Cards for the Cure deals women into the game

Participants play a hand during the Cards for the Cure event on Saturday at Beech Activity Center.
Participants play a hand during the Cards for the Cure event on Saturday at Beech Activity Center. The Wichita Eagle

Madison Shriner sat her thin frame down at a table of men playing poker at Saturday’s Cards for the Cure at Beech Activity Center. If she had any misgivings about her competition, she hid them behind a poker face.

“The table I started out at had four women,” she said, but an all-male table didn’t bother her, and the men barely seemed to look up from the table enough to notice. “I am not intimidated at all.”

Still, in its fourth year of raising money for the Kansas affiliate of Susan G. Komen, Cards for the Cure decided to add a ladies’ poker tournament in the afternoon.

“My goal is to get more women involved,” organizer Spike Anderson said. “We felt women were somewhat reluctant to play against men in a tour setting like that. So we decided to … let women play against women.”

Cards for the Cure also added a high-roller tournament. Between the three tournaments, an estimated 1,000 people took part, about the same number as participated last year in the single tournament, Anderson said. About 150 people had preregistered for the women’s tournament.

While mostly men had paid $100 to play in the main tournament, women were not uncommon.

“I play men every day,” Meredith Swinson said at another table made up otherwise of men. “I have no choice.” She came in 23rd at last year’s Cards for the Cure. When she does play women, it’s harder, Swinson said.

“They are tighter players. They play better cards. They’re harder to bluff. And they can be harder to read.”

Shriner had come in the morning with her dad and her brother to start the tournament. But “they’re out, and here I go,” she said by midafternoon. When asked if she played poker often, she answered no – behind her hand, of course. Pink-ribboned cards were dealt while Juice Newton sang “Queen of Hearts” in the background. And Shriner’s dad was waiting around for her somewhere. “He’s being nice.”

Women who tapped out of the main tournament also got a second chance to play on in the ladies’ tournament next door, where the atmosphere was more pink – and there were tote bags, T-shirts and a fashion show.

Marisa Rife bought spots in both the main and the ladies’ tournaments, but wasn’t able to get to Beech until the ladies’ tournament. She has no problem playing men, she said, but it causes her to work more on her appearance, to serve as a distraction.

“When you play with men you have to use everything you can. I’m a little more relaxed” with the women, Rife said. “Now I just have to look tough.”

Which, on second thought, was tough for her.

“I’m a lot better at being cute.”