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The WSOP Ladies Event used to be little more than a curiosity. A place for women to compete against each other, instead of wallowing through the usual sea of Y chromosomes. It had definite positive qualities. Encouraging those females to play in the WSOP who might otherwise have steered clear of the series, for one thing. Still, it was viewed as very much a 2nd class event by the governing male elite.

In 2011, things have changed. There’s a sense of injustice, not derision. The past few years have seen the growth of a fairly juvenile kind of protest. By Nevada law, casinos are not permitted to ban any sex from entering a poker tournament, which means that men can register for the Ladies Event.

Whether for opportunism or politics, fifteen males bought in and there was nothing anyone could do to stop them. While it’s sad to see, there are some positive elements to be drawn from this phenomenon. The quality of female poker play has clearly increased to a state where it is considered unfair by some that they are able to compete against a thinner field. There are now enough women at the top of the game who find it significantly easier to win in a field bereft of their usual male competition.

One can only imagine the storm that would have erupted had any of the Chivalrous Fifteen go on to win Event #53. Luckily, none of them did, but Jonathan Epstein got close. Reportedly playing out of lust for a bracelet, rather than to make a point, Epstein made it all the way to the final table before being eliminated in 9th place.

Photo courtesy of PokerNews

The woman who knocked him out, Marsha Wolak, would go on to win the tournament. She defeated pro player Karina Jett heads up. Jett has already amassed almost $500,000 from live tournaments and was/is sponsored by Full Tilt Poker. Wolak, however , had an even stronger female pro on her side.

In 2009 she attended the Ladies’ Academy with Annie Duke, an experience which propelled her into the world of professional poker. “It was wonderful, she was there all three days. I thought maybe she’d make a guest appearance and then disappear, but she gave her heart and soul, she’s a wonderful teacher,” said Wolak.

Marsha used Annie’s teaching to good effect in the tournament’s final hand. On a board of Q-J-8, she check-raised all-in, encouraging Jett to call with just a K-T straight draw. Wolack already had top pair and was able to fade the turn and river to take home the bracelet. “It’s a dream come true,” said Marsha after her victory. “You start out thinking it would be so much fun and you dream about this.”

Congratulations to everyone who cashed in the Ladies Event, but in particular to a certain Courtney Gee, who finished in 64th place. I’m sure I’ve heard of her somewhere before.

Final table payouts for Event #53 were as follows:

1. Marsha Wolak – $192,344
2. Karina Jett – $119,010
3. Carol Tomlinson – $74,459
4. Valerie McColligan – $54,045
5. Peg Ledman – $39,897
6. Katherine Stahl – $29,909
7. Jennifer Cowan – $22,750
8. Genevieve Gloutnez – $17,537
9. Jonathan Epstein – $13,701