Malta Poker Festival: Daiva Byrne, a fantastically great woman changing poker

Malta Poker Festival: Daiva Byrne, a fantastically great woman changing poker

Lee Davy catches up with the Unibet Poker Ambassador, Daiva Byrne, at the Malta Poker Festival to talk about her involvement in growing female participation in poker, why the work is important and much more.

Malta Poker Festival: Daiva Byrne, a fantastically great woman changing pokerIn 1926, Gertrude Ederle became the first woman to swim the English Channel.

It took her 14 hours and 34 minutes.

She wore motorcycle goggles sealed with paraffin and smeared her entire body with grease.

She was 19-years-old.

I know this because each night, I lie in bed with my two-year-old daughter, and read the book: Fantastically Great Women Who Changed The World. 

I never wanted a girl.

The thought of bringing a girl into this world terrified me.

Meeting people like the Unibet Ambassador, Daiva Byrne helps ease these fears. 

You are very passionate about raising poker’s awareness to females and doing all you can to make their entry experience a positive one. Where does this passion come from?

“I’ve always been keen to see more women at the poker tables and the top of poker’s rankings,” said Byrne. “After many years of playing the game and still seeing so few women in many of the live events, I attended I decided that I would explore how I could leverage my position in the poker industry to attract more women to the game. I believe the more women we can get into the game, the more attractive poker environment becomes to female beginners. This virtuous circle will take time and work so I feel that groups like the one I run on Facebook called “Ladies at Unibet Poker” can help celebrate women and their successes in a way that it inspires more female players to head out and play live poker. By being a strong voice for women whenever I can hope the passion I display piques the interest of new and existing female players to get more involved.”

My wife bought our daughter a book called ‘Fantastically Great Women Who Changed The World,’ who are the women who have influenced you in life? 

Malta Poker Festival: Daiva Byrne, a fantastically great woman changing pokerI come from a family of strong women, so I have learnt to stand up for myself and be a determined person who strives to succeed following in the footsteps of my mother and grandmother,” said Byrne. “I also admire women who have overcome unbelievably difficult situations like Malala Yousafzai and still become an amazing voice in the female community. Michelle Obama also helps to focus the female mindset that we should be treated equally and what we can achieve should only be limited by our own ambition.”

What is feminism?

“Feminism has a whole different selection of meanings depending upon context,” said Byrne. “For me, I’ll take the equality element as the most defining part that I try to carry through life and poker and working to get the paradigm shifts required wherever possible so that in all forms of my professional life women are perceived and treated the way they deserve.”

What is the most challenging thing about being a woman, today? 

Compared to previous decades women today have it way easier, but I feel there is still some distance to go especially in poker,” said Byrne. “It seems some players have no self-awareness on what is acceptable to say to females at the poker tables. For women new to this environment, it can be very daunting and being treated as a novelty; someone you can hit on; patronising behaviour and so on can really be difficult to retain newcomers to the game at times. I have seen positive change in recent years and look forward to this continuing.” 

Talk about your involvement in Kindred’s recent Charity Poker Workshop. 

“I was pleased to head out to Gibraltar recently to run a poker workshop for employees in the Kindred office there,” said Byrne. “I did an interactive presentation initially followed by the workshop. It was hugely enjoyable talking about the game I love to a wide array of players from newbies to some more frequent players. After this, we had a charity tournament for a Breast Cancer Support where everyone could put their newly learned skills into practice. It was very rewarding seeing people having fun and connecting socially while playing. Congrats to Elena Garcia Perez who took this down and I’m already looking forward to repeating this in the London office in December.”

What is the most influential contribution you make for Unibet? 

First and foremost it is attracting more women to all the Unibet Poker events both online and live,” said Byrne. “By ensuring these gatherings are friendly & fun environments wherever I can. We see a growing number of returning female players which is, of course, hugely important to grow the game for women in general and build the biggest & the most supportive female poker community in the industry. I love being an ambassador and hosting live events as you meet so many fascinating people and one of the strongest aspects to my personality is thriving on this. This is all amplified by my work with the Ladies at Unibet Poker group I run on Facebook which allows me to celebrate those women successful in any capacity at the Unibet events and beyond!”

I noticed that Barry Carter recently gifted you The Mental Game of Poker. What are your mental game strengths and weaknesses? 

This is a book I’ll recommend to any serious poker player,” said Byrne, “As the mental game is hugely important and ensuring you have a mindset that copes effectively with the elements of failure that poker will throw at you whilst you wait and enjoy the successes less frequently- this is the essence of tournament poker. My strongest mental game strength is I very very rarely get tilted and can accept unfortunate games and hands at the table with a strong amount of equanimity.  The weakest part would be maintaining the energy and mental toughness many days into a big tournament. It can be very mentally draining, and I continue to work on ensuring my lifestyle helps to toughen my capacity to operate at peak mental fitness after even a very tiring week.”

Malta Poker Festival: Daiva Byrne, a fantastically great woman changing pokerWhere in the world have you felt the safest, and the most in danger? 

I’d say chilling out at home in London with my husband or at my parent’s house in Lithuania,” said Byrne. “The most dangerous was probably a few years back in Manila having set out walking and quickly discovered we were wandering through some very questionable areas that were located close to the hotel in a city that neither myself or husband knew at all and had a bit of a reputation. Thankfully we finally found a cab and headed to the relative safety of a poker room!” 

How does poker make you feel? 

Poker engenders a wide range of feelings in me, and this can depend on the day,” said Byrne. “Of course there are days you absolutely hate poker, but these are outweighed by the hugely pleasurable days; meeting such amazing people, playing a game I love, studying with a great study buddy in Dara {O’Kearney} and travelling to some amazing places means poker often feels like a wonderful -but still difficult – way to make a living.”

What’s next? 

“I am very excited to be heading to Dublin for the last Unibet Open stop of the year where I especially look forward to playing the TagTeam Event, the 250k GTD Main Event and hosting the QueenRules Ladies Event.”

The  Unibet Open Dublin takes place November 21 – November 25, and as you have learned, ladies are more than welcome!