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Team Poker? Women Turn Up From All Over United States For Nevada Tournament Series

Ladies International Poker Series (LIPS) A Huge Success In Las Vegas

by Allyn Shulman |  Published: May 31, 2023


The Ladies International Poker Series, otherwise known as LIPS, has had a mission to create venues for women to learn and excel in the game of poker through education, tournament play, and social event opportunities since 2004, when it was founded by Lupe Soto.

Throughout the years, LIPS has surged to the forefront of the women’s poker movement. Not only is LIPS a place to learn and grow as a female poker player, but it has also become a place where friendships have flourished and where ladies from near and far look forward to seeing one another and lauding each other’s successes. Poker can be highly competitive, but it’s also fun.

I had the pleasure of recently attending the Nevada State Ladies Poker Championship Festival, which ran from April 19-23 at the beautiful South Point Hotel & Casino, and I have to say that it might have been the most fun I have ever had playing poker.

Lupe Soto with JJ LiuThe series brought over 350 eager women from as far away as North Carolina, Florida, Wyoming, Utah, Arizona, Georgia, Minnesota, Washington, Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, Canada, and of course Nevada.

There was a Pajama Jam Party where the ladies actually showed up in jammies, and a Poker Queen Roundup where crowns or tiaras were a must. There was also a mini main, a main event, a bounty tournament (I got four bounties, yippee!), an Omaha tournament, and a bunch of other fun and informative events.

Although the championship event was the headliner, the standout event of the weekend was a creative dive into something relatively new, the US Ladies Team Tournament. For months, ladies chose their teams and meticulously planned imaginative names and costumes.

My Team 'No Muck Grey Ducks'Unfortunately for Minnesota’s Molly Mossey, a former poker reporter and captain of the ‘No Muck Grey Ducks,’ she was unable to make it as her flight was canceled. “Missing this event has been the biggest disappointment of my year,” Mossey said.

Her misfortune turned into an opportunity for me, as I hadn’t joined a team and took the alternate spot, joining Kelli Bernard, Shawn Brothers, Sherry Hammers, and Jordan Handrich. They were even nice enough to gift me a team shirt!

As it turns out, most of the team names had back stories. For Molly’s team name, ‘No Muck Grey Ducks,’ I was schooled in Minnesotan culture. Instead of saying, “duck, duck, goose” when playing the children’s game, Minnesotans say “duck, duck, grey duck.”

Furthermore, I’m told the game originated in Scandinavia and was called “anka, anka, gråttanka,” which of course translates to “duck, duck, grey duck.” So, I guess the Minnesotans have been doing it right.

'Double D's' Enter The Team TournamentAs I walked around the venue prior to the start of the team tournament, I had to laugh seeing my busty pals Jeannie David and Karina Jett, each proudly sporting jerseys that said ‘Double D’s’ with their names emblazoned on the back. Their teammates, Tatiana Fox, Amanda Wheeler, and Rebecca Scales all fit the bill as well!

Then there were the ‘Southern Poker Pistols,’ all in purple, pointing little squirt guns. JJ Liu was in that group, donning her purple shirt with a gold belt, one of her signature fascinators (formal headwear), and a purple bejeweled jacket that was to die for. Dare I say her outfit was fit for the Oscars?

Louise Francouer and the 'Knighty Knight Bitches'The ‘Shake and Bake’ ladies were looking hot, adorned in hot pink sweatshirts. When they turned around, the back said, “California Shakers and Idaho Bakers.” The ‘Over The Hump, Not Over The Hill’ ladies had beautiful black and sparkly silver zip up sweaters with their names on the front and a map of nearby Pahrump in back.

The ‘Spirit Crushers’ had an innovative sign with each woman’s name and how long she has been crushing. The ‘Texas Tornadoes’ wore purple cowboy hats with tiaras, heart shaped purple sunglasses, and jean jackets with red lips and their names.

The ‘Knighty Knight Bitches’ were dressed in impressive full Las Vegas Golden Knights gear from head to toe. One woman even had a black eye, as if she had been involved in a hockey fight! I kept looking at her until Lupe confirmed it was Louise Francouer sporting a big fake black eye.

'Heartland Queens' Traveled From All Over U.S.The ‘Heartland Queens’ were from all over. Patty from Wyoming, Dottie from Texas, Janine from Minnesota, Diana from New Mexico, and Julie from California, all in red, including cowboy hats with crowns.

