8 best female poker players of all-time

greatest female poker players
Posted on: June 15, 2021 06:23 PDT

Putting together a list of the greatest female poker players ever isn’t so easy. That’s because there have been so many talented ladies in this game. But for this article, we narrowed it down to those we felt best deserved recognition.

How is “best” qualified?

Several qualities combine to determine the best female poker players. This includes their live tournament earnings as well as online earnings and general poker accomplishments. Some of the latter consist of company sponsorships, special places in poker history, and what they did to lead the way for other women to follow.

These eight superstars all played an important role in opening the game to women and performing at high levels of the game. The list will change over time, but for now, these women are at the top of our list.

8. Kathy Liebert

No list of top female poker players should omit Kathy Liebert. She has been playing as a professional player for more than half her life. She began playing low-limit cash games in Colorado in the early 1990s while she worked as a prop player.

Liebert soon began traveling to Las Vegas and Los Angeles to play in tournaments. Her path as a poker pro seemed irreversible, as she continued to play from that point forward. 

She has earned more than $6.6M through mid-2022 in live poker tournaments alone. Along the way, she made history by winning the 2002 PartyPoker Million Cruise for $1M, the largest prize in poker tournaments at that time. She accumulated dozens of World Series of Poker cashes throughout her career, winning her WSOP bracelet in 2004 in a no-limit hold’em shootout tournament. 

During the poker boom, Liebert also made numerous appearances on televised poker shows like Poker Royale: Battle of the Sexes and Poker Superstars Invitationals. Some longtime poker fans even know her for her work on the forefront of the movement to create smoke-free poker rooms.

Liebert is a member of the Women in Poker Hall of Fame and was nominated in 2022 for the Poker Hall of Fame. 

7. Vanessa Rousso

Known for her intellectual view of poker and early applications of game theory, Vanessa Rousso began playing poker after initial success at playing chess. She graduated from Duke University in 2.5 years and then from the University of Miami School of Law magna cum laude. She then applied her interest and training in psychology to become a better poker player.

Not long after starting to play in the early 2000s, Rousso began final-tabling events on the WSOP Circuit and at the World Poker Challenge. She finished seventh at the World Poker Tour Five-Star World Poker Classic in 2006 and won events from the Borgata Poker Open to the European Poker Tour.

PokerStars signed Rousso as a team pro in 2006. As a sponsored professional, she played around the world and regularly appeared on televised poker tournaments. She also played online poker and won hundreds of thousands of dollars in online tournaments. She played live frequently, too, and won on Poker After Dark

Meanwhile, Rousso furthered legal poker in the United States by lobbying Congress to pass favorable poker laws, as well as in the Florida legislature to remove the buy-in caps. 

She was one of the first poker players to earn a non-poker industry sponsorship with GoDaddy, and she still found time to teach a poker academy. Throughout her career, she earned more than $3.5M in live tournaments alone.

Rousso ultimately left poker to pursue a love of music deejaying.

6. Liv Boeree

With multiple career paths in front of her, Liv Boeree dabbled in modeling, played guitar in a heavy metal band, and searched for the proper place to use her First Class Honours degree in Physics from the University of Manchester. When she became a contestant on a poker reality television show in 2005, she realized that she had a knack for using her education to play poker well.

By 2008, Boeree had won her first title in the Ladbrokes Poker European Ladies Championship. She then began traveling to play more poker, both at events like the Poker Million and the Aussie Millions Poker Championship. 

In 2010, Boeree scored her biggest win of €1.25M by taking down the EPT Sanremo Main Event on the European Poker Tour. She was only the third woman to ever win an EPT Main Event title, and that particular event was one of the largest of its kind. 

Along the way, Boeree spent approximately nine years as a member of Team PokerStars. She left the full-time poker world around 2019 and focused on hosting television shows like Weird Earth on the BBC. She still attends many large-scale poker events when time permits.

5. Barbara Enright

In 1995, Barbara Enright reached the World Series of Poker Main Event final table, and finished in 5th place for $114,180. She was the first woman to make the final table in poker’s most prestigious annual event at the time, and still is to this day. Enright had already won WSOP Ladies Event bracelets in 1986 and 1994 before her Main Event final table appearance.

Then in 1996 she became the first woman to win an open WSOP event — $2,500 Pot-Limit Omaha for $180,000. She beat out 180 players for the honor, most of whom were men. In fact, Enright has never had a difficult time competing in this male-dominated game. As such, she was inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame, along with the WSOP G.O.A.T. Phil Hellmuth, in 2007. To this day, Enright remains one of the game’s top ambassadors with more than $1.75M in live tournament earnings alone.

4. Annie Duke

This selection won’t go over too well with many in the poker community. But this isn’t a list of the best humans in poker. It's a list of the greatest female poker players of all-time in terms of accomplishment. Annie Duke was arguably the top female poker player in the game during the poker boom era. But she disappeared from the game following the Epic Poker League scandal in 2012. In that scandal, she took a six-figure payout while the league went bankrupt. She lost most of her fans in poker after the incident.

