Courtesy IMPDI/World Series of Poker
Tuesday, July 14, 2009 | 2:06 a.m.
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Playing poker like a girl isn't such a bad thing if you're playing like Nichoel Peppe or Leo Margets.
Both Peppe and Margets were the only two women to crack the top 100 in the World Series of Poker Main Event on Monday, with both battling all day for the title of last woman standing.
At about 11:45 p.m., however, Margets claimed that distinction when Peppe busted out in 75th place, winning $68,979.
"It was great," said Peppe, who is playing in her first Main Event. "It's something that gives me knots in my stomach every night. I have trouble sleeping, but when I sit down and play it just feels like any other day. I'm excited to have gotten this far."
Margets is now the lone woman remaining with 3,650,000 chips in 18th place heading into Day 7 Tuesday with 64 total players left in the tournament. She is guaranteed at least $108,047.
Entering Day 6 Monday at the Rio, Peppe and Margets were the only two women left out of the 187 female entrants in the Main Event field of 6,494.
Although it's nothing new to have women competing in the Main Event, ESPN seemed to treat it as such with cameras staked out at all day at the tables of Peppe and Margets.
"It's funny because the main poker players like Phil Ivey and Elky (Bertrand Grospellier) get the TV exposure and then me and Leo get equal time and we are nobodies," Peppe said. "We are just girls, but because it is a novelty, that's going to happen to us."
While Margets typically remains silent at the table, only speaking in Spanish to her supporters at the rail, Peppe is one of the more social players.
She said her confidence comes from many hours playing cash games at the Bicycle Club Casino in Los Angeles. Peppe has made a living at $5-10 No Limit Hold 'em games in the past five years.
"When you first sit down, men have a thing in their head that (women) are going to be super tight and not know how to play, but it doesn't bother me," Peppe said. "I just play my game. I've been playing professionally for five years so I'm used to sitting at a table with eight guys."
Playing a male-dominated game such as poker is actually how Peppe met her husband, Tad Jurgens, nearly three years ago. The couple married in February and lives in Long Beach, Calif.
Jurgens is a mixed-game poker professional who took second place in this year's $1,500 HORSE event. He missed the money in this year's Main Event, though, busting out on Day 3.
"We definitely love to argue about who is the better poker player," Peppe said.
Even though poker brought Peppe and Jurgens together, Peppe actually owes her career to another man, Chris Moneymaker.
Peppe said she was struggling to break into the movie industry as an actress when she started watching the 2003 Main Event on ESPN. After seeing Chris Moneymaker win $2.5 million, she decided to focus on poker as a potential career.
With both Peppe and Margets making deep runs in the Main Event, Peppe hopes the additional camera time will help inspire other women to play poker. Then, she said, females in the final days won't be such a rarity.
"Unfortunately, there are not many women that play poker yet, but hopefully more will, because then it won't be such an exciting thing," Peppe said. "I do understand why everyone makes a big deal about it because you have 98 percent men in this tournament and it's a little more exciting to have women get farther."
The WSOP does not keep official statistics on the number of women entering events, but women do have a history of success in the Main Event.
The first time a woman cashed in the Main Event was in 1986 when Wendeen Eolis finished 25th. Barbara Enright is the all-time highest female performer with a fifth-place finish in 1995.
Since then, a woman has finished in the top 100 in every Main Event since 2003. Last year, Tiffany Michelle was the last woman eliminated, busting out in 17th place.
"We got more attention then men, but I never felt special for being a female," said Margets, who is still chasing a gold bracelet. "I'm just like anyone else."
Despite their lack of overall numbers, the presence of so many women late in the Main Event has also made them hot commodities for poker sponsors.
Peppe, for instance, is a Pokerstars.net player while Margets plays for Pacific Poker and 888.com.
"We do love endorsing women because they are really starting to come through in poker," said Pokerstars spokesman Matt Clark. "Considering how few of them there and how well they do, women are really doing better than a lot of men."
Carnival lasts all year at the Rio. With a float occasionally passing overhead and dropping beads while feathered dancers fire up the gamblers below, the Rio tries to keep its 120,000-square foot casino jumping with excitement. Special Brazilian mixed-drinks are also served throughout the casino. The hotel suites tend to be larger than similar priced rooms on the Strip and many offer excellent views with floor to ceiling windows.
The Rio offers some quality shows like "Penn & Teller" and "Chippendales." Many come to the Rio for the nightlife at the VooDoo Lounge, located on the 51st floor, or McFadden's Irish Pub on the casino level.
Others come for a bit relaxation at the Rio Spa or pool area and still others come to shop at the hotel's 60,000 square feet of shops. In each of these endeavors, the Rio attempts to make the experience a bit more fun and spontaneous.
The Rio also offers guests a variety of dining choices from all-American food at the All-American Bar & Grille to Gaylord India Restaurant for something a little spicier and even Carnival World Buffet for the indecisive.
Steve Silver can be reached at 948-7822 or firstname.lastname@example.org.