I was looking forward to this assignment quite a bit. I had not covered the Ladies Event before, and was thus intrigued to witness the event play out first-hand. The Ladies Event always seems to inspire much commentary -- some thoughtful, some less so -- regarding its inclusion in the schedule, its legitimacy as a bracelet event, the vagaries of sexual politics in poker, among a host of other issues. I wanted to learn more about it, perhaps to be better equipped to respond to all that talking.
The debates got ramped up considerably this summer as -- for the first time ever in the history of the WSOP -- men entered the Ladies Event.
As I mentioned yesterday, when I heard the news that a dozen or so men had turned up and successfully bought into the event, my initial reaction was dismay. Amid all the Twittering about what was happening, I couldn’t resist chiming in myself: “I don’t even need 140 characters to state my view: Guys shouldn’t play the ladies event. It’s a ladies event.”
I decided an addendum was in order, and so sent a second message as well: “If you want to debate whether they’re should be ladies events, 140 characters ain’t gonna be enough for that.”
I’ve spent considerably more than 140 characters on the latter here in the past, and so do not plan to do so again today. Probably the most extensive -- and direct -- treatment of the topic came in a couple of posts from a while back titled “Regarding the WSOP Ladies Event” (part 1 & part 2).
Covering Day 2 of the event did turn out to be an interesting experience, although perhaps less dramatically so than it might have been had I worked the day before.
The furor from Day 1 had largely died down by the time play resumed Saturday afternoon. All but one of the men had been eliminated, and the one who returned didn’t last that long yesterday, barely making the cash. There were no full tables getting up for a bathroom break (as happened a couple of times on Day 1). And most of the celebrities had been knocked out already, aside from Jennifer Cox, who played Jan Brady in The Brady Bunch films and who earned her first WSOP cash yesterday.
There were about a half-dozen women well known in poker still in the event, and most were around until the second half of the day. But all were eliminated well before today’s final table.
My friends Michele Lewis, Jessica Welman, and Bellatrix all went out during the first few levels (with the latter two cashing). EPT San Remo winner Liv Boeree was third in chips when she spectacularly busted shy of the top 50 to then second-place La Sengphet in a A-K vs. K-K confrontation. We also saw Karina Jett, Maria Ho, Svetlana Gromenkova, Lacey Jones Mimi Tran, and Evelyn Ng come up shy of the big money. And the First Lady of Poker, Linda Johnson, went out just before the top 30, too.
Someone in the shoutbox noted Johnson’s participation, desiring to see reports of her hands. I wanted that, too, but sometimes you can’t get what you want. I was largely trapped behind the laptop yesterday, being the only blogger while my two reporters gathered hands.
The reporters -- Mickey and Greg -- did an excellent job, I thought. In fact, those chip counts (that other favorite topic-slash-gripe this summer) were especially well tracked, in my opinion. We started with 136 players, and pretty much from the get-go were keeping tabs on every single one of them from start to finish. Few noticed, I imagine, since the Ladies Event tends to have fewer followers and thus draws less scrutiny. But thanks largely to my reporters’ constant hustle, we were all over ’em all day. (And thus perhaps had less opportunity to report hands on Linda Johnson.)
Anyhow, as the night concluded I found myself sitting there in the media box, reporting the final bustouts while a couple of members of the media beside me continued to argue the various issues surrounding the ladies event and the men’s participation this year.
I was tired -- it was past 2 a.m. -- and not really in the mood for heated debate. I found myself trying to sum up in my head the experience of the day, and realized that from a reporter’s perspective, it really hadn’t been that different from covering any other event.
What I mean to say is, whatever Day 1 was all about, Day 2 seemed to me mostly about poker. And perhaps a little about friendship and family.
Nearly all of the women left in the event at the end had groups of supporters on the rail, and it was hard not to appreciate how special the moment was for all involved. That was perhaps a bit different from your typical event in which mostly young men are there at the end -- no families, perhaps a bud or two, but essentially lone poker-playing wolves.
And so that’s what I chose to focus on as play concluded last night. I’d spent the day watching and reporting on a poker tournament. Some won, and some lost, and there was happiness and there was disappointment. And the players were all women and most were not pros.
And they were playing a game. And the game brought excitement and meaning to many people’s lives. And I liked that.