• Adan Kovinich

I Am Often the Only Woman at the Poker Table

This article is dedicated to all the boys at Mohawk Casino and Playground Poker. Thank you for the valuable life lessons that I will take with me wherever I go.

I started playing live poker in early 2018, and a friend had asked me if I would drive her to a local poker club. She would pay for all of my buy-ins (money you have to put on the poker table to play.) I had no idea how to play, or what any of the lingoes meant. I wasn’t sure what check meant or what it meant to double-tap the poker table (basically it means you don’t want to make a bet.) What a flush was (five cards of the same suit), or trips (three cards that are the same, example: 3 kings, 3 jacks.) I had no idea what I was doing at all. All I knew was that we had an hour to drive there, and I had to figure it out quickly.

I ended up playing for 12 hours. I had $200 starting buy-in and left with $800. I paid my friend back and went about my life, not thinking about poker, until she asked me to go again. I fell in love with the game, but even more, I loved being the only woman at the table and being looked at like I was a joke and didn’t deserve to play there. I started to study poker like it was homework.

Here is what I did:

  1. I watched some of the greatest players of all time.

  2. I watched the world series of poker.

  3. I played online.

  4. I studied the hands.

  5. I learned how to tell when someone was bluffing their hand (pretending they had a winning hand when they didn’t.)

  6. I learned to read the players at the table.

  7. I understood what player sitting at seat 6, rubbing his forehead meant.

  8. I learned that player sitting at seat 4 always flicks his right thumb when he has the nuts (a hand in poker that no one can beat.)

The poker room changed my view of feminism.

I will let men talk to me like I am a little girl or a sex symbol. It’s a poker room what do I expect. To be accepted at the table, I let these dirty, 50 plus-year-old men say what they want to me. “My wife is out of town” and “I am staying at the casino tonight.” Good for you. These men will say anything to get a rise out of me, to try and make me upset. I allow them to act that way because their money is on the poker table, and I plan to take it all to the bank.

Thankfully, because of my many late nights in these rooms, I have learned how to let men think that they are getting to me. I like to make them believe they are winning. Their confidence gets built, they play a bad hand, and I win. This capability to not allow men to get to me has made me a more influential poker player. More importantly, I am a much stronger woman in life. I am no longer afraid of their male superiority complex.

In a poker room, all rules for feminism go out the window. There is no room for arguing about the things that come out of their mouths. A notable regulation at the table is: there is no crying in poker.

The men at a poker table think this is their game, and no 20-something-year-old should be allowed to sit with them. They are comparable to the cast of mean girls. I smile, take a seat, order a drink, and fake it till I make it. They want my money as bad as I want theirs. They can say what they want. It won’t throw me off my game.

The corporate world is a lot like a poker table, it’s a boys club, and they think women can’t play there.

Here is the storyline:

You are about to enter an interview; you enter the waiting room, and you see a room full of men. The interviewer is also male. The first thing you think is: I am not getting hired. You will get that job because no man can steal your thunder.

If I had sat down at a poker table full of men telling me I am a little girl and I don’t deserve to play, and I got up and left, I never would have made any money playing poker. I wouldn’t have established my confidence around men. The same way you won’t get hired with an attitude like that.

  • If you allow the men at the office to push you out — they will.

  • When you allow them to make you feel small — they will.

  • When they get under your skin, you will lose confidence in the job you were hired for.

I hear you, and I have been there, you’re doing just fine.

If you let them steal your thunder, you will be stuck doing the same amount of work as your male counterparts, yet you’re getting paid less than them.

Well, let’s just say it’s not the first time you’ve stolen my thunder. — Monica Geller

When they tell you that you’re not allowed to play with them, you’re damn right you take over the whole darn sandbox. You play smarter and harder than they do and let them think they have you by your female balls.

It’s our world; the men are just living here.

What about men makes us so nervous that we won’t be able to get the thing we are after. Maybe it’s a job, perhaps it’s a contract for freelancing, maybe it’s a competition, but what is stopping you from winning.

As women, we have a fear of men. We have small pity parties for ourselves.

  • “Men make more money than us.”

