Man wins WSOP Circuit Ladies’ Event

by , Nov 15, 2009 | 8:05 am

photo: IMPDI/

Greg Sessler: WSOP Lake Tahoe Transgender Champion.

The current stop for the WSOP Circuit series of tournaments is currently in Lake Tahoe, with their $5,000 Main Event starting on Sunday. On Saturday, a field of 96 took part in the $340 Ladies’ Event, including four men who decided to enter the event. Greg Sessler, a 22-year old student at UC-Davis, was the last man standing, along with the one who had all the chips at the end of the tournament, taking down almost $10,000. More details from Nolan Dalla’s tournament report:

That’s No Misprint: Greg Sessler Wins “Ladies Championship” at Harvey’s Lake Tahoe

Non-Lady Collects $9,932 in Latest WSOP Circuit Event

Stateline, NV (November 14, 2009) – Ladies-only poker tournaments have a long and rich history. They have been included on the WSOP schedule every year since 1978. Since 2005, most WSOP Circuits have included a ladies-only poker tournament as part of their schedules. The vast majority of these events have proven to be successful. Turnout for ladies-only events easily justifies their offering at most Circuits.

The first ever ladies-only tournament on the WSOP Circuit was held at Harvey’s Lake Tahoe back in May 2005. So, the Tahoe stop has crowned more ladies champions (six) than any other Circuit venue. Now — another first. Harvey’s Lake Tahoe has crowned a male winner in a “ladies-only” poker tournament.

How is this possible, you may ask? Easy. The WSOP isn’t a political organization and can’t be expected to get involved in debates about sexism, discrimination, or other polarizing issues which may be applicable to poker tournaments. While the WSOP makes a sincere effort to promote women in poker and offers quasi-exclusive tournaments designed to increase female participation in the game, officials generally do not turn away those who want to play in the event, based solely on gender. In short, the WSOP hopes that by offering and supporting ladies-only poker tournaments and providing an event for which there is considerable interest (by women), others (namely men) will respect and understand the spirit of competition.

Alas, there is some controversy as to whether “ladies-only” tournaments are really necessary in poker. Those who object, including some women, correctly point out that poker is a gender-neutral game. That means women are equally capable of playing and winning, just as men. Detractors also point out that holding ladies-only events demeans women in poker (their view), by suggesting that females need an exclusive event. However given that the WSOP wants to promote more women in poker and is eager to meet player demands, based on the popularity of tournaments for ladies at many WSOP Circuits, its irrefutable there is a strong demand for their inclusion. And so, ladies-only tournaments are expected to be an offering at most WSOP Circuits so long as there is a demand for these events.

Perhaps then it was inevitable that somewhere, someway, and somehow, a man would enter the ladies championship and manage to win. That dark day (for women) finally arrived when Greg Sessler, a 22-year-old student at UC-Davis won the latest Ladies Poker Championship at Harvey’s Lake Tahoe.

This year’s ladies championship attracted a strong field of 96 players, generating $27,396 in prize money. The top nine finishers collected payouts. All the action took place on a Saturday afternoon and evening inside the poker room and special events area, which is part of this year’s only WSOP Circuit stop in Northern Nevada.

Sessler, the winner, has previously won a few smaller buy-in events, including the Mega-Stack Series held at Caesars Palace earlier this year in Las Vegas. But this was his biggest live tournament win to date, following several big cashes in tournaments played online. Sessler, who is studying communications and film in college, justified his participation into the ladies event by saying that this was his first and only day off in two weeks. He badly wanted to play in a poker tournament, and the ladies championship was the only one-day event within driving distance of his home. For the record, there were four men who entered the tournament.

The reaction to these men from women was generally favorable. However, when three of the four men busted out, the women broke into spontaneous applause and cheers. It’s almost unheard of for an entire room of players to clap (gleefully) when others bust. But that’s what happened on three occasions in this tournament. But it didn’t occur a fourth time, as it was Greg Sessler who got the last laugh.

In his defense, Sessler took the catcalls and criticism well in stride. He openly spoke of becoming the first ladies champion and stated this victory was the poker highlight of his life. Sessler collected $9,932 in prize money.

“Me playing in this tournament really had nothing to do with trying to take advantage of the ladies or thinking it was a softer field,” Sessler stated afterward. “If (poker pro) Jennifer Harman would have come and played in the ladies event, she would have been much tougher competition than me. I came here because I only had one day, and I really like the structures and the payout. This was the only tournament I could play.”

The final hand of the tournament came when Mimi Kalem tried to bluff and steal and round of blinds and antes pre-flop with Q-6 suited but ran into Sessler’s monster hand – appropriately enough pocket queens. Kalem flopped a six and had a chance to put a bad beat on the wicked male intruder. But the cards ultimately fell in Sessler’s favor and Kalem was unable to strike a blow for global sisterhood. Kalem, a techer from Cameron Park, CA received $5,308 as the runner up.

