California Says Ladies-Only Tournaments = Discrimination

by , Feb 4, 2008 | 8:36 pm

It seems that the California Bureau of Gaming Control doesn’t take too kindly to discrimination.

On January 18, the Bureau released a statement that rejected “ladies only” poker tournaments because they violate the state’s anti-discrimination laws. Not only will such events not be allowed to discriminate in admittance prices or services offered, but they can no longer advertise tournaments as ladies only, since men must be admitted.

PokerNews ran an article about it, noting that the Bicycle Casino and Commerce Casino do allow men to enter the events and will change their advertisements to remove the word “only” when referring to the ladies tournaments.

The WPT, which recently launched its Ladies League, said, “The intention of WPT Ladies is not to prohibit or promote against male players from joining, playing or receiving equal prizing in WPTL tournaments, but rather to encourage the growth of women in poker and provide opportunities to test their skills in the tournament environment.”

Curious to see how this all plays out – if men will start entering these ladies events to make a point or if they will leave the ladies alone.

See the entire Bureau of Gambling Control press release by clicking below:

It has come to the attention of the Bureau of Gambling Control that some gambling establishments conduct “ladies only” poker tournaments that exclude men from participating, or admit them on different terms from those accorded to women. It is the Bureau’s view that such tournaments may violate California’s anti-discrimination laws.

Under the Unruh Civil Rights Act (Civil code sections 51 and 51.5), businesses may not discriminate in admittance prices, or services offered to customers based on the customers sex, race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, disability, medical condition, martial status, or sexual orientation. “Ladies Only” tournaments or any other promotional events that fail to admit men and women to advertised activities on an equal basis regardless of sex are unlawful. It may also be unlawful under the Unruh Act to advertise tournaments as “ladies only” even if men are in fact admitted.

The Bureau will approve only those events that include the following features: the event will be open to all customers, the promotional gifts will be given equally to all participants, the fees and prices will be the same for all event participants, any discounts will not be based on gender or another personal characteristics protected by the Unruh Act, and the events promotional materials do not advertise gender-based discounts or imply a gender-based entrance policy or any other unlawful discriminatory practice.

Gambling establishments should take notice that pursuant to Business and Professional Code section 125.6, violations of the Unruh Act are cause for discipline under the Gambling Control Act.


  • Interesting … it’s probably more about the money than it is the principle for men entering. But makes me wonder how this might play out in, say, the WNBA or LPGA. Granted, Kobe Bryant’s never gonna try to play in the WNBA no matter how much ass he could kick because he can make so much more in the regular NBA. But what about some washed-up has been who faces the choice between being a total standout playing with the ladies or working as a plumber?

  • I think pro sports analogies don’t apply here because there’s a big difference in the physical abilities in the NBA v. WNBA. The same can be said for any sport that requires physical prowess to be successful against opponents.

    Poker, on the other hand, prides itself on being a game in which physical abilities don’t matter – it’s a mental and sometimes emotional game. That’s why I believe women don’t need and shouldn’t have separate tournaments.

  • Ed

    emotional + women….oh no. 😛

  • ***That’s why I believe women don’t need and shouldn’t have separate tournaments.***

    Silly me, Jen … I thought you were pro-CHOICE!

    I’m kinda playing devil’s advocate here. But truth be told, if they had a tournament for displaced Texas Polacks … I would SO want to play/win — and would hope I would have the option to do so.

  • Uncle Ray

    Whenever anyone has any kind of an event that excludes anyone, in my mind they are saying that they are admitting that they are not as good as the people they are excluding.

    They are saying it would be unfair to their group to include people that are too good.

    That is why I applaud Jen and others who are against ladies only tourneys for their stance. I believe Jen’s position is that she does not except that men are better players just because they are men. She’s right.

    However, I do believe that anyone who wants to have an event that acknowledges that they are excluding people that are too good should be allowed to hold that event.

    I don’t even have a problem with Dan’s Texas Polack (is that really the way you spell it?) event if he acknowledges that he won’t let me in because Polish people from outside of Texas are better!! He’ll never admit that, he’ll never believe that, so he has no reason to exclude Illinois players (unless we are late because of flight cacellations due to snow again).

    I don’t think women want to be considered second class Pokercitizens (or is it Pokeratizens?). But that is what women only tournaments are saying.

  • Ed, what do you mean by emotional? HUH? I think I’m going to cry a little…

    Dan, I am pro-choice but anti-discrimination. So, if we should have ladies-only tournaments, then men-only are okay. By the same token, blacks-only and whites-only? That has a very sour taste to it…

    Uncle Ray, I’ve actually heard many women say that the ladies tournaments are tougher fields than the co-ed tournaments. They certainly don’t think they’re weaker. However, if they were right, why aren’t they playing the $10k co-ed events and winning every one? The arguments FOR ladies-only events just don’t jive with me.

  • Uncle Ray

    Jen, That’s exactly my point. If the field is tougher, then there’s no reason to exclude anyone. I AM on your side here. I’m just saying that in ANY type of an event, poker or not, if they want to privatize it they should admit to the reasons.

