Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Talking ’Bout Women, Men, Poker, Horses

Women and PokerSome -- or many -- of my readers may have seen the Black Widow of Poker’s insightful post last week titled “The Delicate Issue of Women in Poker.” Definitely caught the eye of a number of folks, and elicited a long list of also interesting comments as well. If you haven’t read BWoP’s post, she (1) offers reasons for the relative lack of women players in poker tourneys, and (2) offers reasons why she is opposed to ladies-only events.

I actually wrote a couple of posts on the latter topic some time ago in which I shared a conversation I had with Vera Valmore, who rides dressage -- one of those rare sports that like poker allows men and women to compete against one another. If you are curious, here are those posts: “Regarding the WSOP Ladies Event (1 of 2)” and “Regarding the WSOP Ladies Event (2 of 2).”

One factor that Vera brought up to me in the second of those posts as a relevant one was the issue of bankrolls. BWoP does list “insufficient bankrolls” as a reason for lower participation by women, adding that when it comes to backing arrangements there, too, women generally make up an especially low percentage of those receiving backing. Citing LJ, the Black Widow notes that when it comes to backers choosing their horses, it turns out that “most backers are online players / focus on online players, and the stables rarely have any mares.”

I see our road-tripping friend B.J. Nemeth in the comments challenging whether that factor is specific to women, noting that many men, too, find themselves without the moneys to play. In her response to Nemeth’s comment, BWoP allows that one may not be necessarily sex-specific.

That exchange made me think again about a point Vera had made to me -- not because of the horse metaphor, but for another reason. It was a point I hadn’t necessarily contemplated too greatly before our conversation -- namely, that since playing in poker tourneys does require money, and since women on average tend to earn less than men do, that could be considered a factor that affected women differently than men.

Vera was referring both to the fact that women do (still) tend to get paid less than men for doing the same jobs as well as the fact that the kinds of jobs women take -- including the job of homemaking -- tend to generate less income. “Generally speaking, women earn less than men,” Vera said. “And any sport -- or employment or anything -- that requires start-up money is automatically going to favor those who have more money.”

Definitely something worth considering there, I think. Poker is often described as an “inclusive” game open to all comers, regardless of sex, race, ethnicity, faith, etc. But there necessarily exist pretty severe class distinctions in poker -- indeed, the game wouldn’t really work without them. You have to have money to sit down at all. In fact, in order to be genuinely competitive, you have to have money to lose.

DressageDressage is an interesting sport in this way, too -- one which also (for most) requires start-up money but which like poker allows for a wide variety of financial commitment from competitors. I think there’s probably more to be made of the parallels between poker and dressage, but I’ll need to talk to Vera again about it.

By the way, the BWoP added a few more “Mitigating Factors” yesterday regarding this issue of women’s participation in no-limit hold’em tournaments which are worth reading. Not talking bankroll issues there, but rather questions of skill and the willingness to play aggressively (a necessity when it comes to doing well). Check it out.

And if you’re still interested in reading more about women and men in poker, see my Betfair piece from a couple of weeks ago titled “Sexual Identity in Online Poker” in which I talk a little about some of those sex-based stereotypes the BWoP discusses in her posts, though in the context of online play.

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Blogger BWoP said...

Vera Valmore has added a very interesting thread to the discussion - one that I had not considered in the course of preparing my posts. Thank you for reminding all of us about her prior comments.

(You have a very smart woman there, Shamus :-)

2/10/2010 4:21 PM  
Anonymous JJ said...

Thanks again for a great post - I really enjoy reading your posts - put a smile on my face before work in the morning.

2/11/2010 1:26 AM  

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