The ‘Sun City Aces’ are ladies who now all live in Vegas. Team member Catherine Alford explained, “I recently relocated to Vegas full-time and I’m living the dream. Lupe put our team together confirming five of us would be representing Nevada. My teammates, Nicole Schwartz, Alice Popp, Nora Tolins, and Yolanda Nance, got to know one other on Facebook. It was like a big overdue reunion seeing girlfriends, catching up and playing poker together again. I call them PFF’s – poker friends forever. Women supporting women in poker… it’s a real sisterhood!”

One of the classiest outfits was worn by ‘The Stackers,’ who got the team outfits sponsored by Southern Poker who made spectacular blue and white hoodie jackets with chips on the front and their last names on the back.

'The Stackers' Take Second In Team Competition‘The Stackers’ finished second in the team tournament, which was no surprise since their team members included two-time defending Nevada State Ladies Champion Ruth Hall, last year’s mini main winner Lisa Taylor, consistent cashers Bonnie Weitzel and Kristen Deardorff, and 2021 MSPT Player of the Year Kyna England, who has almost $1 million in tournament earnings.

I’ve been watching Lisa Taylor since last year when she moved to Vegas. Besides being a nice woman, she is a rising star with huge potential and a great future in poker. Unfortunately for her, she lost most of her stack on a bad beat to Poker Hall of Famer Linda Johnson.

“During the tournament I asked Linda how to play aces, slow or fast? Her response was, ’always fast.’ Five mins later, what did I do? I limped with aces from under-the-gun and Linda jammed from the button with A-K. She ended up hitting a gutshot for her straight on the river, doubling her up and denting my stack. But I can’t wait until next year! It is a great warm up to the WSOP plus [you get to] make friends for life along the way!”

The Unrecognizable 'Las Vegas Divas'‘Tits on Tilt’ wore black shirts with an embossed queen of hearts caricature who sported red sunglasses, and a low-cut red top holding aces. Another inventive team, ‘Washington Wild Cards,’ had sunglasses where each lens gave the middle finger.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the ‘Las Vegas Divas’ made up of Linda Johnson, Jan Fisher, Espy Enriquez, Ruthie Primiano, and Holly Jones. Jan and Linda have been my beloved girlfriends for over 30 years, and I honestly did not recognize them. With full on colorful wigs, purple winged sunglasses, and purple feather boas, they were a favorite.

There were so many great teams and not enough space to talk about them all. It’s a shame as the effort, camaraderie, ingenuity and joy in the room was exceptional from everyone. There were 55 teams, each with five players for a total of 275.

The concept was simple, with two competitions in one tournament. The prize pool was split, with half allotted to the top individual finishers, and half for team results. Scoring didn’t begin until we reached the final 100 players. At that point, each eliminated player was given a score based on their finish.

The 'Portland Punters' Take Team Competition TitleThe last woman standing was Julie Lang, from Henderson, Nevada, a proud grandma and business owner.

Lang told me that it was a very tough final table. She stayed patient for hours and “finally, it happened… that moment when you can do no wrong.”

Whatever she did, it worked. She was heads up for a long time with top pro Angela Jordinson, and ultimately closed out the win.

Final Table Results

1. Julie Lang (Royal Crappers) – $5,493
2. Angela Jordison (Portland Punters) – $3,850
3. Donna Houle (The 420’s) – $2,599
4. Jen Bernard (Portland Punters) – $2,090
5. J.J. Liu (Southern Poker Pistols) – $1,705
6. Kristen Deardorff (The Stackers) – $1,375
7. Linda Johnson (Vegas Divas) – $1,073
8. Gigi Santiago (Diamond Dolls) – $866
9. Patty Pfeil (East Meets West) – $688

When all was said and done, the Portland Punters took home the team title thanks to the runner-up from Angela Jordison and the fourth-place finish from Jen Bernard.

Team Results

1. Portland Punters
2. The Stackers
3. Royal Crappers
4. The 420’s
5. East Meets West
6. Diamond Dolls
7. Ladies Choice
8. Southern Poker Pistols
9. Pahrump Divas
10. Vegas Divas

Yolanda Navarrete Had A Great Series OverallBut that wasn’t all the poker to be played! The Poker Queen Roundup required the wearing of a tiara or crown. Terry King, a recent Women in Poker Hall of Fame inductee, brought a bunch of extra rhinestone tiaras and generously handed them out.

The tournament’s champion, Yolanda Navarrete, was “totally excited about winning.” She said that Ruth Hall has mentored her and although she admitted she doesn’t take direction easily, she has learned a lot and was happy to see things come together.