Finishing in third place was Corinn “Princess” Ignatieff, from Templeton, CA. She is the owner of a comedy club. Princess played well, but took a bad beat on her final hand and had to settle for a $3,715 payout.

The fourth-place finisher was Candy Alexander, from Cameron Park, CA. She works as an executive director. She once organized a poker tournament for charity which raised $20,000. Alexander collected a nice payout in this tournament totaling $2,626.

Linda Peverini finished in fifth place. She is a retired teacher from Clovis, CA. This was her highest tournament finish ever.

The sixth-place finisher was Tera Brown, from Austin, TX. She is an airplane pilot. Brown learned to play poker from her grandmother, and once played against Doyle Brunson.

Persia Bonella, from Hayward, CA finished in seventh place. She is a research associate originally from The Philippines. This was Bonella’s first time to make a final table appearance in a WSOP Circuit tournament.

Rebecca Burnside took eighth place. She is a human resources director from San Francisco. This was Burnside’s best finish ever in a WSOP Circuit event.

The ninth-place finisher was Rose Erhart, a small business owner from Ione, CA. She initially started playing poker after receiving an invitation from Harrah’s to play in their monthly freeroll poker tournament.

With 17 events now completed at this year’s WSOP Circuit at Harvey’s, the tournament series has attracted more than 2,600 entries and has awarded more than $1.3 million in total prize money. Still to come is the WSOP Circuit Main Event championship, which takes place Nov. 15-17.

It’s peculiarly ironic that Greg Sessler won the 2009 Ladies Poker Championship at Harvey’s Lake Tahoe holding two ladies in his final hand – pocket queens. Indeed, truth is sometimes stranger than fiction. Perhaps the only consolation prize proponents of ladies-only poker tournaments can take from the horror show of a stag male crashing the party was the fact that Sessler’s victory came at the unbearable late hour of 5:45 in the morning, inside a nearly vacated tournament room. Except for a few baffled onlookers, there was no cheering section for the college kid from UC-Davis. Which now begs the question – if a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, does it make a sound?

22 Comments to “Man wins WSOP Circuit Ladies’ Event”

  1. Tom Schneider

    I hear officials are still looking for his unit. I don’t get this crap. It’s the same as when women want to get into a mens grill at a club. Leave them alone and let them play their game. I imagine this guy qualifies for the Senior Event as well.

  2. Tom Schneider

    they should have a special event for men who like to play in womens events.

  3. Kevin Mathers

    Jeffrey Pollack did his best to keep the WSOP Ladies events at the Rio free of men playing in his years as the Commish. Think events like this are going to open the floodgates at the Rio next year?

  4. zachdealer

    No. It’s embarassing and not many men at all will go through with that, real men have too much pride.

  5. Jason B

    Its a poker tourney filled with women. Big deal! I say any guy who wants to play in it should. Its not exclusive to women only, just catered to women. I say congrats to the guy who won.

  6. zachdealer

    I say whoever plays them loves the cock

  7. DanM

    Zach, the only flaw in your theory is that it doesn’t leave room for the lesbians.

  8. Jason B

    Zach, as insecure in your manhood as it sounds, the purpose of poker tournaments is to win regardless of the sex. If your not trying to get an advantage, your not trying to win!

  9. DanM

    Jason, you’re semi-right … sure, once you enter, try to win. But isn’t it fair to respect the “spirit” of certain events? Kinda like charity events … sure, you can be a dick and cause problems with your donation technically and/or legally … but if they say 50 percent is the suggested donation than donate 50 percent or don’t play!

    I don’t know that I feel strongly about this … but I think what I see in the dudes who play are people that will err on the side of greedy, that will put their own interest before that of the event itself. I know when you’re in the action, it’s kill-kill-kill — and it should be! But dudes like Sessler, even if he entered with no ill-intent … sorry, without having met him, all I know from his success is that he’s a decent card player and the kinda guy who may not always satisfy his girlfriend know where to draw the lines. I could be wrong, but so far that’s all I we’ve got to go on – because he won!

    And while maybe he doesn’t give a shit what you, or me, or Zach thinks … and maybe he shouldn’t … at least a few dozen lady players presumably think the same things or worse now, and over time, it will catch up with him.

    Punk-bitch move man, bottom line. Punk-bitch payout.

  10. DanM

    I couldn’t help myself … had to blow up the pic a bit and give the dude an appropriate title … tee-hee.

  11. Craig

    If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it does it make a sound? It does if it gets reported online.

  12. Lara

    I think women’s tournaments should be done away with. However, they are the easiest fields imaginable. I don’t have a problem with a guy playing and winning especially when a good part of the women get mad. Kind of funny IMO. He must have had music, ear phones on the whole time. I couldn’t stand the endless chatter about stupid crap the few times I have played them.

