Hinojosa: “There is little left for a woman to win the WSOP Main Event”

G&M News talked with Brenda Hinojosa, Mexican poker player, journalist and ambassador for the renowned Poker League of Nations. In the article, she tells about her experience, describes the advances of women in this cards sport and advices those who want to start practicing this exciting game.

The interviewee highlights her coverage of the main tournaments and her collaboration in the organization of the WSOP in Mexico.
The interviewee highlights her coverage of the main tournaments and her collaboration in the organization of the WSOP in Mexico.

By Alejandro Caminos, journalist, screenwriter and G&M News’ collaborator.

Why were you interested in poker? When did you start playing?

I first came across poker in 2004, when Poker After Dark and other such shows were on air on ESPN. I was immediately interested and, together with my sister, we started looking for more information to understand the rules and terminology of poker. At the beginning of 2005, I opened an account at Full Tilt Poker and started playing online until, in Monterrey, Mexico (where I live), a place to play live, called “La Vagoneta”, opened. I just felt such an adrenaline rush when I touched the chips and the cards in my first live tournament that I knew I would play my whole life.

Do you plan to play professionally again?

At the moment, it is not in my plans. I have always been a more recreational player. I love to play, but, without a doubt, when I started to write some articles as a journalist, I decided to focus more on that career. I covered the World Series of Poker (WSOP) several times at the Main Event in Las Vegas, following all of the Latin America’s players, and made great friendships. So attending tournaments as a player became less frequent, but I am always passionate about informing and growing the poker community in Mexico, especially for women. In spite of this, I can’t deny that, when working in the great halls full of players and hearing the sound of the chips colliding, it gives me a terrible itch in the tips of my fingers, and I feel the need to sit down and play.

You worked as a journalist at PokerNews Latin America. Can you describe the experience of mixing the facet of a player with that of a journalist? What other things did journalism offer you in relation to poker?

Ufff! Working for PokerNews was a watershed in my life. I started doing exclusive articles for Mexico, together with an incredible team that wrote for Argentina, Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica and Venezuela, among other territories. Then, two years after, I was editor-in-chief. I had the chance to start traveling to major tournaments and doing live coverage. To be at a WSOP Main Event was incredible, just an unforgettable experience! I quickly realized that my passion for poker went beyond playing it, and the journalistic side gave me a new purpose. The road was not easy, but I loved walking it and being able to accumulate the experience that I have today. Another great opportunity was to collaborate in the WSOP Mexico project, since it was a dream come true. Marcelo Silva, the person in charge of the project, let me work under his supervision in the largest and most important tournament that ever took place in my country. Poker has given me many new things, but the main one is friendships, which have been fundamental in my life. In 2006, we founded a club for women playing poker, called ‘Poker Mafia.’ We have been meeting once a week for 15 years (now, with the pandemic, we are still online) to chat and do what we are most passionate about. We are always in contact and supporting each other.

What is the Poker League of Nations (PLON)? How did you get the opportunity to be an ambassador?

PLON is the largest association of women playing poker in the world. Its founder, Lena Evans, is a winner of two rings on the WSOP circuit, among many other achievements. PLON has 7,000 active players globally. To be part, all you have to do is look for the page on Facebook and fill out a small application to be admitted and enjoy the benefits. The opportunity to be an ambassador came up while I was working at the WSOP Mexico. A friend of mine contacted Lena and invited her to Monterrey. We immediately connected and started talking about our common interest in getting more women to play poker. Since then, I went from being an ambassador for Mexico to being an ambassador for Latin America. We have worked together very hard with the representatives and teams established in each country to expand this community. The basic functions of PLON are: news forum, educational programs, rail events, weekly tournaments, poker leagues divided by regions, to get more women to attend major tournaments, among others.

What is the role of women in the poker segment? How to open more spaces for participation and get more women join the activity?

The role of women is much more active now than it was a few years ago. Before, you could barely see a couple of players in some massive tournaments. Now, there are excellent players who are regulars and have a really surprising level. It is true that female participation is still a minority, but more and more girls are joining. The cash table is a difficult environment for a player who is just starting out or is not well known. I think the best thing I could recommend to encourage more women to play is to do it in tournaments where there is no alcohol involved and penalties are regulated. The more they study and practice, the more confident they will be when playing, as experience comes along the way. Today, there are millions of online strategy articles, courses, and coaches that can help. Playing online is a very comfortable way to learn, since you can start playing with fictional money and, little by little, increase the stake, as the player feels more confident. In order to promote this, it would be important for casinos and poker rooms to organize events exclusively for women, so that rookies lose their nerves and are encouraged to play.

The Poker Hall of Fame has just only three women recognized as members. Why do you think this happens? Are more female figures needed or do they already exist, buy don’t have the recognition they deserve?

I think it is directly proportional to the field (number of players) of a tournament. Even today, the usual is that, in a massive tournament, there is a 2 to 3% female participation. So the achievements are related to the numbers of the participants. I have no doubt that the more participation there is, the greater the number of women who stand out. There are already many that are ready to succeed. I assure you that there is little left for a woman to win the WSOP Main Event and obtain the coveted bracelet.

What piece of advice can you give to women who want to start trying their luck at poker?

They must be prepared, study and practice all the time. They will have to look for information on the Internet and learn from the most basic to the most complex, finding a personal style of play so that, when they are at the tables, they can play with more security and be successful. Belonging to a women’s poker association, like the ones I mentioned, will help a lot. They will be able to meet the community and have the support and experience of female players with a long history. I invite you to join the Poker League of Nations. You will find important tournaments, and have the support to keep on following your poker dreams with specialized education.

What are your main objectives in the medium term?

As for poker, I am looking forward to the second circuit of the WSOP Mexico. For me, it would be wonderful to be able to continue participating in this great project. Women have there a magnificent exclusive event. Undoubtedly, this championship will help grow the entire Mexican poker community.