Monday, August 20, 2007

Regarding the WSOP Ladies Event (1 of 2)

Regarding the WSOP Ladies EventMentioned a few posts back how I’d taken a trip down to Charleston with the lovely Vera Valmore. On our return we read the story of two shark attacks off the Isle of Palms -- precisely where we had stayed. In fact it appears officials decided for a few hours to close the very beach where we had been swimming just two days before.

Vera and I had joked then about sharks as we waded out into the warm Atlantic. Whereas I had ventured out beyond the breakers to piddle about, Vera had stopped short and with a pointed finger drew an imaginary line beyond which she claimed the sharks began feasting.

“Ha!” I hollered. “I’d like to see ’em try!”

A couple of days later and we might have been talkin’ ’bout a Shamus sandwich.

On the drive back I asked Vera what she thought about the World Series of Poker having a “ladies only” event among its various offerings. Three reasons why I sought Vera’s opinion on the matter.

For one, the issue was on my mind thanks to several forum threads and other recent attempts on various sites to explore the subject.

There had been some discussion back in June during the WSOP, of course, fueled in part by a perhaps somewhat partially-baked ESPN column by Gary Wise, followed by a more thoughtful attempt to clarify his position.

In Wise’s initial piece -- which he later described on PokerWire Radio as “parody” (though only certain passages really qualify as such) -- he spends a little time making fun of how women act around one another, generalizes that “most industry insiders have a problem with the ladies championship,” then hastily describes the poor quality of play at this year’s ladies event. Wise strangely concludes that while it’s okay for a bracelet to be awarded in the ladies event, doing so “is a slap in the face to the Erick Lindgren’s [sic] of the world.”

In his follow-up, Wise clarifies that he meant the earlier column as “tongue in cheek” (though, as I say, only part of it could be considered that way). He then goes on (1) to elaborate on why he (and others) believed the quality of play at the ladies event was poor; (2) to share his impression that the event is regarded by many -- including the participants -- as more of a “social event” than a serious poker tourney; (3) to conclude (again, somewhat oddly) that poker is a “mean and nasty and grimy and grungy and hard” and thus -- I take it -- especially challenging for some women.

The debate continued on some of the forums. Then a couple of weeks back Michele Lewis (of the Pokerati posse) started her new blog with a great interview with WSOP Commish Jeffrey Pollack. Lewis specifically asked Pollack about the future of the ladies event. “There’s nothing wrong with celebrating women in poker through a specialized event,” said Pollack. “It is one of my favorite days at the tournament and as long as I am commissioner and women continue to turn out it will be a bracelet event.”

Pollack’s proclamation that the ladies event is here to stay next prompted PokerListings to run USA Today-styled pro and con editorials responding to the question of whether the WSOP should keep the ladies event.

Sarah Polson, arguing the “pro” side of the issue, agrees with Pollack that the ladies event is needed since “[p]oker is definitely still a male dominated world” and women “need a place more comfortable to get started.” Skewy syntax aside, Polson here echoes a point made by others who believe the ladies event serves a specific -- and significant -- purpose.

Erin Warner, arguing the “con” side, says the event is “superfluous and offensive to women.” According to Warner, “with so many risk-taking, aggressive, intelligent women these days there’s no reason why the ladies can’t belly up to the felt with the boys.” Again, Warner essentially reiterates an argument made by others who oppose the event.

PokerNews also weighed in on the issue last week with an interesting article by Tina Bergstrom reporting on some of the buzz regarding the ladies event at this year’s series. Bergstrom describes how some female players, such as Annie Duke, oppose the event, while others, like Susie Isaacs and Kathy Liebert, are in favor of keeping it.

Some of those who oppose a separate event for women like to point out how -- as Annie Duke told CBS four years ago -- “poker is one of the only sports where a woman can compete on a totally equal footing with a man.” That actually brings up the second reason why I thought I’d ask Vera what she thought about the matter. You see, Vera actually competes in another such sport -- dressage.

For the uninitiated, dressage is sort of like horseback riding without the jumping. Some call it “horse ballet.” Riders take the horses through prescribed courses and various gaits, then are judged as in a gymnastics competition. Not only do men and women compete against one another -- Vera says she isn’t aware of any examples of “ladies only” dressage competitions -- but different breeds of horses compete against one another as well. Thus is dressage sometimes described as a truly “egalitarian” sport.

The third reason I thought I’d ask Vera about it is, well, she’s smart and stuff. You know, like about sharks.

And as I thought she would, Vera gave me some things to think about, bringing up a couple of points I’m not hearing most folks consider when tackling this here issue.

I’ll share what she told me next post.



Blogger Richard To said...

Hard to argue either way. Mostly I think it's pointless to be arguing about it. Gives me a headache.

8/21/2007 2:54 AM  

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