  13. scott diamond

    Let the Women have their Poker tournaments I say, I believe it is actually GOOD for Poker.

    You do not see men in Womens sports! There are a few Women who try and play Mens sports but physically they have a hard time competing. Poker is not physical unless you have to wrestle with the guy who takes the bad beat on the River and comes after you. ( Ladies do not play satellites at Commerce, already 3 times this week fights have broken out)

    Poker should be admonished for having a Womens Hall of Fame too! There should be a Poker hall of Fame for ALL. Our society has always seperated the sexes with the Males side being the most dominant.

    The times of keeping your women barefoot and pregenant are WAY behind us. Let them have their Tournament. If we did not have women in our lives there would be no MOMS and there would be no Babies.

    Grow up guys stay away from the Ladie Only events there are way to many Poker Tournaments for you to play. You may not get that 15 minutes of fame playing somewhere else and your ego may take a hit but men who play in womens only events have issues in my book!

  14. ChrisC

    If you need to get your advantage by playing in a ladies event you are sad. Not to mention that Dan M. is right, you should respect the spirt of the event.

    The ladies poker events are to help promote the game to women who may be leary to play in mixed events. This is simply bad for the game and should be treated as such…so sad.

  15. DanM

    I agree with Dep. Diamond about the Hall of Fame … hopefully the Women’s Poker Hall of Fame will be absorbed by the main one.

    I also agree with @donkeybomber … I still wanna see a “Men’s Minority tourney” … where men are limited to 10 percent of the field. They can play satellites for the final spots.

  16. CraigN

    I know Greg and was there with him at the final table until around 5am. He came to Tahoe to play poker at the circuit event on the only weekend he had free from his studies. This was the only ‘decent’ event he was able to get into. He wasn’t playing because he thought it was going to be a ‘soft’ field – and it certainly wasn’t. Neither was he there to be an upstart – I’m sure if we were to hear from any of the ladies who played in the event, they’d have nothing but good things to say about his play and his demeanor.

    “In short, the WSOP hopes that by offering and supporting ladies-only poker tournaments and providing an event for which there is considerable interest (by women), others (namely men) will respect and understand the spirit of competition.”

    If this is what the WSOP organizers truly intend, then why do they make the ladies tournament the only event on the day? (the only other games going were the useless $330 Mega Satellites – but that’s a whole other issue). Run the ladies event alongside another ‘open’ event then the guys would have no reason to ‘invade’ the ladies tournament.

    Hey, why not even put on a shoot-out style event where the final table of both events come back the next day and go head-to-head.

  17. DanM

    Craig, thanks for chiming in. I want to mock you for thinking WSOP organizers should go out of their way to accommodate traveling college students … but regardless, your points are well taken, and maybe your pal isn’t so sketchy (still will bet his girlfriend, if he has one, isn’t totally satisfied) but c’mon … you gotta at least make fun of him somehow! He’s a tranny poker champion whether he wants to be or not.

  18. CraigN

    Oh, you can bet he’ll never live down being the reining ‘ladies’ champ when he shows up at our home games.

    Just wanted to balance out the criticism with the observations of someone who was actually there.

    Just for the record, my wife also played in the event and had some strong opinions about the men invading the ladies turf. If he tries to play next year to defend his tiara, I think they’ll make him wear a bra.

    Mock me if you will but my criticism of the WSOP organizers was not confined to college students. I was tempted to play the ladies event too because it was the only event on the day. The only thing that stopped me was the fact that unlike Greg, I have to live with my wife afterwards.

    As I said, the only events on the day were $330 Mega Satellites – a complete waste of time unless you were after a seat in the $5K game, which I wasn’t because they decided to start the main event on a Sunday of all days. Also, with the mega’s at $330, the odds are only at about 1 in 18 to actually qualify. Play all day to finish 6th and get nothing? No thanks.

  19. Steve L

    Women should be embarrassed there are men who play in their tournaments because it is perceived to be a “soft” field.

  20. CraigN

    Why should women be embarassed if some bloke thinks that a ladies event is a “soft” field? That’s more a reflection on the guys arrogance than it is on the skill level of the women playing the event.

    …and just for anyone who does think that way….ask any of the (male or female) dealers if they think the ladies event is a soft field. For that matter, there were 4 other guys in this years ladies event. They were all out by round 5 or 6. Ask them if they think it was a soft field.

  21. scott diamond

    He should have traveled to LA and played at Commerce there were some great Tournaments over the weekend.

    Thanks Dan for FINALLY agreeing with something I have said here :)(oh you can call me Scott)

    By the way give me a cheer as I am playing in the ME of the LA POker Open Friday. Its a 2,075 buy in and I won my seat.

  22. jim k

    punk, he should get a kick in the ass…