HEADS-UP: Angelica Hael & Lynn Gilmartin on the WPT World Championship and women in the industry

L to R: Ashleigh Lawrence, Angelica Hael, Lynn Gilmartin

The WPT World Championship is just around the corner, and two of our country’s leading poker industry figures have been instrumental in bringing the series together: WPT Anchor Lynn Gilmartin, and VP of Global Tour Management Angelica Hael, who was recently inducted into the Women in Poker Hall of Fame.

Angelica and Lynn both took time out of their busy schedules to speak with PokerMedia Australia in this very special three-handed edition of ‘Heads-Up’ to find out more.

All images courtesy of the World Poker Tour.

PokerMedia Australia (PMA): Firstly, thank you both once again for joining us!  I know that the entire WPT team have a lot on their plate in the lead-up to the WPT World Championship.  How are the preparations going?

Lynn Gilmartin (LG): I’m so excited – I’m preparing to play the biggest tournament of my life [the USD $10,400 buy-in WPT World Championship Main Event], so I’m trying to get as much coaching as I can from my husband, Angel Guillen.

While our toddler is climbing around our local playground, we’ve been discussing ranges and bet sizing.  Not the typical playground conversation, but we must put in the work wherever we can!

Angelical Hael (AH): It’s so gratifying to see years of planning materialise before one’s eyes, and I’m elated as to where we are through the lens of the festival just being weeks away.  All the elements, integrations, and activations are in place.

On a personal level, there have been butterflies in the stomach, sleepless nights worrying about how it will unfold, but [WPT President & CEO] Adam Pliska and the entire company have truly marshalled all its resources to delivery something quite special.

PMA: The WPT has been at the forefront of innovation, particularly throughout this year as the brand celebrates its 20th Anniversary, but there’s also more in the works to encourage more female participation.  Can you tell us more about that?

AH: Since the WPT hosted the Women in Poker Summit back in 2018, we’ve made strides in growing the number of women in the poker ecosystem, as well as seeing an increase in female viewership of our TV shows up around 25-30%.  On the live front, we’ve partnered with a variety of prominent women’s organisations such as the Ladies International Poker Tour (LIPS), Poker League of Nations, Share Inc. and the Women’s Poker Association (WPA).

Collaborations with [other major casino and IR properties] have resulted in several Ladies Championship Passports being given away.  These types of initiatives – and more – will become part of the fabric for our live events, especially since we have the full support of our global partners.

LG: You could say we have a festival within the festival, all focused on women in poker.  For the first time ever, the WPT will run the USD $1,100 WPT Ladies Championship on December 18 – an open women’s event with a USD $200,000 guarantee and televised final table, as well as a ladies-only Meet Up Game in the Wynn Poker Room, hosted by Jamie Kerstetter.

And this will all be during the same week as the Women in Poker Hall of Fame ceremony, which is when our very own ‘Queen Angelica’ will receive her well-deserved induction!

PMA: In your opinion, how has the industry changed, particularly when it comes to inclusion and diversity in all facets of the game, and what else could we do to further improve?

LG: It can be daunting to enter a poker room and register for a tournament the first time, but we want to ensure that everyone feels welcome. Mike Sexton really set the tone there; he’d arrive early almost every day and stand at the doorway to greet everyone with his big smile and open arms. 

Mike had a unique way of making countless people feel like he had been waiting there just for them, and I really appreciate how much the WPT nurtures that community spirit.  The WPT is all about sharing those stories to help us relate and find inspiration.  The more we highlight such stories, the more we can inspire others to strive for the same success.

AH: Integration of women in our poker world comes in a myriad of forms – offline and online players, viewers, fans, dealers, floor staff, managers, executives and so much more – and there are many women who are crushing in the poker world.

No matter which area we’re trying to increase, real encouragement and active support will cultivate an environment where women will find our industry attractive and see a path where they can thrive.

PMA: Finally, there’s always been a deep Aussie connection with the WPT, and we’re super excited to witness so many of us flying the flag at the WPT World Championship.  For those who haven’t been to The Wynn Las Vegas before, what are some other things off the felt that we can look forward to?

AH: A festival of this magnitude needed to have the right partner – without it, the vision we had could not materialise.  It was supremely important to us to deliver an unsurpassed player experience, doing all we can to ensure that the WPT World Championship is reflective of our 20-year history, and The Wynn Las Vegas ticks all the right boxes.

LG: Every inch of The Wynn Las Vegas is pure luxury.  I adore this hotel and casino and cannot wait to spend more than three weeks there!  You honestly don’t need to leave the building – Lunch at Jardin, dinner at Sinatra, coffee at Urth Café, hop in a spin class at Soul Cycle and enjoy the luxury of The Wynn Poker Room.  What more could you need!

PMA will be providing special media coverage throughout the WPT World Championship series, and direct from The Wynn Las Vegas from 11-19 December, courtesy of our media partners at the World Poker Tour.  Be sure to bookmark pokermedia.com.au and follow our socials (Discord, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube) for all the latest on and around the Aussie felt.

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