The Never Ending WSOP Ladies Event Debate

by , Jun 15, 2010 | 9:07 am

Michele Lewis


OP-ED

As a woman who began playing poker in the early 90’s on the smoky Riverboats of Louisiana, I was almost always the only woman at the table and often the only woman in the poker room. Other than my weekly friendly game, the Mirage poker room in Las Vegas (before the Bellagio opened) was the only time I played with other women. It wasn’t always easy being the only woman in the game. Nor was it easy being excluded from a friendly game that instituted a No Vagina Rule because some new fish didn’t want his wife to play. While sexist remarks at the poker table were uncomfortable at times, I’ve also seen cheating, robberies, fights, guns, racism, and five of nine opponents having a piece of each others action.

Of the four WSOP Ladies events in which I’ve played, I paid for one and was backed in three. Had I been given the choice to choose the event… it certainly wouldn’t have been the Ladies event. It’s not that I’m unsupportive of the Ladies event; yet, I’m not exactly supportive of it either. Reason being, who am I to say what someone should do with their time and money? Who am I to persuade another’s belief? Yet, sometimes I can’t help myself to reverse the role and think… as a woman, how would I feel if there were a Men’s-only event and no Ladies event? And so, I ponder the annual WSOP gender dilemma, not forming strong opinions one way or the other, but with some basic, recurring thoughts that to me seem like matters of common sense:

  • Gender Specific Events: It’s only equal that men are given their own event held at the same time with the same buy-in, structure, extra prizes and treatment. If men are unable to play with their own gender, then they’re being singled out. Sorry to burst any bubbles but if men aren’t afforded the same opportunity…then we’re hypocrites and the Ladies event should be dissolved.
  • Dissenting Opinions: As they say in Texas, opinions are like assholes … everyone’s got one. Chastising other’s opinions is expecting someone else to comply with our own view. That’s not equality, it’s not freedom to choose. It’s a childish tantrum of needing to be right. Last time I checked, the WSOP wasn’t located in a Communist country. And this gender crap is turning into a narcissistic dictatorship over a piece of jewelry. A good friend of mine always asked me…do you want to be right or do you want to be happy? I won’t bore you with details on my own happiness, but I will tell you that I heard a lot of unhappy complaining this weekend.
  • Men Playing the Ladies Event: Seems to me if you want change then go through the appropriate corporate channels. It’s quite simple, either be part of the solution or be part of the problem. Now we have drama, potential legal issues and remind me again… was someone seriously injured?
  • Generation Gaps: I’m Generation X, raised with guys who knew they would compete with me in many areas of life. My grandmother…not so much. While my mother paid for her own country club membership and had to fight for the right to play golf on Men Only Tuesday, I know my grandmother wouldn’t have done the same. If I accept older generations to be set in their ways, why not on the felt?
  • The Transition Tournament: Just like relationships, transitional situations can hinder us. The best way to truly grow in poker is experience. How is it possible to become comfortable playing with men if you don’t actually play with men? The only evolution possible here is if women are afraid of dealers, cards and tournament directors.
  • Rude Behavior: If we support women playing their very own special event because men make them uncomfortable…then what do we do about the women who humiliated the men? Sure, some of the attention seeking men relished in the short lived stardom, but I’m not so sure I can support women humiliating others regardless of what they have done. Period. Maybe we should ask 300 men to do the exact same thing to a woman when she’s eliminated from an open event. I mean, this is almost like punching a man in the face and when he hits back…play victim. If we’re fighting for equality, then no one should be humiliated.

Everyone has their own path to follow. Some take longer than others to progress. It’s insulting to assume women who play the Ladies event are incapable of thinking for themselves or are less skilled players so in the end…live and let live because trial and error is a priceless education. It’s unfortunate that so much of what I’ve read and heard makes me wonder if anyone is aware of what’s going on in the world outside the Rio. But, since it’s late and I’m deliriously tired (after just a brief couple stints at the WSOP) I will take this opportunity to say this…It was experiencing the male poker bullies who inevitably made my comfort level what it is today. So, I’d like to say…thank you, assholes.


