PSPC POSSIBILITIES: PokerStars Announces Women’s Day Platinum Pass Qualifiers

April 21, 2020
PSPC POSSIBILITIES: PokerStars Announces Women’s Day Platinum Pass Qualifiers

As part of International Women’s Day on March 8, PokerStars announced a contest for one deserving woman to earn a Platinum Pass. Nominations poured in from around the world and the site announced its finalists on Tuesday.

“We received a huge number of nominations for deserving women all over the world and it has been amazing to see so many inspirational stories and the positivity and support from the whole poker community,” a PokerStars spokesperson noted.

The finalists range from poker pros to business owners to a registered nurse to a volunteer with senior citizens. One thing they all have in common is a love for poker. They also now have a shot at one of the biggest events in the game.

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A Platinum Pass has become one of the most-coveted items in poker. A pass guarantees a $30,000 all-expenses paid trip to Barcelona for the PokerStars Players Championship (PSPC). The tournament will be held Aug. 20-24.

The first PSPC was held in January 2019, and became the biggest $25,000 buy-in live poker tournament in history. The winner took home $5.1 million.

Who are the PokerStars International Women’s Day finalists?

As part of the contest, poker fans nominated any woman they believe has made an impact on the game or is an inspirational woman in poker. In 50 words or less, that person could explain why their nominee deserved the pass.

Originally a panel of judges was to select six finalists, but that was increased to nine. After a month-long selection process, the finalists were announced Tuesday and include:

  • Daiva Byrne – A professional poker player from Lithuania, now lives in Manchester, United Kingdom.
  • Christina Read – A bank sales executive turned semi poker pro from Flowery Branch, Georgia.
  • Katie Stone – A professional poker player in New Jersey.
  • Giada Shiyan Fang – A professional poker player from Italy, now living in Malta.
  • Meichelle Culhane – A volunteer poker teacher for senior citizens from the Tulsa area in Oklahoma.
  • Jan Fisher – A partner in Card Player Cruises from Las Vegas, Nevada.
  • Terry Hatcher – A business owner, tournament director, and dealer from Austin, Texas.
  • Lexi Sterner – A registered nurse from Orlando, Florida.
  • Aurélie Reard – A professional poker player from Paris, France, now lives in Cardiff, Wales.

“I feel so very thankful and excited,” Stone said after learning the news.

Sterner was equally excited about being a finalist, especially considering her role as a nurse.

“It’s amazing and surreal,” she said. “Poker has meant so much to me and given me so much. And for it to happen with everything going on while working as a nurse during these times. It’s just a bright light. It really is an honor.”

The contest called for finalists to play in a live sit & go for the Platinum Pass. That was to take place at a future PokerStars Live event. Due to the current pandemic, a date hasn’t been determined yet.

PokerStars officials also noted that they are monitoring the pandemic situation and there hasn’t been a change in date. The site will update players in advance if there is any change to current plans.

A Q&A with two Women’s Day Platinum Pass finalists

With the finalists announced, USPoker spoke with two of the finalists. They offered a bit about their own poker life and story.

Meichelle Culhane

Broken Arrow, Oklahoma

Age: 61

Profession:  Retired from public education and tax preparation, now volunteer leader for poker lessons at Broken Arrow Senior Activity Center.

Can you describe your work at the senior center?

After five years of asking if I could start a poker group, they had a change in administration and I finally got an okay, as long as it wasn’t real money. The first three weeks I had one veteran gentleman in his 80s – just him and me playing draw poker, Seven Card Stud, and No Limit Texas Hold’em. He had a helper that we made play with us.

Three weeks later, I announced at a Bunco game of 30 women that I was hosting poker lessons on Thursday mornings. The next week I had two ladies, one of them was 87 years young. From there in one year we grew to 15 women, and three poker friends of mine that volunteer deal for them.

Now after 17 months, before the virus I had 19 active female players and even a dealer from a local casino volunteers. I also have a group of men who come, so we have one men’s table and two ladies’ tables every week.

How does it feel to be a Platinum Pass finalist?

This is an OMG moment! Knowing some of the other women who wanted to be nominated, I am humbled to be selected. People always tell me my story is a great poker story, but it’s really about the women at the center I volunteer for.

Thank you PokerStars for getting their story out there. I am just the messenger of hope for other senior citizen women.

How are you going to prepare for the final?

I am going to reach out to all my mentors. Some know me, some won’t. I played in Chris Moneymaker and Jonathan Little’s PokerStars Home Games and received prizes in both. A friend of mine that lives near me was the second to last woman standing in the 2019 WSOP Main Event, so she’s on my list.

I have access to some great tournament players and winners here in the Tulsa area, and I’m going to reach out to them. I have been being the leader, and now find myself the student. 

How long have you been playing poker?

My Hendon Mob records states 2012, but the poker rooms here in Tulsa opened in 2005, so 15 years actively. Although, as a family we played penny ante poker on holidays when I was very young.

How did you get into poker?

When the poker room opened at my local casino, they had ladies night. I heard over the speaker: “Ladies, come learn how to play poker and then play in a tournament.”

