WSOP changes tune on women-only ring events at Circuit stops

Mo Afdhal
Posted on: January 05, 2024 10:46 PST

When the WSOP Circuit announced its schedule for the 2024 season they included a line about encouraging the hosts of each stop to add seniors and women-only events to their schedules. Now, as the individual tour stops release complete schedules, some are omitting a women-only event from their slates.

There are two issues here. First, the WSOP isn't solely in charge of scheduling events for each Circuit stop--those decisions are made by each host in compliance with local regulations. The second is that they only award a set number of WSOP Circuit gold rings per stop and somewhere along the way women-only ring events ceased to make the cut.

The community speaks out

When the event schedule for the upcoming stop at Cherokee went live, many were quick to notice that the women-only tournament had been relegated to a mere side event and would not award a WSOP Circuit gold ring. Additionally, the event's buy-in was reduced from $250 the previous year to $140 this year. Quickly, the community spoke out against these decisions.

PokerOrg's Ash Kardash took to social media to express her dismay at the decision-making and remind those in power that women look forward to these events for their empowerment and community-building potential. Kardash's statement caught fire and many prominent women in the community spoke out.

JenniferNewell, inspired by Kardash, took matters into her own hands and made contact with WSOP in the hopes of receiving an explanation directly from the source. Newell, to her own surprise, received a prompt response from the WSOP:

“Recently, we made a poor decision when limiting the number of official WSOP ring events at each stop to give each operator increased discretion in selecting events with local demand. It was never our intention to see the number of women-only events reduced. We are working with all host partners to be sure that beginning with Harrah’s Cherokee, each remaining WSOP Circuit stop in 2024 includes a women-only ring event, pending regulatory approval in each jurisdiction. We hope our female poker community comes out to support the tournaments.”

Clearly, the community's outcry was heard by the higher-ups at the WSOP and, with positive change seemingly on the way, this stands as a definitive victory in the fight to grow women's participation in poker.

PokerOrg spoke with Kardash to understand her motivations in taking a stand for other women poker players and learn more about her own journey through poker.

What prompted you to speak out so passionately on behalf of other women poker players?

AshKardash: The removal of women's events at WSOPC disappointed me, especially after finding inspiration in my adoptive mom's success (she won the ladies event in Cherokee February 2022). I believe supporting and highlighting women's contributions in poker is crucial for fostering inclusivity and equality within the community. My personal journey from adversity to embracing poker as a full-time career adds a personal stake in advocating for women players.

Is growing the game for women something you've been passionate about from the start of your poker journey?

AK: Growing the game became a passion for me after witnessing the positive impact poker had on my life post-abusive relationship. The camaraderie within the poker community, particularly in women's events, inspired me to contribute to the growth of the game. It's a journey that began with personal transformation and evolved into a commitment to expanding the reach and diversity of poker players.

Can you tell us a little more about how exactly these events foster a better playing environment for women?

AK: Ladies events create a supportive space in poker, offering a more comfortable entry point for female players. The camaraderie and shared experiences in these events help build a sense of community, breaking down potential barriers. By promoting inclusivity, these tournaments contribute to a better overall environment for women in poker, encouraging their participation and success.

What can operators learn from women's events to make open tournaments more enticing to women?

AK: Operators can learn from Ladies events by emphasizing inclusivity, promoting a welcoming atmosphere, and actively addressing any gender-related concerns. Offering diverse and appealing structures, along with showcasing the achievements of women players, helps create a more enticing environment for women in open tournaments. Listening to feedback and actively implementing changes that foster a supportive community will contribute to broader female participation.

Can we expect to see you playing in some of the WSOP Circuit events this season?

AK: Yes, you can expect to see me playing in WSOPC events this season. With my dear friend coaching me (Charlie Carrel). I've gained confidence and am ready to take on tournaments, particularly in the ladies' events and some PLO tournaments.