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Cracking Aces: A Woman's Place at the Table

CRACKING ACES tells the fascinating story of the pioneering women who broke through the glass ceiling of professional poker.

Long before the #MeToo movement, a handful of young poker players challenged stereotypes and battled a hostile environment where women were often abused, insulted, and sexually harassed. Despite the fact that some of the top-ranked players in the world are now female, terms like “girls on the rail” and “hot girls of poker” remain common in the industry, objectifying women and diminishing their potential. But in the last decade, the Internet—and the anonymity that it provides—has been a factor in opening up the game of poker to an increasing number of women, and today more women are challenging the barriers of professional poker and learning to use gender to their advantage.

  • H. James Gilmore
    Men at Work: Voices from Detroit's Underground Economy; Chronicle of an American Suburb; Alone Together; Zimbabwe: A Racial Revolution
  • Tracy Halcomb
  • Project Type:
  • Genres:
    Women, American History, Social Issue, Sex and Gender, Gambling
  • Runtime:
    53 minutes 45 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    January 1, 2018
  • Production Budget:
    25,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
  • Sarasota Film Festival/Through Women's Eyes
    United States
    April 15, 2018
    Official Selection
  • Sunscreen Film Festival
    St. Petersburg
    United States
    April 27, 2018
    Tampa Bay
    Official Selection
  • Silicon Beach Film Festival
    Los Angeles, CA
    United States
    April 25, 2018
    California Premiere
    Official Selection
  • Hobnobben Film Festival
    Fort Wayne
    United States
    June 9, 2018
    Indiana Premiere
    Official Selection
  • Telly Awards

    United States
    Silver Telly/Stand-Alone Documentary Feature
  • Impact Docs

    United States
    Award of Merit/Documentary Feature
  • Global Accolade Awards

    Award of Merit/Documentary Feature
  • Silver State Film Festival
    Las Vegas
    United States
    September 6, 2018
    Nevada Premiere
    Audience Award Best Documentary
  • Laughlin International Film Festival
    United States
    October 5, 2018
    Official Selection
  • Royal Starr Film Festival
    Royal Oak, MI
    United States
    October 13, 2018
    Michigan Premiere
    Official Selection
  • Atlantic City Cinefest
    Atlantic City, NJ
    United States
    October 13, 2018
    New Jersey Premiere
    Best Director - Documentary
  • Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival
    Fort Lauderdale, FL
    United States
    November 8, 2018
    South Florida
  • Federation Internationale Cinema Television Sportifs
    November 17, 2018
    European Premiere
    Honorable Mention - Sports & Society
  • Saint Augustine Film Festival
    Saint Augustine, FL
    United States
    January 18, 2019
Director Biography - H. James Gilmore

H. James Gilmore is Clinical Professor of Journalism & Screen Studies at the University of Michigan-Dearborn. As a documentary filmmaker, Prof. Gilmore has focused on issues of social justice and history, including the transition from white-ruled Rhodesia to black-ruled Zimbabwe (ZIMBABWE: A RACIAL REVOLUTION, 1988), the changing American family (ALONE TOGETHER, 1991), a biography of one the most powerful women in 19th Century America (SOUL OF A WOMAN: THE LIFE & TIMES OF MARY BAKER EDDY, 1994), the transformation of suburban America (CHRONICLE OF AN AMERICAN SUBURB, 2002) and the historic economic collapse of Detroit (MEN AT WORK: VOICES FROM DETROIT'S UNDERGROUND ECONOMY, 2012).

Gilmore has worked for a number of media organizations, including The Christian Science Monitor and New Hampshire Public Television. He holds a MA in Broadcasting and Film from the University of Iowa and a BA in theatre and political science from Kalamazoo College. In addition to his teaching, he serves as executive producer of Acadia Pictures, an independent documentary production company he founded in 1995.

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Director Statement

This isn't just another story of a handful of women beating the odds and defying gender stereotypes; this is the story of the pioneering women who broke through the ultimate glass ceiling.

Cracking Aces: A Woman's Place at the Table is a feature-length documentary about the women making strides in the male-dominated realm of high-stakes poker. "The mistreatment of women in poker is a decades-long problem, but now the world is listening. Early on women in poker found their voice and called out bad behaviors from men. These women created a place for themselves within the poker industry, an industry that hasn't always welcomed them" said Tracy Halcomb, the film's producer.

This documentary project, produced by a woman and featuring dozens of female poker players, sheds light on a game and an industry that has almost exclusively catered to men - including women only when they fit the "hot babes of poker" or "girls on the rail" stereotypes. "You have a male-gendered activity, which shouldn't be - it's based on intellect. It has nothing to do with size and brawn, yet 95 percent of poker players are men. Why is that?" Halcomb said.

These pioneering female poker players throw open the doors to the world of professional poker to reveal the hurdles of exploitation and harassment which women must overcome to earn a place at the table. The commercialization of televised poker dissolved the cloak of anonymity that Internet gaming had once provided as a refuge to female players. "It used to matter how you played, not how you looked," Halcomb said. "But now, there are sponsorship dollars involved and top-10 lists of 'hot girls of poker' are everywhere. All of a sudden, it does matter what you look like. Sponsors would rather put their name on a 'poker babe.' Why are there are no 'hot men of poker lists?'"

Women who refuse to exploit their own sexuality and conform to Hollywood's expectations have helped to slowly change perceptions about gender, gaming and what women can truly bring to the table. In Cracking Aces, Halcomb and the film's director, H. James Gilmore, weave together participatory interviews and observations. "It's a story that actually found us," Gilmore said. Professor Halcomb and I were presenting at a conference in Las Vegas. Afterwards, during dinner at Benihana's, we just happened to be seated next to these two incredible women who turned out to be professional poker players. We got to talking, and we knew right away they had an important story to share."

Audiences of high-rollers to penny-ante novices will connect with this story of struggle, empowerment and achievement, regardless of gender. "We did this for everyone playing poker, not just women playing poker," Halcomb said. "Creating change in the poker industry makes the game better for everyone."