some things still feel like a boys club; a realm where we lady folk dare not wander.

Ellen told us that the biggest difference when she teaches men and women to play poker is pretty simple: men play to win, and women play not to lose. The only way to win is to go all in and be willing to forgo playing it safe. We may not always get something as tangible as a pair of shoes or a trophy, but the fact remains: going all in is always worth it.

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