Thursday, March 13, 2014

On the Bubble Boy

Earlier today I noticed Vanessa Selbst’s tweet from last night responding to the World Poker Tour having signed off its coverage of Day 2 of the Bay 101 Shooting Star by referring to the plan today to play down to the “bubble boy” of the six-handed televised final table.

Selbst humorously pointed out an unintended assumption made by the statement. “Since the WPT says it is playing down to its ‘television bubble boy’ tomorrow, just wanna say congrats to @candacepoker on her 1st WPT FT!”

Indeed, Candace Collins was among the final 36 making it to the end of play yesterday (and she’s in the top 10 in the early going today), so if she were to bubble the final table it obviously wouldn’t do to call her the “bubble boy.”

Selbst followed that tweet with another clarifying that those covering poker tournaments should stop summarily referring to poker players as male, and others chimed in afterwards to agree both with that point and to bring up other examples of poker’s male-centric culture still exhibiting several characteristics that can make the game seem less inviting to women.

I wholeheartedly agree with the larger point, as well as with the need for poker to be mindful of its long legacy of excluding women and to be especially conscious not to persist in doing so going forward, even if in unintentional ways.

Meanwhile, the initial tweet made me think about how it has been many years since I’ve actually used the term “bubble boy” to describe the last person out before the cash in a tournament. I know I used it early on in my reporting career (and here on the blog), but at some point I stopped doing so.

I didn’t stop because the term assumes that person is male. It goes without saying that I’d never been tempted to use “bubble boy” to describe a woman busting out just before the cash. Nor has anyone else, I imagine. I know I’ve seen “bubble girl” used in those situations.

I stopped because it just sounded silly. And kind of clichéd, too. There had to be a better way to describe the situation, I thought, and so I dropped the term from my poker vocabulary.

It’s sometimes hard not to use clichés, though, when it comes to reporting on poker tournaments. The “bubble” itself is a case in point. After all, when’s the last time someone wrote about a tournament reaching the money without employing that metaphor?

(Above is A young boy blowing soap bubbles, a painting created by a follower of the 17th century Dutch painter Reinier de la Haye.)

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