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Women are upping their professional game through the game of poker

There are a lot of life lessons to be learned in the game of poker. Kenny Rogers sang of knowing when to hold ‘em or fold ‘em and when to walk away. Lady Gaga has sung of keeping men in the dark with poker face. 

But there’s a lot more to it. And acquiring good skills in the game of poker can help you succeed in other parts of life, as well. 

Powher Poker IMG_2825_web
Gina LoGalbo of Flossmoor has become a fan of Powher Poker.
(Provided photo)

Those skills can be especially useful for females and through a company called Poker Powher women across the country are learning how to leverage those skills to their advantage, particularly in the workplace.

“Poker Powher is a movement by and for women, with the goal of teaching one million women how to play the game of poker — and the skills required to play that predict success in work and life,” explained A.J. Rudolph of Flossmoor, who is the program manager for Poker Powher’s corporate programs and an instructor. 

“Through a global network of clubs, tournaments and corporate events, we utilize gameplay to help women build confidence, challenge the status quo, learn strategy and assess risk in a fun, supportive, safe-to-fail environment,” she said. “By empowering women with these skills, we plan to ‘flip the table’ and change the future for generations to come. No money transacts, and there’s no gambling. We teach anyone who identifies as female.”

Rudolph learned about Poker Powher from her friend Sarah Stefan, whom she met while playing poker. Stefan was Poker Powher’s first instructor. 

“She introduced me to the group and asked if I wanted to be involved. As soon as I heard about the organization and its mission, light bulbs went off in my head,” Rudolph said. “I have a background in the male-dominated industry of tech, and I realized how much poker helped me be a better negotiator, among other things, than my female peers. I immediately wanted to be a part of this and bring these skills to other women.”

A.J. Rudolph of Flossmoor is at a poker table in Las Vegas. Rudolph
is a program manager and instructor with Powher Poker, an
organization that uses the game to help women develop life skills.
(Provided photo)

In November 2019, Rudolph began working with Poker Powher part-time and became full-time in August 2020. Poker Powher started as a pilot program in late 2019 and was incorporated in 2020.

“We are global and we have partnered with companies like StoneX and Morningstar to teach women in their organizations across Asia, North America, and Europe,” Rudolph said.

Gina LoGalbo of Flossmoor learned about Poker Powher through Rudolph, whom she met through their children.

“Taking poker classes appealed to me for several reasons. Some of my fondest memories of my mother were playing card games with her and her boyfriend when I was a kid and teenager,” she said. “We played euchre, spades and rummy. I would laugh so hard I would fall off of my chair. My mom struggled with mental illness my entire life and goofing around with her while playing cards — and scrabble and dominoes — was where she relaxed and had fun.”

“Fast forward to my time in the Marines, I also played a lot of cards — euchre, spades, rummy — and that was also a lot of fun to do during our downtime and to meet new people,” LoGalbo said. “After I started having children in 2003, I pretty much stopped playing cards, and my life was pretty much about my kids, family and my career. I had talked about playing cards again, but never really took action.”

That changed when the pandemic hit. 

“I was working from home with four kids who were in kindergarten to senior year. It was an incredibly stressful time for me…so when I saw A.J.’s Facebook post for a mother-daughter Poker Powher class starting up, I wanted to take the classes for me,” she said. “I convinced my 13-year-old daughter, Sofia, to take the class with me. I also thought it would be a good mother/daughter experience for us. The fact that the classes were one hour per class, once a week, free and virtual made it very appealing. I couldn’t have asked for a better scenario for my schedule.”

The class was held via Zoom, and LoGalbo and her daughter signed up for an initial four classes; then they signed up for eight more. They ended up playing with mother/daughter pairs from all over the country and even a duo from England. She also told members of the Women Marines Association chapter that she’s involved with Poker Powher and seven members signed up for the 12-session class.

“The teachers are either professional poker players and/or really good players. I’ve had both. Half of the lesson is about the rules of the game and strategy and also how those skills translate to women in the workforce – i.e. being a bold player and bold with want we want professionally,” she said. “The other half of the lesson is playing poker together as a group on a poker app that we sign into. It’s just our group playing the game during the class.”

Besides learning specific skills as they play, participation can give women a big confidence boost and help them connect with others with similar or varying life experiences. 

“Every action you take in poker says something. At Poker Powher, we teach you to use that voice by betting and raising and getting value out of your good cards. We also teach you how to read the other players and analyze situations to make the best decisions,” Rudolph said. “By giving women these tools and guidance, they become more confident in their decision-making. We also give them a safe place within our community to practice and fail. Failing helps build resilience, and it’s pretty hard to succeed without failing a few times.”

LoGalbo said that Poker Powher has benefited her in many ways.

“I’m glad I finally learned to play poker at 41. Now I can sit down with the men at parties, and attend charity poker tournaments that I’ve wanted to participate in over the years,” she said. “The positive reinforcement from Poker Powher that women are capable of so much greatness and to go after it, has been beneficial. I took some bold professional moves after I took the Poker Powher classes. I’m not sure if I would have done so at this point in my life without the added boost from Poker Powher reinforcement.”

LoGalbo also has new friendships that have developed from her poker playing.

“I made friendships with ladies from all over the U.S.,” she said. “Emily in Seattle, Sarah in Chicago, Diana in New York and more. Ladies that are taking the classes or have ‘graduated’ can play for free against each other on an app. It’s just our group playing against each other and we chat a little bit on the app.

“Many of us are now Facebook friends with each other, and some of us have a group chat. We talk about upcoming poker special events that we hear about and also personal stuff like jobs the ladies are applying for.

“Last, I’ve benefitted because I’ve had something to look forward to every day – at least one virtual poker game with the Poker Powher ladies happens every day after work hours. It’s a set schedule. So no matter what kind of a day I’ve had, I always have a virtual poker game to play that day.

“I really enjoy playing the game and hope to keep improving over time. I’m a bit competitive by nature, so it’s a good outlet for me. At a virtual charity event, I placed second and received a really nice prize. I even beat a professional player who is in the Poker Hall of Fame. I’ve played in person four times and hope to play more in the future.”

Those interested in learning the game can visit pokerpowher.com to sign up individually for lessons. New basic lessons start at the beginning of each month. 

“In each lesson, some of the principles are taught to the bigger group all together, then we breakout into groups of nine around a single virtual poker table with hands-on instruction from an instructor,” Rudolph said.

Now that things are re-opening after the pandemic, there are also live poker events happening. 

“We are working with Windy City Poker, who has allowed us to have tables designated for the women in our community as a middle step between learning online with us and diving straight into a live tournament without ever having played live before. They can ask questions and get comfortable,” Rudolph said.

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