Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Luck Be a Lady

The Female KingStarted with a simple “nh.” I’d won a small pot in an unremarkable hand. Holding kings in late position, I’d raised and one of the blinds called. Flop was all babies. Checked to me, I bet, and my opponent folded. Not the sort of hand that warrants congratulations, really. But I responded with a “ty” nonetheless.

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.



Blogger Gadzooks64 said...

When I first started playing on FTP I was the "librarian" because that one most closely resembled me. Then I decided I didn't get the kind of respect I wanted so I switched to the Cowboy.

It did make a difference. I would usually play as a guy until I was in the private team tournament event and our team avatar was the Bimbo.

Somehow people started associating me with that and I was mostly playing private events so it didn't pay to change it.

I have found that once people get to "know" you, your avatar doesn't influence their opinion of you. But for the recreational players it makes a big difference.

So now I play as the bimbo and mostly don't even think about it. But, I'm sure it does influence my opponents to a certain extent.

I have learned, too, not to judge other players by their avatars. I switched to the racetrack layout on FTP and the avatars are so small in that layout that you hardly notice them at all.

I pay much more attn to what PT tells me about my opponents than their avatars. Now I need to learn to do that at the live tables instead of judging people by their appearance which is significantly harder to do than ignoring avatars.

2/06/2007 11:05 PM  
Blogger Cell 1919 said...

Anyone who's spending more time worrying about the sex of their opponents than reading the table is +EV IMO.

However in the old days of play chips I did see a friend of mine get an awful lot of attention from the testosterone filled youths (I presume). Did she let it affect her game? Of course she did. She took their chips!!!

Not the kinds of suck-out those men were envisaging, I reckon ;)

2/07/2007 3:10 AM  
Blogger Yorkshire Pudding said...

There's also a connection to people's usernames and their playing styles too. Obviously you can't blanket everyone but I recently read an article in a magazine and here are a few of the "username types" I can remember.

All Capitals - eg HOLDEMKING - Generally more aggressive, their username is meant to come across as shouting, bold and brash.

Sexual orientated names - eg Kev69 or Lick my nutz - Gnerally taken by younger players, especially young males. Mainly loose players and a lot of the time fearless as they don't understand odds etc properly as they've only seen poker on TV. Often playing above their bankroll.

Professional Names - eg Phil Ivey123 - These guys have seen a few re-runs of the WSOP and think they can win like the pros. Believe it or not they don't generally try to play like their name sake but are often weak/tight as they want to show they can laydown good hands and pick off your bluffs.

Numbers in names - eg Matt07 or HoldemGod02 - Sometimes the numbers are used just because the username they wanted has been taken but more often than not they represent the year the account was created and can give some indication to experience. Matt07 could possibly ony have started playing in 07 whereas HoldemGod02 could have created his account in 2002 and therefore be more experienced.

Action names - eg deadmoney or 3-bet maniac - often these guys play the total opposite of their names, reverse psychology is the key here. They want you to be thinking they're loose / tight etc

Tricky names - eg H0Ld3m G3n1U5 - often tricky players and creative in their plays like their handles.

Guess in an ideal world you want to sit to the right of LICKMYNUTZ69!

You might want to look into some of them a bit more Shamus as I know you love your research!

2/07/2007 6:00 AM  
Blogger Cell 1919 said...

Well I certainly didn't start playing in 1919 lol, even though I might look like it sometimes ;)

Mine is a mixture of a user name on other forums (Super Cell) and 1919, the year my beloved Leeds United were created.

2/07/2007 8:18 AM  
Blogger derbywhite said...

Interesting stuff as always.

You can pretend to be who you want in the online world lol

YOU GO GIRL :-p lol

2/08/2007 3:22 AM  
Anonymous Cadmunkey said...

Ha Ha, never had you pegged as an online tranny Shamus ;-)
Gotta say I dont give a damn about user names and often dont even read them properly until one particular player makes some moves which become noteworthy.

Im sure you will be able to tell us in 12 months whether your online ID bagged you any cash or not.

2/08/2007 5:41 AM  
Blogger Short-Stacked Shamus said...

Interesting stuff, everybody. Yorkie, I think Rolf Slotboom wrote about the onscreen name "tell" in CardPlayer not too long ago. I also remember Dr. Pauly had a lengthy article about the same topic a good while back.

2/08/2007 8:27 PM  

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