The 2010 WSOP Ladies Event begins Friday, June 11 at 12 noon and will guarantee our first ladies bracelet winner of the 2010 WSOP.
   Two women have come close thus far, with JJ Liu finishing 3rd in Event 9, and Jennifer Harman taking 3rd place in Event 15.
   Leading into the 2010 WSOP, there was a lot of buzz about 2010 being the Year of the Woman.  And with less than a third of the bracelet events in the books, there is still plenty of time for that to occur.
   Perhaps it was Mike Matusow's claim of running down the Las Vegas Strip with no clothes on if the ladies captured 3 bracelets this summer, that has turned the tide.  As much as we want to see the ladies do well, let's just say an in the buff Mike Matusow is not something most will want to stomach.
   It still could turn out to be the Year of the Woman in 2010. The ladies are certainly off to an auspicious start this year, as Annie Duke won the NBC National Heads-up Poker Championship; Vanessa Selbst took down the NAPT Mohegan Sun championship event, and Liv Boeree was victorious on the European Poker Tour.
   First of the trio to strike gold was Annie Duke. On March 15, after three long days of play in a 64-player field, she collected $500,000 for finishing first in the sixth annual NBC event. She became the first woman to win this coveted title, and in doing so, at the final table  beat out the likes of Erik Seidel, Scotty Nguyen, Dennis Phillips, Jerry Yang, Doyle Brunson, Jason Mercier, Peter Eastgate, Paul Wasicka and Eli Elezra (who finished behind her in that order). 
   The victory pushed Duke’s total wins past the $4 million mark. Her numerous prior highlights include a win in the WSOP’s Tournament of Champions inaugural event in 2004, the same year she won a bracelet in Omaha High-Low.
   Prior champions for the $20,000 buy-in NBC invitational event are Phil Hellmuth, Ted Forrest, Jamie Gold, Paul Wasicka, Chris Ferguson and Huck Seed.
   It was no easy win, as Duke found herself in some of the longest and memorable matches in the tournament. She beat her friend Andy Bloch in the first round of play, next overcame Darvin Moon, and then found herself in a dramatic and marathon match against Wasicka. She did get lucky in that match. At one point she was all in with A-10 against Wasicka’s pocket aces but made a straight on the river. After beating Yang and Phillips, she played three long matches against another good friend, Seidel, holder of eight bracelets. Duke won the first match, Seidel the second, and then Duke claimed victory in the deciding match when she started with pocket nines on the final hand and ended up with a straight.  
   The next woman to score a stunning victory was Vanessa Selbst in the inaugural North American Poker Tour Mohegan Sun championship, as she beat 715 other players in the $5,000 event to pocket $750,000. Selbst a Brooklyn-born Yale graduate and Fulbright Scholar turned pro, had six-figure cashes in WSOP events in 2006 and 2007, and in 2008 won her first bracelet in a pot-limit Omaha event paying $227,923. Three days later she had another WSOP cash of $108,288 for finishing third in a $10,000 heads-up no-limit event.
   Then, saying she missed intellectual community life, she largely abandoned poker to return to Yale to study human rights law. Even so, in her spare time she managed to pick up a few nice cashes, including $28,642 for third at the World Poker Finals in Mashantucket. Near the end of her second year at law school, she decided to play the NAPT main event, since it wasn’t far from Yale. She finished day one near the top of the pack, and went on to destroy the field. Her $750,000 easy win made her rethink her poker career, and she decided to take a year off from law school and return to the tournament circuit. However, she’ll only be able to play for two weeks in this year’s WSOP, since she has a summer internship commitment. Her eventual plan is to play tournaments six or seven months a year, spending the rest of her time on pro bono cases.
   Just a week after Selbst’s big win, Liv Boeree, a poker player, TV presenter and model from the United Kingdom, became the third member of the triumphant trio by winning the biggest-everEuropean Poker Tour event in San Remo, Italy. She bested a field of 1,240 players and won €1,250,000 ($1,698,300) after gaining entry to the event via a €500 satellite. Two years earlier, she had won the Ladbrokes European Ladies Championship.
   Boeree, an astrophysics grad from the University of Manchester as well as an accomplished rock guitarist, was introduced to poker in 2005 as a contestant on the reality TV show where she was coached by Hellmuth and Duke.
   When Boeree made the final table at San Remo, she was fifth in chips, trailing Jakob Carlsson of Sweden, who seemed to have an insurmountable lead. She was in front when she got heads-up with Carlsson, lost it to him, then regained it by making a wheel on the turn before coasting to victory.
   Another lady to watch this year is Annette Obrestad, who collected $2 million for winning the inaugural World Series of Poker Europe a day before her 19th birthday. Now 21 and able to play in the U.S., all eyes will be on her during the WSOP. The Norwegian wunderkind started her remarkable poker career at age 15, winning close to $1 million in online play in just a few months.
   Adding momentum to the emergence of women in poker are two ladies tours: LIPS (Ladies International Poker Series) and the High Heels Poker Tour.
   LIPS, started by Lupe Soto and now in its sixth year, is a collaborative effort with casinos, offering middle ($100-$500) buy-in events designed for women who have played for a while and want a bigger challenge. So far more than 8,000 women have participated.
   This year it will hold the first-ever U.S. Ladies Poker Championship September 4th and 5th at the Golden Nugget in Las Vegas. It will be a $500 buy-in and be broadcast live on the internet’s Poker Netcast.
   Two years ago, Soto also launched the Women in Poker Hall of Fame. The four inaugural inductees were Linda Johnson, Susie Isaacs, Marsha Waggoner and Barbara Enright, who is also the only woman in the Poker Hall of Fame. Last year’s WIPHOF inductees were Cyndy Violette, Jan Fisher and June Field, who founded Card Player magazine.
   The other ladies tournament series is the High Heels Poker Tour, whose motto is “Poker is in our sole.” It was launched in 2007 by Lauren Failla in its home state of Florida, but has grown to cover all of the U.S. and abroad.  Its mission, stated when it was launched, “is to empower women who want to become champions in the growing world of poker and to provide the best competitive environment where women can explore, develop, continue growing and learning top strategies”      
   HHPT now has relationships with GO Girl Energy, Copag Cards, PMS Poker Wear and others. It has staged events in collaboration with the WSOP Circuit, Beau Rivage, Gold Strike, Harrah’s New Orleans, Hard Rock Hotels, Turning Stone and more. HHPT also hopes to expand to several different locations this year, and has been in discussion with such casinos as the Horseshoe in Hammond, Indiana, Harvey’s Lake Tahoe in Nevada, the Canadian Poker Expo in Toronto, Canada and others.
   High Heels also holds its own Academy with such pros as Enright, Isaacs, Waggoner, Kristy Gazes, Karina Jett and J.J. Liu as instructors. It will also have its own hospitality suite at the Rio June 9-11 featuring live streaming and interviews with players.