Ellen Leikind of Poker Divas continues her mission to assist professional women with their poker skills

Poker experts often ask this question. Another outlet is asking a slightly different question: how can we use poker to empower women in the real world, while venues and tours work to answer that question.

That outlet is Poker Divas, which is devoted to aiding proficient ladies (and men) become strong and conclusive at the meeting table through the abilities they procure at the poker table.

Even though you’ve never played a hand of cards, did you know that you’ve been playing poker all your life? It’s not about gambling; rather, it’s about developing self-assurance, learning to read people, improving one’s negotiation skills, and being bold and assertive.

Ellen Leikind, an entrepreneur and corporate innovator, founded Poker Divas in 2006. Her goal is to demonstrate, even if you have never played poker, how poker strategies can help you succeed in life and business.

The author of the book Poker Woman is Leikind

One of the longest-running initiatives focused on women in poker is How to Win at Love, Life, and Business using the Principles of Poker, which has been in operation for 17 years.

Q&A with Ellen Leikind

When you were a teenager, you started playing poker. What attracted you to the game? What brought you back to it?

Leikind: When I was a kid, my mom taught me to play poker. We played poker after school instead of baking and cooking. The games of the day were 7-Card Stud and 5-Card Draw. After 15 years in corporate America, I returned to the poker table. I looked for a poker game when I finally had some free time and I love playing cards. I found one on Craigslist that was run by a woman, which is unbelievable. I had to wait three months for the courage to show up. It was eight people, the host, and myself.

After years of launching over a billion dollars’ worth of successful beauty products, what prompted you to establish Poker Divas?

I started Poker Divas 15 years ago because I noticed that women were being left out of golf and poker. In Corporate America, that was crystal clear. Poker, like golf, was gaining popularity at the same time. I announced that I would start a business called Poker for professional women after attending a Poker PR networking event with less than a handful of women in a room of 100.

I saw how the game helped me gain confidence, made it easier for me to take risks, and gave me access to people I wouldn’t normally meet. I adore giving women empowerment through a male-dominated sport because poker is a boys’ club similar to Corporate America. It feels great to be the first to use this game to give professional women more power.

There’s been a rhythmic movement to poker-you came into this business in the post-Cash cow flush pinnacle of poker. Presently there’s expanded face to face interest at competitions after the pandemic backed off its limitations. How would you see the “business” of poker advancing in 2023?

The desire to perform live is undeniable. That is observed in card rooms and casinos, as well as among our corporate clients. The fact that anyone can play the game is a great feature. Online and in person. I believe that interest will increase.

We’ve talked about how, in 2005-2006, golf was a great place for women to network that they didn’t always have access to. Poker is a similar, should we say “lost” opportunity for women to connect with potential business partners. Do you think that your business and your credo can provide that opportunity to other women outside of the workplace?

More women will have the chance to participate in the game thanks to our Poker Divas program. You don’t have to be a pro to enjoy playing. It’s important to be able to sit at the table with basic skills and confidence. It’s a great way to meet new people and build relationships. At the poker table, numerous business opportunities have been created.

How’ve you seen the advancement or stagnation of ladies in poker?

I feel this year has seen a peaceful, seismic shift-do you feel that with corporate culture too? A greater effort has been made to include women in the game and to make Poker and the business world more welcoming to women. There have been a lot of events just for women, which is a good start.

Is it just for show, or is there a genuine desire to incorporate women into the game? At the conference table and the poker table, meaningful efforts must be made following these women’s events to effect change and create an inclusive environment over the long term. Events that are one-and-done are just not going to cut it.

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