Real Women of Poker: Linda Johnson
In an era where a woman's role in a poker room was limited to bringing players drinks, Linda Johnson broke every common stereotype and became one of only a handful of female poker professionals in the game.
In later years, Johnson would take her knowledge and experiences at the poker table and turn them into a tool that she used to not only improve the game of poker but help her fellow human beings.
A Long Way From Long Island
Linda Johnson was born in Long Island, NY in 1953.
The daughter of a career military officer, she was constantly on the move and was stationed in many parts of the US and the rest of the world throughout her childhood.
Soon after finishing high school, she took a job with the United States Postal Service and quickly rose through the ranks.
Johnson made a decent income for the time and that income afforded her the chance to take a few side trips to Las Vegas.
Her favorite game at the time was blackjack, but Johnson's father was an amateur poker player and convinced her that she would be better off playing poker over other casino games.
Johnson took her father's advice, began to improve her game and eventually started to make a second income.
From the USPS to the WSOP
As her game improved, Johnson started playing in casino card rooms in California and Las Vegas more and competed in her first live poker tournament in 1978.
But it wasn't until 1980 that Johnson really started to see a future in it.
She played at the 1980 World Series of Poker and decided that if she did well, she would quit the Postal Service and turn pro.
Johnson finished 5th in the Ladies Stud event that year and afterwards moved to Las Vegas.
From 1980 to 1993, Johnson made her income entirely from the game of poker. In '93, she purchased Card Player magazine and ran the publication for the next eight years.
While her primary income was no longer at the tables, Johnson continued to play and made numerous final tables around Vegas and Los Angeles.
Her crowning achievement came at the 1997 World Series of Poker when she took down the $1,500 Razz event for $96,000.
Johnson remains one of just 15 women in history to win an open WSOP bracelet.
The "First Lady of Poker"
For her career, Johnson has $342,092 in "official" live tournament winnings although that's likely higher due to the fact that many tournaments prior to the poker boom were not recorded.
Many fans of poker that took to the game after 2003 know Johnson primarily for her work on the WPT.
Johnson was nicknamed the "First Lady of Poker" by Mike Sexton and Johnson was a former live final-table announcer at WPT events.
Moving away from the front of the camera, Johnson became more heavily involved behind the scenes in poker and has worked diligently to improve the game she loves.
She helped to found the Tournament Directors Association, the premier organization for setting tournament rules in poker rooms worldwide.
She was the former chairperson for the Poker Players Alliance and currently sits on the Board of Directors.
Johnson also sits on the board of the Ladies International Poker Series. LIPS was formed to encourage women to come out to live poker events by creating a series of ladies-only poker tournaments around the United States.
As a capper, Johnson helped found PokerGives.org, an organization designed to help poker players contribute to charitiable casues around the world.
Official 2011 Inductee into the Poker Hall of Fame
For her contributions to the game of poker and the world of poker beyond the felt, Johnson was inducted as a member of the Women in Poker Hall of Fame's inaugural class in 2008.
Earlier this month, the World Series of Poker topped that off with the announcement that Johnson will be the second woman in history to be inducted into the Professional Poker Hall of Fame.
Johnson will be inducted into the Hall on November 8, 2011 at the Rio in Las Vegas, joinging Barbara Enright as the only women in the Poker Hall of Fame.
Johnson learned that "father knows best" when it came to poker. She took his advice, worked hard on her game and became an unprecedented and inspiring success in poker.
She's taken that experience and helped improve the game - and the world at-large - for generations to come.
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