Column: The Ladies Event Debate Reignites

After last week's announcement that the WSOP would charge men ten times more to enter the Ladies Event, Barry Carter makes an argument for why men should leave the event alone.

Reigning champion Yan Deng
Last week the World Series of Poker tackled the issue of men entering the Ladies Event in a novel way - by charging men ten times the amount to enter.

As expected, this has reignited the debate about whether having an event exclusively for women is sexist (as well as posing the question of whether what the WSOP has done is even legal).

With regards to the legality, I have no doubt that the WSOP have done their homework on this one. I also doubt anyone is going to mount a serious legal bid to contest the issue.

On to the debate of whether it is fair or not. The strongest argument that is made is that of 'would this be acceptable if it was an event only for people of a specific ethnic origin?'.

The answer to that is, of course, no. However in this particular debate, I would argue that women are still victims of a sexism by such a large degree that all a Ladies Event does is redress the balance a little.

Intimidating environments

Men can be intimidating
(not always, though).
First of all, the poker table is an incredibly intimidating environment for a woman - and indeed for some men the first time they play. When 99% of the field are men, some of the conversations can be offensive, aggressive and sexist.

I sometimes am surprised I ever played poker again after the first time; my very first live poker table scared the crap out of me. I don't even want to think what a woman playing for the first time would have thought of it - the conversations taking place were crude, sexist, racist and aggressive.

Poker has evolved since the first time I played live, but not necessarily by the desired standard. I know first hand it is still intimidating because my own mother has started playing, and has almost given up several times because of the aggressive discussions that take place in the chat boxes online.

She herself was very scared to play live for that reason. She has played live, and she loved it, but it took a lot of building up to get her there.

Am I saying that women have delicate ears and should be treated with kid gloves? Not at all, what I am saying is that large groups of men can be very intimidating at times.

That is not a problem in a women-only event. I imagine not only is the Ladies Event a breath of fresh air for female players, for many it might be one of the first times they play live.

The real sexism in poker

Sex sells, even in poker
Men who complain that women's events are sexist really need to take a closer look at most gambling branding. The real victims of sexism are clearly women.

Everywhere you go in poker, the advertising and branding is adorned with sexualised images of scantily-clad models holding playing cards and posing with the winners. There have been some pretty extreme examples of this too, if anyone remembers Swank Poker.

This is not the unique domain of poker of course; sex sells wherever you go and it is hard to go anywhere without the picture of a beautiful woman trying to sell you something.

Either way, the issue of sexism is more prevalent 365 days a year on banner ads, websites and even serving drinks in the casino than it ever is in a handful of poker events where only women can play.

If the men who complain about sexism truly are concerned about it harming our game, there are a lot more places where they can protest every day of the year than in the Ladies Event of the World Series of Poker.

Women are a growing demographic

Why discourage growth?
I'm a pragmatist more than an idealist, and I think a lot of my fellow poker players are too. I believe all of our biggest concerns should be about growing the game, and women's events do just that.

Female players are a small but growing part of the demographic - one which surely all of us would want to encourage?

Not only do women's events open the doors for a lot of new female players, they add a sense of kudos and prestige to women players. They are a great form of advertising to grow the game, and although men entering them does attract a certain amount of publicity, it is the wrong type.

I truly believe that most of the people who are pissed off about the changes this year are the men who wanted to play, not out of protest, but because they think the women's event is softer. I can't deny anyone who practices good game selection, but I feel this is also a short sighted view.

Surely if women do represent a typically softer form of competition, then isn't it better to encourage more of them to play the game? If so, then you really need to let the Ladies Event take place without a hitch, because hijacking it and making a mockery of it will only serve to put women off from playing full stop.

It's supposed to be fun

Are Ladies Events really that bad?
Is the Ladies Event really that big of an atrocity? Are men being barred from one tournament a year really going to prevent them from paying the bills or putting food on their kids' table?

The majority of people who kick up a fuss about the Ladies Event are white males who have ever experienced real prejudice before in their lives.

I don't think the Ladies Event has even been viewed as anything more than a fun experience. If it was taken any more seriously, the buy-in would have been increased from $1,000 by now and we would probably have more of them, in mixed formats and such.

The Ladies Event might be fundamentally sexist, but female poker players encounter more sexism on a daily basis than men do in a lifetime of Ladies Events.

Do two wrongs make a right? Perhaps not, but is there anything truly that wrong with allowing a growing demographic to grow in an environment which is fun and not intimidating once a year?

By Barry Carter

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Comments (9)

newest first
  • Alficor1


    Let's do men only tournaments.
  • JimC6


    @1 most tournaments are virtually men only

    Let the girls have their game I say, in my opinion it is just like having a restricted tournament online. And there is nothing more annoying than if you are playing a restricted tournament and the password gets leaked so 1000s of Russians invade the game making it pointless and not worth even playing.
  • Fagin


    "the aggressive discussions that take place in the chat boxes online"
    When I first started playing online I would have agreed with this - now I so rarely see any comments in the chat boxes I would have to disagree. I am sure there are some aggressive discussions on some sites but in my experience it is rare now to even see the nh or vnh comment when someone on the table hits a Royal Flush.
    So many players are now playing on 4+ tables they tend not to have the time to comment like they used to.
  • Ribbo


    For the record, I can't see a $1000 tournament entry as being something done for "fun".

    Make it a $100 tournament and nobody would bat an eyelid at it being the women's event if they really want to encourage casual female players to play in the tournament.
  • MJPerry


    @ #4 that's too low for a WSOP event, consider that the lowest regular event is $1k (Casino Employees' excepted). I'm sure they run satellites too - hell, the event gets big numbers year on year so clearly it works.
  • nefarious26


    if the ladies event continues to get good turn outs then no reason to stop it, the 10k entry could backfire when in a couple of years the event gets like 7k runners lol

    get the ladies event on tv with hot models on feature table wearing bikinis..............
  • gadget51


    I expect the ladies playing in it are taking it very seriously, so maybe 'fun' makes it sound a little more trivial than it would be to them. I think it's a great advert and should get more [and wider] positive coverage. Lot's I could say here but I'll leave it at that.
    Nice article for us pragmatists. :)
  • supergaijin


    I get all the reasons for a ladies only event but 2 things: 1 aren't female pros just as bad if they enter this 'softer' field? 2 new male poker players can find live play intimidating where is there event?
  • raydoyle


    why does'nt the WSOP ban men from every event next year, then the millions of female players desperate to play in tournaments could do so.