  • I know you’re on my side, Uncle Ray. 🙂

  • Does this mean I have no more reasons to wear dresses to tournaments? Damnit! Meanwhile, …I’m still waiting on my poker grant from the United Negro College Fund. “Because a Blind is a terrible thing to waste.”

  • 85nutz

    I’m sort of torn here, I said in a comment of a previous post that I’m against ladies and seniors tournaments at events like the WSOP being equal to those of open events. Why should they get a braclet equal to Tom’s braclets when he didn’t have a chance to compete in that event?

    On the other hand, if ladies only tournaments do in fact encourage more women to play and bring them into the ‘poker world’ then I don’t think they are a bad thing. After all, any kind of promotion to get more newbies to the poker table should be okay by any serious player. If those newbies are women all the better for us single men 🙂

    I think California is treading in some dangerous waters, if they ban ladies tournaments are they going to ban ladies night at the bar too? Before you know it some guy is going to file a lawsuit because he can’t get hired as a waitress at Hooters, oh wait that already happened…whatever happened to that guy?

  • I heard recently that Jose Canseco might be involved in this – on the “let me play!” side of the issue. Not sure if there’s any truth to it at all, but sure would be funny if there were.

  • Alicia

    Anyone that tells you the fields are tougher in ladies-only events is selling you a bill o’ goods! As someone that’s played both type of events (although the sample size is small) I can honestly say that the mixed fields have the tougher competition. In fact, after playing both the Tunica and NO ladies events, I thought to myself that I’d seen better play in $2.50 +0.15 sngs online.

    Now, what that being said, I think they should still be able to have Ladies Only events. I just don’t think they should be “bracelet” events. Give them something else sparkly to be excited about. I’ve heard several times, at these events, women saying in a half giggle that “This is so much fun… playing with a bunch of girls that are friendly and don’t take this poker stuff ‘too seriously'” Unfortunately, a lot of women lack the confidence or nerve or whatever-the-intangible-is to compete directly with the men, so why not let them have their training wheels tourney?

  • Jason, I’m sure no one will own up to reporting this to the Bureau of Gaming Control. But Jose Canseco did make a point to enter a ladies-only tournament at Commerce in 2007, and they had to allow him and his friends to play.

    But the WPT Ladies event that just took place at Commerce reportedly had no Canseco sightings. Only one man played the event and didn’t cash.

    Alicia, I’ve heard those same types of comments from ladies tournaments. “Girl talk” about not being too serious about poker, complimenting each other’s outfits, apologizing for eliminating another player, etc. If some of these ladies played in a mixed field, their feelings would be hurt and they wouldn’t have any fun.

    Sure, they can have a training wheels tournament every now and then, but it should be completely separate from big events like the LA Poker Classic or the World Series of Poker. I object to an LAPC or WPT “title” or WSOP bracelet being given to the winner of an event that seriously attempted to exclude players based on gender alone.

  • To say that men and women don’t play differently — generally speaking — would be to say there is no difference between the psychological make-up of males and females in a game that has at least an element of psychology in play.

    The scene that made this clear to me, I remember, was the WSOP Ladies event in 2004. It was a limit event that year … and there was a hand with a bunch of Asian ladies involved. Two of them ended up in a raise and re-raise fest … it went peck-peck-peck-peck-cap, all the way to the river. Granted, this was a limit event — so there was no room for a chest-puffing all-in push … but really, that’s how men (generally) display their strength — by puffing up and making a big push. Ladies on the other hand (generally) prefer to needle and poke you into submission.

    No? Or am I confusing this with the World Series of Marriage?

  • Funny Dan.

    I don’t like ladies tournaments, I find them particularly annoying. (“I’m sorry I beat you, you had the best hand going in”) However, when you read WSOP main event odds – odds of this pro winning or odds of that pro winning, odds of a woman winning…maybe there’s a need for ladies tournaments. yuk

  • Dave

    Have been reading your poker blog with interest as usual but notice you don’t have link up to one of the most prominent lady pro players – Annette Obrestad. Is this an oversight or covert sexism? – http://betting.betfair.com/annette_15/ Any chance of rectifying this?

  • When writing about ladies only tournaments in the U.S., Annette has nothing to do with it because she can’t even play in the U.S. yet. No reason to link to her here.

    But you did. Congrats.

  • Dave

    Yes, it’s a shame she can’t play in the US yet. I suppose there is an arguement that the WSOP Europe is a more important event than the US version because it doesn’t discriminate about age.

    Whether you link to Annette’s blog is no concern of mine though it seems a little harsh to deprive your visitors a chance to leave your site via your excellent links list to her blog simply because she is not old enough to play in the States.

  • ***Is this an oversight or covert sexism?***

    What’s wrong with being sexy?

  • Dave

    Dan, Can’t you add a link to the lovely Annette while Jen has a few days off. You’ve got so many links on this site she won’t notice!

    If it’s a moral issue, how about a link to this fan site http://www.squidoo.com/annette-15

  • fc-lukoil

    Where at you it is possible to look Football? The league of champions interests – Spartak – FC Kiev 13.08.
    In advance thanks.

  • Um, no comprendo me amigo. ¿es posible que haya estado bebiendo un poco demasiado vodka?

    Go Chivas! Go FC Dynamo?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_football_clubs_in_Russia