Education, Human Interest and Virtual Excellence Awards Gala

What was to be a WPA & Vegas Area Casinos collaborative week-long poker festival, fondly known as the ‘Ladies Poker Week’ was instantly gone with the reality of Covid-19. Women’s Poker Association, an all-volunteer professional organization for women poker players chose to feature ladies week as a celebration by hosting a “Virtual Ladies Poker Week”. This week featured daily events such as interviews with prominent poker professionals, poker training sessions, humanitarian features and industry spotlights, all leading up to the WPA Virtual Excellence Awards Gala held online and open to the public on June 20, 2020.

Each day of WPA Virtual Ladies Poker Week offered training, spotlights into industry happenings, shout outs and more.  We were fortunate to feature several individuals for their expertise and insight to the poker world. Our many thanks to Jamie Kerstetter, Joey Ingram, Alex Outherd and Barbara Jones Zangaro.

The highlight of the week, the Gala, was hosted by the WPA Board of Directors. This event united members of the WPA, industry leaders and media; all in celebration of women in poker and those who support them throughout the year.

As summer of 2020 was approaching, the knowledge of live poker was not an option for ladies week. However, the WPA board decided this was still a wonderful time to host the week, but on a virtual platform instead.

WPA Virtual Ladies Poker Week allowed all women poker players, and those who support WPA, to come together to experience a virtual version of mingling, friendship, game talk, poker news, strategy, coaching and camaraderie.

The WPA 2019 Excellence Awards Gala was to take place this past March in Las Vegas. Since the event was cancelled due to COVID19, the WPA wanted to make sure all of these amazing individuals and industry partners still received recognition for the extraordinary achievements and support provided in 2019 for women in poker.

The live WPA Virtual Gala awarded 21 recipients with Excellence Awards and 15 Sponsors were recognized for their cash donations and in-kind contributions throughout the year. (If you were unable to attend the Gala, please feel free to watch it on our YouTube Channel…  CLICK HERE)

2019 Virtual Awards List of Recipients:

Volunteerism & Contributions

· Terry Hatcher
· Gigi Fab
· Kittie Aleman
· Sherry Pluskota
· Rita Sherrill
· Liz Huey
· Lynn Daoust
· Barbara Capron
· Espy Enriquez
· Bonnie Weitzel

Special Thank You to Our Sponsors

· Learn WPT
· WPT – Angelica Heal
· TDA – Matt Savage
· WSOP – Jack Craig Effel
· CardPlayer Cruises
· CHIPCO Gaming
· SHIP IT Poker Cruises
· Poker Queen
· Rodan & Fields – Angela Averett
· JewelScent – Bonnie Overfield
· PokerGodz
· Poker Rabbit
· Jersey Mike’s
· CardsChat
· All American Dave

Humanitarian Awards
Giving Back to the Community

· Barbara Jones Zangaro,
Vegas Connected Executive Director 
· Tatiana Fox, Koalas of Vegas

WPA Media Support Persons of the Year

· Robbie Strazynski
· Maureen Bloechlinger

Industry Voice of the Year 

· Veronica Brill

Industry Innovation Recognition

· Poker Powher, Jenny Just, Founder

Industry Contributor of the Year

· Savvy of Caesars Entertainment,
Desiree Anatihan II​ ​SAVVY Chair

Rising Stars

· Christina “Chris” Read
· Charon Gray Martinez
· Kim Kilroy  

2019 WPA Player of the Year –Ruth Hall

In a continued effort to recognize the achievements of women in poker, the Woman’s Poker Association created a North America Player of the Year program for 2019. All North America (Canada, Mexico and USA) women’s tournaments are eligible for the WPA Leaderboard when the tournament meets the criteria. The good news is we’re seeing an upswing in operators supporting women in poker by offering poker tournaments for women.  In 2019, there were 60 events which qualified with a buy-in of over $100 and 40 players or more to be included in the ranking.

Women’s Poker Association is not a poker tour. The organization is an all-volunteer nonprofit in the business of elevating the poker experience for women and relies on the industry to support women by offering Ladies events and opportunities for women to enter the game. WPA Player of the Year Program is an additional way to support these goals.  

This year, Ruth Hall reached the top of the leader board to claim the title.  Ruth, a longtime advocate for women in poker, has seen a lot of success over her playing career.  She has a WSOP Circuit Ring, a LIPS Grand Series Gold Bracelet, and several titles including her most recent, the Texas Star Ladies Poker Champion for 2020.  She is also a member of the WPA Board of Directors and is fondly teased for winning our first year’s title.

Ruth is a two-time Breast Cancer survivor and is an inspiration for many women. She shares the message for women to do their annual exams and in doing so, saves lives.  When asked how she felt about winning the Player of the Year for 2019, she replied “I noticed my own WPA POY points after the summer when I won two large ladies events:  LIPS Championship & Planet Hollywood. Kristi Garcia is another Texas Grinder who plays poker for a living & Melisa Singh has been crushing tournaments. Both of these Pros with points in 2nd & 3rd are also deserving of this award. I’m humbled to end up on top and encourage more women to get into the game!” Ruth’s Hendon Mob reads over $230,000 in winnings and she is adding to it all the time. 

Ruth added to her “jewelry collection” when she was presented with her 2019 WPA Player of the Year ring during the Ladies Poker Week Virtual Gala.  For those that missed the Virtual LIVE Gala, the complete video can be watched on the Womens Poker Association YouTube channel.  

WPA is a global organization and recognition of women’s success in poker is an important part of our goals. Internationally, various countries host women’s events. However, distance from country to country requires a different approach to a Player of the Year program. There are fewer events to compete in and distance may be prohibitive to attend several stops. WPA’s enhanced Player of Year program addresses this very challenge.  The complete POY details for both the domestic and the international POY programs, can be found on the WPA website.  

We applaud the industry for supporting women in poker and offer a shout out to all operators who include opportunities for women to participate in the game along with other women.  It fosters comradery and support for women to not only enter poker, but to remain in the game. Please send your women’s tournament information to to be included in our listings of women’s events.  Since WPA is not a poker tour, we support those who offer women’s events with promotions, final table prizes and follow up spotlights on your winners.  

2019 was the inaugural year of the WPA Player of the Year Program. With an astonishing 65 ladies events in 2019, many qualified for the WPA POY Leaderboard. (To view the 2019 WPA POY leaderboard information, CLICK HERE) This year, ladies tournaments were on schedule to double or triple that number.

With 2020 being impacted with Covid -19 and most of the tournament schedules cancelled, WPA had to decide the best course of action for the POY Program. It’s decided to combine results from 2020 & 2021 to have the opportunity to gain momentum on the leaderboard once again. To learn about the enhancements of the new POY program, CLICK HERE. 

The WPA is working on some amazing programs for 2021 and is looking forward to continuing to elevate, educate and empower women in the game of poker they love and respect so much.

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