Kristen Bicknell Becomes First Woman, Canadian to Win at 2016 WSOP

Happy Canada Day, everyone! And for my friends across the border, I gift to you your first bracelet winner of the 2016 World Series of Poker, Kristen Bicknell. Bicknell, from Ontario, won Event #46, the $1,500 Bounty No-Limit Hold’em tournament, cashing in the first prize of $290,768.

Bicknell is not only the first Canadian to win a bracelet at this year’s World Series of Poker, but she is also the first female to do so. Bicknell is now the 23rd woman to win an open event in WSOP history. Inevitably, someone will read this (I hope it’s inevitable that someone will read this) and think, “Who cares? It’s not a big deal that a woman won. This is the year 2016.”

Unfortunately, though, it is still a big deal. I have no doubt that when the Ladies Championship rolls around in a week, there will be some men bitching and moaning that the women get their own tournament when there are no “men’s only” tournaments. It happens every year. In the meantime, while things have certainly gotten better, poker is has been a good ‘ole boys club virtually since the game was invented. For a variety of reasons, women have been criminally underrepresented at the tables, so when a female does win an open WSOP event, it is a triumph over both probabilities and history.

Carol Fuchs was the last woman to win an open WSOP event, claiming her bracelet last year.

Kristen Bicknell - 2016 WSOP Image credit: WSOP.com

Kristen Bicknell – 2016 WSOP
Image credit: WSOP.com

Stepping down off my tiny soapbox, this is Bicknell’s second WSOP bracelet of her career; she won the Ladies Championship in 2013. Her hit rate on huge WSOP cashes is fantastic – according to TheHendonMob.com, she has just eight live tournament cashes, two of which have been World Series victories. Yesterday’s was by far her largest cash, with the previous bracelet win of $173,922 coming in a distant second.

The tournament was a unique one for the World Series of Poker in that it was a bounty event. Every time a player eliminated an opponent, the player coming out on top in the confrontation was given a $500 chip that could be traded for real cash, not tournament money. Knockout three players (easier said than done) and you are freerolling. Bicknell amassed 17 such chips plus her own, as nobody was able to claim it, giving her an extra $9,000 to tack on to her big payday.

Bicknell said she noticed that a lot of people were busting out on the first day, a phenomenon she chalked up to the presence of bounties. In an effort to grab those $500 tokens, players likely played more aggressively than normal and ended up on the short end of some risky decisions. Personally, people playing like maniacs makes me nervous, but Bicknell said it made the game much more fun.

Even with her knack for capturing World Series of Poker bracelets, Kristen Bicknell really only plays for fun, devoting her time as a student to her nutritional studies.

The day before Bicknell’s win, Johnny “World” Hennigan won his fourth WSOP bracelet, explaining how it almost more of a feeling of relief than ecstasy when you are finally pushed that last pot. “Winning is like a load off your mind,” he said. “The worst feeling in the world is walking away from a table and you know they are still playing.”

Bicknell said something similar in her post-game interview, saying the win was more strange feeling than exciting. “It all feels so surreal.  But it almost doesn’t feel true.  It’s the dream you always had.  When you bust from a tournament, you feel so bad.  But when you win it’s such a weird feeling.”

As mentioned, Bicknell had previously won the Ladies Championship. She was asked if winning this one provided “validation” for her, that she could take on all comers.

“I beat out a lot of good players, in both the tournaments I won,” Bicknell said, adding, “Yes, this is still a validation. But there are a lot of great female poker players, too. There’s lots of them.”

Bicknell beat out a strong final table, which included former bracelet winners Steve Gee and Norbert Szecsi as well as World Poker Tour leader board mainstay, Will Failla. She faced off against Szecsi for the title, only requiring nine hands to do so even after the tournament bled into an unscheduled fourth day. According to WSOP.com, “On the final hand, Bicknell raised to 450,000 pre-flop and Szecsi called. Szecsi check-called a 300,000 chip bet on the J♣-9♠-6 flop and did so again for 800,000 chips when the A♠ was dealt on the turn. It was same pattern with the 3 on the river, except this time, Bicknell had put Szecsi all in. Bicknell turned over A♣-4♣ for just top pair, but Szecsi only had 9x-7♣ for a worse pair. Szecsi was eliminated and Kristen Bicknell had earned her second World Series of Poker gold bracelet.”

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