I headed over, sat down, and 30 minutes later I was playing in my first ladies-only tournament. They have since done away with that weekly tournament, which is something I want to work on getting back.

What do you enjoy about poker?

If capable, you can play into your 90s. I have proof of this with the senior women that I weekly volunteer with on poker. Another point would be meeting women from all over the world – women I would never get to know except through the magic of the poker table.

I would never have gone to Lake Tahoe to play poker if not for an invite from a woman at the poker table or a random pool party during Ladies Poker Week in Las Vegas. The actual playing of the game is the bonus. The competition and challenge at any age makes for the perfect cup of soup.

How do you think more women can be encouraged to get into poker?

I think we need more women’s day or night activities at our local casinos or online. Make it inviting, food and freebees are always a good thing. Teach them the basics, then the ones it appeals to will feel a part of something and continue to learn.

I start my seniors with the basic “this is a button, this is a blind.” I throw in something that relates to them like, “you know like in the old western movie poker game, everyone puts in an ante.” They all relate to this.

I have been averaging one new woman a month. Some have ventured out to the casinos to live games and tournaments, and now due to the virus are playing online play money games at PokerStars.

What would you say to women who are intimidated by the game of poker?

You teach them with open arms and teach them basics. Create circumstances like more women-only events that they will succeed at. Their intimidation will turn into confidence. Don’t knock them down, build them up. 

What is your advice to future female leaders in poker?

My advice would be keeping the game simple. Challenging, but simple. Simple basics will get them in the door. Make it fun and let them succeed easily.

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$150 Bonus Play
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  • NJ & MI Shared Player Pools
  • Over $1 Million Won Every Day
  • To Claim: Click Play Now

Jan Fisher

Las Vegas (originally from Seattle, Washington)

Age: 64

Profession:  Partner in Card Player Cruises over the past 40-plus years and have always worked in the poker community.

What is your poker life like?

I was inducted into the Women in Poker Hall of Fame in 2009 and have been the emcee every year other than that one. When I was 21, I moved to Las Vegas as I wanted to be a poker dealer. I dealt for many years in many different casinos, and worked every aspect of a card room and now am quite at home in “my” card room on the ship.

I wrote “Poker 101” for Card Player magazine for many years and wrote for Poker Pages, Poker Player Newspaper, and others. At WPT Bootcamp, I taught for many years and have also given many seminars over the years.

I was the statistician for the WPT the first six seasons and attended every final table during those  years. I am a founder of the Tournament Directors Association as well as the Poker Gives charity.

How does it feel to be a Platinum Pass finalist?

I am thrilled being nominated and, of course, I hope to win the fabulous gift package. My business partner and best friend Linda Johnson took me as her +1 last year and I’d love to be able to return the favor!

How are you going to prepare for the final?

Hmm, prepare? Not sure what to do! I’ll celebrate after I win it, OK?

How long have you been playing poker?

50 years, yes I am old!

How did you get into poker?

I came to Las Vegas with my mom back in the 1970s when she came on junkets and was comped. I fell in love with Vegas initially for the sun – I’m from Seattle. With being a comped guest, I was a bit jaded and moving here I wouldn’t get all the freebies. But I was hooked.

I learned back then that poker dealers didn’t split their tokes and that the game was beatable if you put in the work. Also, I studied blackjack and played that a lot before the casinos made it more difficult to beat. I started dealing in card rooms in 1977 and have been in the industry ever since.

What do you enjoy about poker?

So many things. I love the competition of course, but I love the lifestyle it has afforded me. Lots of travel, friends all over the world, and a calendar that’s always full of exciting things. There are so many wonderful things about poker.

How can more women be encouraged to get into poker?

I have been working on that for many years. I feel that the women’s events are a two-edged sword and I don’t really think that they are making a difference in poker for women anymore.

The WSOP $1,000 ladies’ event isn’t for newbies getting in, but tradition has kept that event going and that’s awesome. The small daily type ladies-only events help to get novice players in the game and also provide a less intimidating venue to venture into.

Seminars and instruction are great ways to introduce more women to the game. If the regular players would behave better, we’d not only get more ladies in the game but gentlemen as well.

Do you think there are any advantages to being a woman playing poker?

Yes, but not necessarily for me. Women who dress sexy can for sure throw men off their games. Those of us who’ve played for so many years aren’t intimidated and for the most part, absent the sexuality component, think it’s a level playing field.

What would you say to women who are intimated by the game of poker?

Get over it! Find someone to get you into your first card room. It is very intimidating and one area that is lacking in nearly all poker rooms is an easy way to get in, get on a list, find out what’s going on without being ignored or made to feel stupid.

Card rooms need to do a better job. One thing we do very well on Card Player Cruises is make a much less intimidating card room and it’s working. Our clientele is about 40% women

What is your advice to future female leaders in poker?

Listen and learn from many mistakes in the past as well as wonderful things that were/are done right. Listen to your players, both men and women, and don’t be afraid to try new things.

So many new ideas over the years have turned into the gold standard and made many of us wonder why we haven’t thought of that before.

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