  • “Men have more privilege than us.”

We need to remove this pity party from our minds. Just because men think they have the upper hand doesn’t mean that they do. Remember, they just think they have the upper hand. I have this strange thought. Is it the feminism movement that tells us how we must act to be a feminist? I am over that. I am over being told by a group of women how I must act around men to be in the feminism club.


It’s like we are always protesting our place in the world. Women are still challenging the system. It’s time we change the objection.


Let us write a new narrative; the old one isn’t working.

We need a new approach. What if we started to pretend, it didn’t bother us. Or we take part in their games. Let them think we are one of the boys. What happens if we let them make the comments? I’m not talking about the way the woman before us did. I am talking about it — in a new way.

Here is what we will do:

  1. I want to hear these men say: “you can’t do *insert subject* because you’re a woman.”

  2. Allow them to think you believe them. (This is important)

  3. The guys in the office will think you’re one of them.

  4. You are now a woman walking, talking, and acting like the men in the office.

  5. They will think you are cool and because of that, they will let you in the boys club.

  6. If you can’t beat em’, join em’.

  7. I want to fuel your fire. Feel good knowing you have the upper hand, and they have no idea.

  8. Finally, when his guard is down, take his job. Jackpot

Now you are his boss. Who would have thought at the beginning of this, you were afraid of the interview. You thought you wouldn’t get hired. Who’s laughing now?

What are the ways we can accomplish this? We need examples!

I know, I know, easier said than done. I compiled a list of ways we can accomplish this. Feel free to think of your own. I am interested to see what your ideas are.

When a man in the office makes fun of your work and calls it “girly.” You tell him that you agree, maybe you should revise it. Turn your chair, roll your eyes, and continue working.

If he tries to lift something for you because: “You aren’t strong enough to lift that.” You drop it and tell him: “thank you” and walk away. He’s busy lifting the item, and you’re back to work. Let his superiority complex shine.

When they gawk at you, let it happen. Perfect, they’re busy talking about you. Find management and talk about working on the new project.

Always have a beer with them after work. When playing poker, the most crucial conversations happened while outside smoking during a break. I always went out and smoked with them to find out who the weakest players were. The biggest deals happen over a beer; you need to go. Men are bigger gossips than we are. Order the first round. They think you are one of them.

We can never forget where we came from. We must thank our foremothers, the ones before us that led us in feminism and created the path we can so graciously walk on.

Rosa Parks — The first woman that wouldn’t give up her seat to a white man on the bus. She is a historical leader in equal rights for women and African Americans. Thank you for that.

Sandra Day O’Connor — The First woman to serve on the US supreme court. Thank you for that.

Oprah Winfrey — The first African American tv show host, among many other things. She is a leader for all women. Thank you for that.

Hilary Clinton — One of the first women in her graduating class and first women to go to law school. She was the first woman nominated by a political party to run for office. Thank you for that.

There are many more women I could name. The list could be a post in itself. These are a few women that have inspired my view on feminism. I am sure you have your list of women that inspired you.


This is our time to be the new face of feminism.

This new age of feminism tells us that we aren’t allowed to have men talk to us a certain way and look at us like we are an object. Here’s a fast reality check. We can’t stop them, and if we could, they still wouldn’t stop. It has been years since we started the feminism movement. It has worked in the past, but times have changed, and the word feminism must change with it.

We need to rewrite the story for the women that come after us. Protesting in the streets just allows the men to say: there she goes again. There has to be a better way. Let us be the group of woman that plays with the boys. If you can’t beat em’ join em’. I can sit down at a boy’s game and happily play poker with a group of older men who think I do not deserve to be there. There is no way we can’t use this same method when dealing with men in the corporate world.

If there is anything I have learned from the few years of poker playing and the many men I have come across at these tables: If they think you are one of them, you can play with them. They will look forward to playing with you.

What if we take the lessons I have learned from playing poker and use them to our advantage? It works at a poker table. Let us use these skills and dominate the business world.

In life, there is nothing that gets handed to us. We have been fighting for equality since the dawn of time, and we will continue to fight until the end of time has come. Unless we change the narrative and make men think they are winning.


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