Before the Epic Poker League debacle, Duke racked up over $4.2 million in live tournament cashes. That’s the most live cashes by a woman at the time. She also won a WSOP bracelet in 2004 ($2,000 Omaha Hi-Lo 8-or-Better for $136,860). Her biggest score ever was for $2 million for winning the 2004 WSOP Tournament of Champions (non-bracelet, invite-only event). In that tournament, she beat the great Phil Hellmuth himself heads-up for the title. Meanwhile her brother, Howard Lederer, busted in 3rd place. Lederer was later ousted from the game due to his involvement with the Full Tilt Poker scandal in 2011. Both Lederer and Duke are now public speakers and no longer play poker.

3. Jennifer Harman

The top three slots on this list were fiendishly difficult to fill, because all three ladies are so far above the rest. Each one deserves to be recognized as the greatest female poker player of all-time. We put Jennifer Harman just a small notch below the top two though, only because she’s never been much for tournament poker. Thus, it’s difficult to truly assess her game.

Harman still has over $2.7 million in live tournament winnings. Her true calling, however, has always been in cash game poker. The Reno, Nevada native was a regular in “Bobby’s Room” at Bellagio. She played in the highest-stakes games in Las Vegas for many years. Daniel Negreanu has long referred to Harman as the greatest female poker player of all-time. Of course, he might be biased given they’ve been close friends for years.

2. Kristen Foxen (Bicknell)

Kristen Foxen (Bicknell) is, without question, the best female poker player in the game right now. She’s been crushing it on the high roller circuit the past few years and is the three-time defending Global Poker Index Female Player of the Year recipient. Her husband, Alex Foxen, won the overall GPI Player of the Year in 2018 and 2019. Bicknell, the only Canada-born player on this list, has been successful online and in live poker tournaments.

The former Partypoker ambassador has over $5.5 million in live tournament cashes, which includes three WSOP bracelets. During the 2020 WSOP Online Bracelet Series on GGPoker, she took down the $2,500 No-Limit Hold’em 6-Handed event for $356,412. Bicknell and Foxen form arguably the most talented poker couple ever. They’re both considered among the top high rollers in the game today.

She now plays more high-stakes poker tournaments, and she final-tabled the WPT 500 High Roller in 2021, though other events draw her in as well. She made the WPT Choctaw Main Event final table and finished fifth for $135,000, catapulting her lifetime earnings past the $5.5M mark.

1. Vanessa Selbst

Although Foxen is one of the top female poker players in the game right now, Vanessa Selbst still holds the all-time crown. Selbst, a New York native, mostly retired from the game of poker in 2019. The long-time PokerStars ambassador took on a position at a hedge fund, and has moved on from the game of poker other than the occasional tournament she’ll pop up at.The former lawyer and Yale University graduate has just under $12 million in live tournament cashes, far and away the most all-time from a woman (Bicknell is second with $5.18 million). Selbst is also the only female ever to win three World Series of Poker bracelets in open events. She won hers in 2008, 2012, and 2014. Her biggest win ever — for $1,823,430 — came in 2010 in the $8,500 buy-in Partouche Poker Tour Main Event.

Best female poker players FAQs

Who is the best female poker player of all time?

Vanessa Selbst is arguably the best female poker player of all time. She retired in 2019 after an incredible career, earning just short of $12 million in live tournament cash. She’s also the only female poker player to have won three World Series of Poker bracelets in open events. While some from the current crop might emulate her achievements (we’re looking at you, Kristen Foxen!) Selbst is the undoubted queen of poker.

Who is the richest female poker player?

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Vanessa Selbst ranks number one in the all-time female money list, raking in $11,906,247 in cash wins during her career. Selbst is also known to be part of a hedge fund, indicating that she has likely grown her wealth away from the poker table. She has earned almost twice as much as Kathy Liebert, who is second on the all-time female money list, indicating just how dominant Selbst was during her career.

Has a woman ever won a World Series of Poker event?

Yes! Vera Richmond became the first ever woman to win a WSOP open event in 1982, taking down the $1,000 Limit Ace-to-Five Draw versus 76 opponents. Barbara Enright followed in Richmond’s footsteps 14 years later, in 1996, to become the second female WSOP open champion. As of 2023, women have won at WSOP open events 31 times – Selbst and Kristen Bicknell (Foxen) have three bracelets apiece, although one of Bicknell’s wins was in a ladies-only event.

How many female poker players are there?

Statistics show that roughly 5% of professional poker players are female. This goes to show that poker is still a male-dominated sport, even though a number of extremely talented female players have excelled in open events in recent years. With the successes of the world’s leading female poker players, we hope to see a greater number of women enter and win at the biggest poker events in the world.

Who is the Poker Princess?

Molly Bloom is also known as the Poker Princess. She was responsible for running a number of high-stakes poker games that brought together A-listers, including Leonardo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire, among others. Bloom was charged for her involvement in what the US government described as an illegal gambling ring and was fined $200,000 and sentenced to a year’s probation. Her book “Molly’s Game” was turned into a movie in 2017 in which Jessica Chastain portrays the Poker Princess.

Featured image source: Flickr