Among the unique features of the World Series of Poker is that the excitement comes from far more than just the Main Event or its long series of bracelet-awarding tourneys. The WSOP has evolved to offer a complete spectrum of poker offerings. Besides the bracelet events, one can find cash games, satellite tourneys, “Daily Deepstacks” events and much more. The WSOP also hosts occasional specialty events that are part of the entire WSOP experience, but that don’t fit into other categories.
One such specialty event ran on Sunday night — the Ladies No-Limit Hold’em Warmup, which was scheduled as a lead-in to Monday’s $1,000/$10,000 Ladies No-Limit Hold’em Championship. The event was co-hosted by the WSOP’s SAVVY program, which was created as an outreach effort to grow the participation of women in poker and at the WSOP.
The event was also sponsored by and featured the Women’s Poker Association (WPA), which has many of the same goals. The WPA is one of the largest independent groups furthering the advancement of women in poker, which remains a heavily male-dominated pastime.
WSOP delay caused event’s postponement
The Ladies No-Limit Hold’em Warmup event has been held each WSOP since 2018. That means the special tourney was also a casualty of the WSOP’s 2020 cancellation and 2021 postponement. Normally the Warmup occurs in the heart of Las Vegas’s June “Women’s Poker Week,” which includes the WSOP’s Ladies Championship, plus several other WPA and LIPS (Ladies International Poker Series) Tour events and happenings.
This year, though, the WSOP’s postponement to the fall effectively cleaved that women’s poker week into two parts. All other ladies events at other Vegas casinos ran as originally scheduled in June, leaving only the WSOP’s Ladies Championship and the Warmup as standalone ladies’ offerings.
The Warmup, though it’s a recurring special event, is much smaller than the Ladies Championship. Sunday’s edition featured a $150 buy-in and drew 136 entries, whereas the Ladies Championship has drawn nearly a thousand entries in the past and is likely to draw 600 or more this time around. The Warmup is dominated by California players who travel to Vegas for the WSOP’s Ladies Championship. It’s played with the same structure as the WSOP’s Daily Deepstacks, and draws comparable attendance.
Pomp, ceremony, giveaways, and even arguments
Like the Ladies Championship, the Warmup also features pomp and ceremony — plus plenty of poker giveaways — even if it’s been toned down a bit in this pandemic year. WSOP Vice President Jack Effel, WPA founder Lupe Sote, and star women’s player Maria Ho were on hand to offer brief welcoming words before play began.
The Warmup also features the friendly atmosphere common to ladies events that’s often missing from open tournaments. As the WPA explains, that camaraderie helps bring new women players into the game. Still, that sense of community may make for a fun playing environment, but it only goes so far. On rare occasions it can get heated: Sunday’s Warmup, in a most unusual occurrence, featured an extended argument between two players that grew so toxic both players were warned several times.
Overall, though, the Warmup serves as a casual and complimentary companion to the Ladies Championship. Serving both social and business purposes, and with the WSOP’s and WPA’s backing, it’s likely to be a small but unique element for many years amid the WSOP’s sprawling panorama.
Featured image source: Haley Hintze