This was over on Bodog, where I’ve chosen a woman’s name as my screen ID. A half-conscious act of rebellion, I suppose, forged in response to Bodog’s hypermasculine promotional campaign. (Every time I log on, I’m reminded it’s “Poker. Play Hard.”) I’ve also uploaded a cartoon pic of a woman as my table image, although I didn’t go so far as to fill out the profile with further misleading information (as one can do on Bodog).
Play continued, and after a few hands I happened to notice that the “nh” hadn’t come from my opponent in the hand, but from another player -- LarryLizard -- who had not been involved. I won another hand, this time showing down top pair, top kicker, and got another “nh” from Larry. This time he also addressed me directly by my screen name.
A few more hands went by, then Larry tells me “i like your pic.” I immediately recalled a friend of mine -- a female player with whom I used to play online quite often. She had a picture of Betty Boop as her avatar. The picture, coupled with a friendly personality and willingness to chat, had gotten her a lot of attention at the tables. More than she desired, actually -- eventually she had to give up playing on the site because of all the “friends” she’d picked up. She told me about how some players seemed genuinely to respond to the cartoon image of Betty Boop there on the screen, as if it were somehow related to what she looked like in real life. Or what anybody looks like in real life.
So Larry likes my pic. Uhh . . . okay. I didn’t respond at first. Then, for the sheer hell of it, I typed another “ty.” Bad idea. Next thing I know Larry is asking me where I’m from. I didn’t reply. I won another hand -- this time successfully trapping someone after flopping a set to take a medium-sized pot. Again Larry didn’t miss a chance to congratulate me. Suddenly another player from across the table chimes in with a “u go girl.”
Shamus scratches his head. Pretty soon these two are engaged in a lengthy conversation, mostly about me. Or, I should say, their impression of who they thought I might be. Some of their discussion concerned my ability as a player. Some was about my apparent unwillingness to chat. Meanwhile I found that whenever I’d open bet a flop, all would fold. I did get the idea that whether or not they read me as a woman, they certainly didn’t think I was capable of betting without a hand. Was my “image” (literally speaking) helping me here?
The eCOGRA study notes that about 12% of online poker players play under a different sex. It also suggests that this group “reported having less profitable play than any other type of player.” One theory proposed is that those who do play as a different sex “may have been less successful as a consequence of over estimating [sic] the advantage of playing poker as a different sex.”
I can definitely see this as a possibility. It didn’t take long for me to become fairly preoccupied with how others at the table seemed to be viewing me. Still, I have my doubts about the theory that those who play under a different sex -- the “trannies,” as Amy Calistri referred to ’em in her post on the study -- really are the players who lose the most. Again, we’re dealing with players’ own testimonies here. Why should we believe what the players are saying about their own profitability, particularly when we’re dealing with a group defined by the way they lie about themselves when playing online?
I’m sure others have had more extensive, more interesting experiences along these lines. Makes me think of some of those sci-fi stories and novels such as Ursula LeGuin’s The Left Hand of Darkness that throw into question the whole idea of what it means to be a man or a woman. How much of this really matters, though? Toby Leah Bochan, author of The Badass Girl's Guide to Poker: All You Need to Beat the Boys, claims “When you're playing poker online you're genderless.” Read that in an interview over at Bodog Nation, as it happens. What do you think? Do you pay much attention to the apparent sex of your online opponent? Does it matter?
I told my friend Vera Valmore about the incident with LarryLizard. “Can you believe some dude told me he liked my picture?” I said, incredulously.
“And it made you feel pretty?” she replied with a smirk.
Labels: *on the street