Navarrete not only won this event, but she also made the final table in the mini main and the PJ Jam. If that wasn’t enough, her hubby suggested she play in the poker room’s deep stack tournament, which she also final tabled!

The Pajama Jam tournament attracted 69 players and Nooria Miskell from Seattle, Washington took it down.

Pajama Jam Winner Nooria MiskellLinda Johnson and Jan Fisher, always generous with their time, hosted a question-and-answer session promising a dessert giveaway for every question asked. Linda is a bit famous for her homemade peanut butter cups (to say nothing of her lasagna and a zillion other fabulous dishes), so hands quickly shot into the air.

The mini main, a $200 buy-in with 20-minute levels, attracted 208 ladies. Marsha Adams walked away with the victory, chopping heads-up with 2008 WSOP ladies event champion Svetlana Gromenkova.

Marsha is a self-made real estate broker and investor, and as she put it, “competitive by nature.” In 2005, her sons asked her how to play hold’em. She asked a friend who was hosting a small tournament that weekend and ended up winning it.

Marsha Adams Takes Down Mini Main Event“There was no turning back,” Adams said. “After raising my boys and winning three WSOP Circuit rings, I decided to go out on the road and play ladies events.”

“My best friend, who had the tournament that I won in 2005, was my Matron of Honor back in 1987 when I got married,” Adams continued. “She died in 2007 from colon cancer at the age of 42, so I started downsizing my life and living each day to the fullest. Losing Missy and the special emotional connection that we had was devastating, but traveling and playing poker and making new friends has enhanced my life so much. The poker community is a wonderful family and special friendships are created each day. We are not promised tomorrow, we have to live today and try to touch the lives of others in a positive way!”

Mini Main Results

1. Marsha Adams – $5,809
2. Svetlana Gromenkova – $5,809
3. Lafaya Mitchell – $3,328
4. Marites Haines – $2,529
5. Bridgette Adkins – $1,964
6. Erin Giddens – $1,531
7. Melinda Hipp – $1,165
8. Annette Wisniewski – $915
9. Yolanda Navarrete – $732

Joan Short, Tammy Ehrhart, and Evangeline Ayed Chop up Main EventThe Nevada State Ladies Championship main event was a $360 three-day $35,000 guaranteed event with two starting days that drew 331 entrants. In the end, credit for the win went to Tammy Ehrhart, who chopped three-handed along with Joan Short and Evangeline Ayed for a $14,134 payout.

Ehrhart is from Florida and told me she came to town with her fiancé. Although she dealt poker for 16 years, she didn’t start playing tournaments until last June where she played four tournaments and cashed in three of them. She was thrilled with the win!

Main Event Results

1. Tammy Ehrhart – $14,134
2. Joan Short – $14,134
3. Evangeline Ayed – $14,134
4. Wendy Wolf – $7,572
5. Christina Cosares – $6,057
6. April Facey – $5,048
7. Deborah Blair – $4,038
8. Camille Kearl – $3,029
9. Debbie Espe – $2,221

I asked Lupe about the committee who helped her plan the five days of tournaments, pictures, backdrops, banners, parties, food, balloons, commemorative chips, giveaways, the inaugural Team Tournament, and more. But then I found out this nutty, amazing friend of mine planned it all herself!

Whaaaaaaat?!? For one human being to plan the five days of detailed events that I witnessed is truly a feat worthy of unfettered respect.

Ruth Hall Wears Her Crown“The NVSLCP is the best LIPS series for camaraderie,” said two-time winner Ruth Hall. “It brings together poker friends from afar. Making new friends and seeing old friends for a hug or a meal is what I enjoyed the most.”

“This was the 13th year of the Nevada State Ladies Poker Championship Festival,” said Lupe Soto. “It has flourished the last three years with the partnership of Poker Director Jason Sanborn and the team at South Point Poker Room.”

“The NVSLPC is always a favorite on the women poker circuit, but with the added US Ladies Team Poker Championship, it pushed it to new heights,” Soto continued. “Women traveled from everywhere. Not only was the poker excellent, but these women went all out in the spirit of fun, friendship, and competition. I can’t wait to see where it goes from here!”

Next year will be the 20th anniversary of the LIPS tour, and I’m confident that whatever Lupe decides to do will be exhilarating for all the ladies who come out and participate.

Looking for more ladies events? Check out Card Player’s Women In Poker page, which has past results and upcoming schedules for every women’s poker tournament on the globe.

*Photos credits to Leo Enriquez, Lupe Soto, LIPS, and Angela Jordison