Why Men play Poker and Women play Slots

Why Men play Poker, women play slotsWalk into any active live poker room, and you’ll notice right away that the vast majority of the players – if not all of them – are men. Now, walk into a slots parlor or bingo hall, and the opposite is true. Most of the players here are going to be women.

The question I’d like to explore today is why so many men play poker, while so many women are more attracted to slot machines. There’s clearly a psychological pattern fueling the phenomenon.

Why Men Play Poker, Women Play Slots

The poker segment is the most divided of all. It’s evident in every major live poker tournament in the world. Unless it’s specifically labeled a “Ladies Event” (and even some of those have been known to draw men), at least 95% of the field tends to be of the male persuasion.

Based on numerous clinical studies throughout history, there are some clear psychological reasons why more men play poker than women.


Studies have shown men are more competitive than women. They have a need to feel superior to other men, and will take any opportunity to show off that superiority. It’s a trait not just found in humans, but in nature, as well.

Take birds for example. The male species is vibrantly colored and often puts on a big show (aka the mating ritual) to attract a female. Other animals have been known to fight to the death to impress a female, earning the right to mate with her.

Such competitive behavior is inherent among males. Poker provides the perfect arena for competition, pitting numerous players against one another in the ultimate challenge for mental and monetary supremacy.

While some women are competitive, the majority feel no need to outwardly exude their authority over others. If they deem themselves superior, just believing it is enough for them. Women don’t necessarily have the desire to prove it. Thus they are perfectly comfortable playing slot machines by themselves.

The Size of the Prize

Men are also considered the ‘providers’ of the family. A married couple may both have jobs, but a man’s natural desire to provide will often result in conflict if the woman happens to make more money than him.

In any case, many men play poker because the imminent prize is so appealing. In a 8-seat cash game where the buy-in is $500, the male is looking at the potential to increase his cash value by 8x, up to $4,000. Likewise, entering the $10k WSOP offers a shot at millions!

When the prize is a large multiple of the investment, men are much more likely to be attracted to it.

Women, on the other hand, are perfectly satisfied with instant gratification. A win is a win, so to speak. If they start playing a slot machine with $50, and end up with $60 in their purse, their desire for gratification is perfectly fulfilled.


In an already male-dominated sport, it’s easier for men to play poker than it is for women. There’s a clear intimidation factor here, and psychologically speaking, women are more intimidated in male-dominated areas.

A man can walk up to a poker table full of other men and take a seat, but if a woman walks up to the same table, whether the men visibly or verbally react in an intimidating manner or not, it can still be a very intimidating experience.

I’m not suggesting that it should be this way. Woman have proved to be very successful poker players, and fearsome foes against male opponents.

However, throughout the history of the WSOP, only one woman has made it to the final table of the Main Event. That honor went to Barbara Enright in 1995. And as much as some men have argued that the reason for this is that men are better poker players, that’s simply not the case.

It’s a statistical probability that the final table – the November Nine – will be made up of all men. In the last few years, female participation in all events of the WSOP has only been about 5%. Based on that alone, with only 9 players eligible to compete in the final table of the main event, statistically speaking, all of them will be male.

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