Old-school Pokerati writer Michele Lewis has also written for Bluff Magazine and Wicked Chops Poker, and can be found regularly on MicheleLewis.com. She’s cashed in three open WSOP events and one where no men played.


11 Comments to “The Never Ending WSOP Ladies Event Debate”


  1. Charlie River
    says:

    This is a very sensible post. Makes a lot of sense. The only angle I miss is the one about youngsters entering the seniors event or regular people entering the casino employee event. Why are those so uncontroversial you might ask.


  2. Lou Crispino
    says:

    They can fix it by making it a ladies only organization with a $1 membership fee and contract Harrahs for $1 to run the event for them,thereby making their organization the discriminating party if that is the case with a womens club and it would have no assets.They could also get a sponser such as FACT and run it as an invitational and only give the invites to women and only the woman named on the invite could enter.This could easily be done right in the hallway of the Rio during the event as well as through the mail to the organizations existing members possibly resulting in a large increase in participation for the women.
    You could also just take these assholes out back and shoot em like we would do here in NY if someone fucked with my mother’s,wife’s,sister’s or daughters good time.


  3. Michele Lewis
    says:

    That’s a thought, however, there might be a conflict with wsop sponsors. Plus they would have to allow other organizations do the same thing as a womens club or then they would be back to the same issue.
    As for shooting people out back…I doubt the dealers would want to deal with that on their smoke breaks. 🙂


  4. Michele Lewis
    says:

    Charlie,
    I would assume the casino employee and senior events haven’t been a big issue because they receive very little coverage.
    I could be wrong, but I don’t think the casino employee event falls under anti-discrimination laws.
    As for seniors, I guess they would have to have a youngster event to balance this out. It will be interesting to see if anyone under the required age tries to enter the Seniors event this Friday.


  5. Mo Mac
    says:

    The best suggestion I’ve heard on this issue is to have a men’s event too.

    Fact is I’m not afraid to play with men, it’s just the idea of playing a tournament with women is so much fun. It’s important for me to have time with the girls, the fact that I want that doesn’t say anything about the men in my life, it just is.

    Nor do I resent men having time and space without women, we’re different and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

    Great resolve Michele.


  6. Cesar
    says:

    Great article!


  7. Michele Lewis
    says:

    Thanks Cesar!
    Mo Mac,
    Thank you. I’ve had fun playing in the Ladies event and it’s refreshing to be able to hang out with some women after days on end with mostly guys (no offense fellas) at the table or in media.
    But I’ve never felt it fair we have the event if the men don’t.
    This was my only opportunity to play in the WSOP this year. I’m not sure I will play the Ladies event again though if men aren’t given the same option.


  8. JamesDaBear
    says:

    I don’t feel discriminated against because there isn’t a men’s event. Don’t feel like you shouldn’t play to fight for my gender’s rights. We’re good there, thanks.


  9. Michele Lewis
    says:

    Thanks, James.


  10. hungerfan
    says:

    Some men just want to be women. For proof go find Dan. 😛


  11. melinda
    says:

    HELLO,
    JUST WANTED TO SAY I HERE YA IVE BEEN PLAYING
    POKER FOR YEARS AS A WOMAN MEN ALWAYS HAS THERE COMMENTS
    I GO TO ALOT OF TOURNEYS HOME TOWN WIN AT LEAST TOP 3
    MEN GET VERY ANGRY SAY WOMEN SHOULD NOT PLAY POKER…
    I LOVE THE GAME ONE DAY ILL BE AT WSOP HOPEFULLY DO WELL….
    WANTED TO KNOW HOW DO I GET MORE INFORMATION ABOUT WOMANS
    TOURNEYS WPT OR ANY WOMANS TOURNEY ….

    THANK YOU FOR YOUR TIME..