Yesterday, amid a full schedule of World Poker Tour tournaments, one event that many players look forward to was on the schedule. The Ladies Event is a favorite of many women in poker, often circled on calendars well in advance, and sometimes the sole event some women plan to play.
The vibe of these events is usually refreshing, light, fun, and positive. Players often find a comfortable, safe, and welcoming experience. The energy and overall feel in the room is usually electric and positive.
Yesterday was not one of those days.
Among the field of women playing the event sat one man named Dave. Dave chose to enter the 4pm Ladies Event after busting the Main Event. Now, Dave’s not the first man to enter a Ladies Event. Believe it or not, it’s not against the rules. The problem, really the reason I’m writing this article, is how Dave treated others during his eventual winning run.
Why is it allowed?
Maybe right now you’re thinking, “Dave didn’t do anything wrong. It’s not against the rules, right?” You’re not wrong.
Casinos often aren’t allowed to restrict entry into an event based on sex. Or, more often, casino legal teams don’t want to go down that path for fear of potential legal issues.
The World Series of Poker has mitigated the issue by charging 10x the buy-ins for men to enter these events. That, too, is often denied by legal teams for the same reason.
So, given the casino can’t restrict entry, these events are offered by organizers in good faith, hoping that men will respect what they’re for, respect what they’re intended to be. Dave chose to go against that good faith and enter anyway.
Just because you can, it doesn’t mean you should
So, why did Dave decide to enter the field, knowing full well that many likely wouldn’t appreciate or want him there?
“He said, ‘If I don’t win this event I should quit poker,” said one woman in the field. To the dismay of many, we didn’t get to see if he was serious. Dave obviously thought he had an edge in the field and wanted to win some money. Maybe he was a favorite, I don’t know Dave or his game. Clearly, (after multiple re-entries), Dave did win, after all. But, just because he could do it, and it might earn him some money in the long run, is that enough reason to do so?
A good adage my grandpa used to say to guide me through moral dilemmas was, “If everyone made the same choice you did, would the world be better or worse off?” That advice usually steers you right. It has me many times. It’s clear that if every person took every small edge they could find at the expense of other people’s needs or feelings, the world would not be a better place. That’s what happened yesterday.
If you saw someone drop $100 from their pocket on the street, would picking it up and keeping it technically be stealing? If it’s not breaking any rules, why shouldn’t you do it? If that’s where your brain goes, my hope for you may be lost.
Imagine if the situation was different. Imagine for a minute that Daniel Negreanu really wanted to win a WSOP ring this summer. He looked at the Senior’s Event and thought he had a huge edge in the field. At 48 years old, Negreanu couldn’t enter the event, which is catered to those 50 years or older. But, what if it wasn’t against the rules? What if they couldn’t restrict entry based on age? Negreanu enters because they “allow anything nowadays,” against the obvious intention of the event, and takes it down, capitalizing on the opportunity to play an event in which he thinks he’s a favorite.
Does that not feel wrong? It wouldn’t be against any rule. If it doesn’t feel wrong to you, I’m sorry you’ve read this far, because you’re probably not going to agree with the below message.
Women’s events are meant for women. They are a place where women can feel safe, included, respected, and play poker among their peers.
The final takeaway
When Dave reached the final table, the reality became evident that he may win the whole thing. After one player fell to Dave late in the event, she said, “I feel like I let all the other women down.”
Is that how we want people to feel at these events? Demoralized and sad that the cards fell the way of their opponent? All about the one guy who entered to take advantage of the situation, instead of about the hundreds of women who came out to play the event?
There are many commendable efforts to get more women into poker. We want everyone to feel safe in the game. We want women to feel included, enjoy their experience, and not feel targeted in any way. The Women’s Events (a term I prefer, but that’s for another day) allow many to play our beautiful game in a space that’s set aside for them. When men enter that space–because they can–it strips the event of that intended purpose.
Even within poker, I hope to live in a community where money isn’t the most important thing. For the good of the game, let’s be better.
I leave you with what it’s all about, courtesy of the same Ebony Kenney.
Author’s correction: Dave did not play the WPT Main Event. He decided to play the Ladies Event when speaking with a friend who was in the Main Event.