Women in Poker Hall of Fame — 2012 Induction Ceremony
The Women in Poker Hall fo Fame — 2012 Official Induction Ceremony was held earier tonight on Friday, August 31st. The gala took place at the Golden Nugget in Downtown Las Vegas.
This marked the fifth annual induction ceremony. The inaugural took place back in 2008. I’ve had the great pleasure of attending all five years.
The Women in Poker Hall of Fame is vitally important to the game for several reasons. First and foremost, it honors the tremendous accomplishements and contributions of many fine women who have given of themselves to the game and to the poker industry. The Women in Poker Hall of Fame also serves to unite all poker players and enthusiasts — both male and female — who share a bona fide commitment to encourage more women to play and enjoy the game. Finally, the Women in Poker Hall of Fame and its Board Members are actively engaged with several extraordinary charties, mostly notably Poker Gives.
Before I tell you a little more about how tonight’s ceremony went, first I’d like to add some perspective to the women in poker movement. Calling women in poker a “movement” might seem out of place. But it isn’t. For many years, poker was one of the last bastians of overt chauvinism. Treating women crudely wasn’t just accepted, in was sport (anyone who doubts this should talk to the few women who were around in the 1970s and 1980s, who broke the gender barrier).
Alas, it might be impossible to imagine such a time when women weren’t welcome inside poker rooms. But there was such a time, and it wasn’t that long ago. Unless a female was considered attractive and worked as a poker dealer or a cocktail waitress, women were made to feel unwelcome at the poker table. Poker was a man’s game.
But a few women, a few very brave women, shattered the invisible barrier that surrounded the poker scene.
Try to imagine how difficult it must have been for these courageous women who were called names, had smoke blown in the faces, and faced all kinds of insults in a male-dominated game.
I don’t think it’s a leap at all to suggest that many of these early women poker players were pioneers. In the same way color barriers were gradually broken down over time, for us to be where we are now, it was first necessary that a few fearless women swallow their pride, accept the abuse, and trailblaze a path that would make the next women’s excursion into that same poker room a litter easier, and then a little more easy after that.
This is one of the things the Women in Poker Hall of Fame honors — which is resolve and determination. The will to fight for what you believe in and perhaps even change things for the better — as these women ultimately accomplished. That’s what many of these women who were in the audience tonight have done, not just for poker, for our society.
Tonight’s ceremony was emceed by Jan Fisher, who has been in the poker world for more than 30 years. She was deservedly inducted into the Women in Poker Hall of Fame in 2009. I’ve had the great privilege of knowing Jan for nearly twenty years. I’m rarely at a loss for words, but trying to find superlatives to describe the person who Jan is and how much she gives of herself to others is an impossible task. In short, she is the kindest and gentlest person that I have ever met. Others might consider those character traits to be signs of weakness. But I can assure you they are signs of strength and Jan packs the punch of a dynamo when it comes to fighting for what she believes in and supporting her freinds. She’s not only a beautiful person, but a remarkably entertaining and gifted public speaker and host. Indeed, Jan was the perfect ringmaster for the evening.
The keynote speaker was another person who is very special to me. Linda Johnson is an inductee in the both the Women in Poker Hall of Fame (2008) as well as the Poker Hall of Fame (2011). The former World Series of Poker gold bracelet winner, World Poker Tour announcer, and former Editor and Publisher of Card Player magazine gave a speech that was as heartfelt as it was inspirational. She spoke of setting a goal for yourself — just one goal — and making that goal something completely new and different. Then, she encouarged those in the audience to pursue this mission. She then asked the audience members to tell her what they choose and what happened to them a year from now. I will accept Linda’s challenge and share that with her (and readers) later. I also feel compelled to mention that were it not for Linda I would never have reached one of the pinnacles of the game of poker. She gave me my first shot as a poker writer back in 1993. Today, I wonder where I would be were it not for Linda taking a chance on me. No doubt, Linda has given many people in our game an opportunity. I love Linda and owe her so very much. The bar on Linda’s speech was set high. Everyone knows how powerful and moving her words can be, because they always come from her heart. Once again, she surpassed even the highest expectations.
J.J. LIU — WOMEN IN POKER HALL OF FAME INDUCTEE
I’ve known J.J. for ten years. She’s a terrific poker player as well as a wonderful mother. J.J. embodies the duality of great poker players, who can be vicious competitors at the poker table, and then be equally as compassionate when they’re away from the game. I have witnessed J.J. go deep in many major poker tournaments, including some of the most prestigious events at the World Series of Poker. She’s always fun and interesting to watch, not only because she’s a great player, but also one of the game’s true personalilties. J.J. is uniquely herself and is most deserving as an inductee into this year’s class of the Women in Poker Hall of Fame.
KATHY RAYMOND — WOMEN IN POKER HALL OF FAME INDUCTEE
Kathy Raymond is a true trailblazer. She worked her way up from being a dealer nearly twenty years ago, to one of the most important people in the poker industry today. I first met Kathy when she ran the Foxwoods Poker Room, in Connecticut. In her acceptance speech tonight, she spoke about the tough environment that existed back then, with so many opinionated and vulgar Notheasterners packing her poker room (I was one of them, on occasion). Kathy would stand for none of it Determined to clean up the game and develop a reputation for something much higher than the typical poker den, Kathy fought a never-ending battle to clean up the game and make it more welcoming for newcomers. She also brought in the World Poker Tour to Foxwoods for the first time. Then, about six years ago, Kathy took over the poker room at The Venetian and made it into one of the premier poker palaces in Las Vegas. She also revolutionized tournament poker by introducing the concept of Deep Stack tournaments. My respect for Kathy knows no bounds, and I’m thrilled to see her take a rightful place in the Women in Poker Hall of Fame.
Footnote: I’d also like to say a few words about two of the Board Members who have done exceptional work on behalf of the Women in Poker Hall of Fame. Lupe Soto, perhaps best known for creating and overseeing the L.I.P.S. Poker Tour, once again outdid herself as an organizer of this event. Moreover, Karina Jett — longtime professional poker player and host of the MGM Grand Poker Room — deserves extra applause for all of her effort on this night. These two wonderful women are terrific role models who do a great deal to encourage women in the game of poker.
Final Note: The official ceremony was recorded and will be available for viewing. I will post a link when it becomes available. Or, you may wish to visit: WOMEN IN POKER HALL OF FAME OFFICIAL WEBSITE