Thursday, April 22, 2010

Hooray for Boeree; Remembering Richmond

Liv BoereeYou’ve no doubt heard by now that Liv Boeree took down that European Poker Tour San Remo event yesterday, coming out on top of a huge field of 1,240 players to claim the €1,250,000 first prize. Lot of folks excited about it. Boeree becomes the third woman to win an EPT Main Event, following Vicky Coren (EPT London 2006) and Sandra Naujoks (EPT Dortmund 2009).

Boeree’s win also comes on the heels of Vanessa Selbst’s NAPT Mohegan Sun victory less than two weeks ago. And a month before that, Annie Duke took down the NBC National Heads Up Poker Championship -- not an “open” event, but still one in which men had only prevailed in the past.

Some object to assigning too much importance to women winning events such as these, arguing that doing so reinforces the significance of a player’s sex and thus suggests another kind of inequality in the way one views women players as opposed to men.

There’s something to that argument, I suppose. But still, it is hard not to recognize the uniqueness of women succeeding in these big buy-in, “big bet” tourneys, especially given the small number of women entering them as compared to men.

Woman Poker PlayerBy the way, even before Selbst’s win at the NAPT Mohegan Sun, Jen Newell and I chose the topic of women & no-limit hold’em tourneys for our April “He Said/She Said” columns over at Woman Poker Player. There we were separately responding to a chapter in James McManus’s Cowboys Full in which he offers a few thoughts about why men seem “biologically inclined to sign up for” NLHE tourneys.

As we were working on our articles, Selbst won her NAPT title, and so we both ended up making reference to her win. You can see what else we said about McManus’s ideers here: He Said / She Said.

Last week I also wrote a post here called “Women and the WSOP.” There I mentioned how even though 12 different women had won open WSOP events, none had done so in a NLHE event (aside from Annette Obrestad’s 2007 WSOPE Main Event title). In that post I included a list of women who had won WSOP bracelets in open events, with Vera Richmond being the first to do so back in 1982 in the $1,000 buy-in Ace-to-Five Draw event.

Curiously, when people discuss this topic many tend to overlook Richmond’s victory and cite Barbara Enright’s 1996 bracelet in the $2,500 pot-limit hold’em event as the first by a woman in an open-field WSOP tourney. In fact, when it comes to poker history, Richmond is probably better known not for her WSOP bracelet but for her involvement in that story in which Amarillo Slim Preston allegedly said he’d cut his own throat if a woman ever won the WSOP Main Event -- another story the accuracy of which sometimes gets skewed.

According to the story, at the 1973 WSOP Main Event, Richmond -- who according to this had to have been the first woman ever to play in the Main Event -- enjoyed the chip lead for a time, and during a break took the opportunity to tell Preston she intended to win the sucker. Preston (the reigning champ) responded by telling Richmond that if she were to win the tourney, she could cut his throat with a “dull knife.”

The exchange later got retold in such a way as to suggest Preston had threatened to cut his own throat, and that his threat referred to any woman winning the event (not just Richmond). Preston himself later would exploit the apocryphal version of the story, such as in 2000 when both Annie Duke and Kathy Liebert made deep runs in the Main Event, as recounted by McManus in Positively Fifth Street.

(EDIT [added 1:00 p.m.]: Actually there are other problems with this story, including the fact that Richmond didn't play in the 1973 event at all. Hat tip to Kevmath here, who points us to an article by Susie Isaacs that suggests Barbara Freer was the first woman to play in the WSOP ME in 1978.)

That was about all I recalled about Vera Richmond, too, other than the fact that she always gets described as a “brusque cosmetics heiress” in histories and on the web. There was, however, a reference to Richmond not too long ago on the Gamblers Book Shop podcast (episode 63, 3/19/2010).

There guest Linda Johnson -- the third woman to win a WSOP in an open event (1997, $1,500 Razz) -- noted how Richmond “never got credit for her win,” referring to what I mentioned earlier about how Enright tends to be more readily cited as the first woman to win an open WSOP event.

Host Howard Schwartz asked Johnson why that was the case. “Well, she wasn’t very popular,” answered Johnson. “She was kind of mean and nasty... spoke like a truck driver, and nobody liked her. And so when she won her event, she never got credit for it, which isn’t right because plenty of asshole men have won and they are in the record books.”

Kind of interesting -- and not that surprising -- how the story of the first woman to win a WSOP open event appears to involve ideas of traditional “gender roles” as well as (in the Amarillo Slim story) men showing some resistance to the idea of women playing and succeeding.

Times have changed, certainly. The general enthusiasm about Boeree’s win yesterday -- from both men and women -- is evidence of that.

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Blogger KepowOb said...

I wish I could cite something here, but it is from some radio shows I listened to on Canada's CBC Radio one. Also wish I could go into more detail.

The show I was listening to referred to how the brain develops while a fetus, and that depending on what hormones are most prominent during different stages of a pregnancy, it changes the way the mind thinks, leading it to have more 'male' or 'female' tendencies.

It was interesting because some men, who are very 'manly men' may have had a brief period of high estrogen at one point, which leads them to have one characteristic which is very out of character. Obviously the same can apply to women, the example they gave where a very 'womanly' woman has way above average hand-eye coordination, something that men generally dominate women in.

I'm curious if the traits that make a good poker player are more 'male' traits, that only certain women have, and the lack of female poker players could be related to this, rather than general gender biases and what not.

4/22/2010 9:02 AM  
Blogger BLAARGH! said...

I think all the women winning recently is due to BWOPs call to arms.

4/23/2010 4:18 PM  

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