Canada is fast becoming a hotbed of female poker talent

The Three Most Popular Variants of Poker

The game of poker is fast experiencing a revolution. The poker industry is looking to fix the gender imbalance at the tables, encouraging more female players to try out the game and give the guys a run for their money.

Traditionally, poker has often been considered a male-dominated pursuit. That’s due largely to its links to old-school Wild West smoke-filled saloons with gunslingers and outlaws doing battle at the tables. Even in the 1980s and 90s, the game was still heavily male-dominated, but there has been a welcome shift in the demographic in the last five-to-ten years – and Canadian women are leading the way.

Kristen Bicknell

Kristen Bicknell sits at the top of the tree as the most successful Canadian female poker player. Born in St. Catherines, Ontario, Bicknell learnt to play poker with her friends at college and never looked back. She played regularly online and has since gone on to win three World Series of Poker bracelets and amassed live career earnings of almost $6.5 million.

This includes a first-place finish in the $1,000-entry Ladies Championships, when she took home a first prize of almost $174,000. Bicknell has also kept poker in her life away from the tables by marrying American poker pro, Alex Foxen.

Xuan Liu

Xuan Liu was born in Tian Jin in China but emigrated to Canada aged just five. She attended college around the time of the poker “boom”, and she would regularly attend live poker games and events staged throughout the University of Waterloo. She also started to host her own home games with fellow players within her social poker network, before dipping her toes into the live poker tournament scene in 2011.

Liu hasn’t looked back since. She is now comfortably inside the top 20 female poker players worldwide in terms of winnings, with almost $2 million in live prize money. She remains the only woman to have final tabled the PCA Main Event.

Louise Francoeur

Montreal-born Louise Francoeur is another hugely successful female poker player. She finds herself 144th on Canada’s all-time money list, with total live poker earnings amounting to almost $875,000. Her best live cash came in the 2016 WSOP Main Event with a 142nd place finish earning her $49,108. She has been a regular on the Las Vegas tournament circuit, posting consistent cashes in deep-stack events at The Venetian and The Wynn.

It is no mean feat to run that deep in a WSOP Main Event. With this tournament regularly attracting 9 – 10,000+ entrants, Francoeur’s 142nd finish put her inside the top 1% of entrants in 2016. She has certainly helped to dispel the myth that female poker players don’t have the stamina to stay the course for tournaments lasting several days in succession.

Texas Hold-em Poker

The likes of Kristen Bicknell and Louise Francoeur have inspired more Canadian women to give the game a try in recent years. In December 2022, a former police liaison officer managed to qualify for a seat at the PokerStars Players Championship in The Bahamas, which had a buy-in fee of $30,000. Roxanne Johnson battled her way through other women from the US, Brazil, Romania and her native Canada to gain entry to the biggest poker tournament of Q1 2023.

Jennifer Shahade, who is part of Team PokerStars and also a Woman Grandmaster at chess, led the tournament which saw Johnson secure her spot at the PSPC in The Bahamas. In an interview after the Poker Power Invitational, which Johnson was involved in, Shahade bemoaned the lack of “opportunities for coaching and to play” for female poker players.

Shahade believes confidence is the key to enticing more women to sit down and mix it with the men at the poker tables. The Poker Power Invitational event is a prime example of how quickly the game can be picked up and embraced by new demographics of players, adding a fresh dimension to the poker scene.


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