Perhaps the most successful and influential female poker player in Australian history, Marsha Waggoner is truly one of the most important figures in the development of poker in Australia. While players and fans around the world might not know much about her, she’s been a successful tournament poker player for over 30 years, and has made one of the deepest runs ever for a woman in the World Series of Poker Main Event.
Marsha Waggoner was born on January 11, 1940 in Brisbane, Queensland. For the first 37 years of her life, she lived in Australia, eventually becoming a poker dealer in Sydney. She held that job until 1977, when she decided to take a shot at becoming a professional poker player.
In 1976, Waggoner began to realize she was a strong stud poker player – better than most of the players she regularly dealt cards to. By 1977, she had decided that she was good enough to play professionally, and moved to Reno, Nevada, where a professional poker career was possible thanks to the greater number of games that were spread in the United States at that time.
For the first few years of her career, Waggoner successfully played in cash games, building her bankroll and gaining a reputation as one of the best female poker players in the world. It wasn’t until 1980 that she became interested in poker tournaments, thanks to the introduction of tournaments to Reno by Amarillo Slim.
Within a few years, Waggoner made the move to Las Vegas to be at the centre of the poker world. In 1987, she moved on to California, where she became one of the top professionals in the state’s card rooms. It was also around this time when she established herself as a very strong tournament player who was known for a solid and patient style.
Waggoner scored her first ever tournament victory by winning a $400 Seven Card Stud tournament at the Superbowl of Poker in 1990. In 1992, she made her first cash at the World Series of Poker, finishing 2nd in a $1,500 Seven Card Stud Split event. The next year, she made her first deep WSOP Main Event run, finishing in 19th place. Over the course of her career, she has made six WSOP final tables, and nearly made another one when she finished 9th at another $1,500 Seven Card Stud Hi/Lo tournament in 2012.
While Waggoner may have moved to the United States decades ago, she has remained active in the Australian poker scene to this day. In 2012, she made two final tables at the Aussie Millions, finishing 5th in both HORSE and Texas hold’em tournaments.
Over the course of her career, Waggoner has won over $900,000 in tournament play, which places her 22nd all-time among female players. Combining this with her well-known cash game abilities, it was no surprise to anyone when she was inducted into the Women in Poker Hall of Fame in 2008. That was followed a year later by an induction into the Australian Poker Hall of Fame, of which Waggoner was part of the inaugural class.
Waggoner was formerly married to professional poker player Kenna James, but separated from him 2008. Waggoner has three children from a previous marriage, as well as five grandchildren. Waggoner is also the brother of Jim Fenwick, the former photojournalist who served as the chief photographer for The Courier Mail.