Women's Poker Spotlight, August 16, 2007: The Future of the Ladies Event
After the WSOP Poker Academy sessions for the WSOP Ladies Event, many attendees came out very disillusioned about why they were going to go play the WSOP Ladies Event at all. The Academy was designed to give ladies the encouragement, knowledge and confidence to attack the event and bring home the bracelet, as happened when Academy graduate Sally Boyer claimed the 2007 Ladies Event title. But instead it accomplished almost the opposite.
One unidentified Academy attendee was quoted as saying, "I can't believe that I paid for a women's poker camp where the speaker, Annie Duke, actually admitted to campaigning to rid the WSOP of a bracelet for the Ladies Event!" Annie serves on the advisory committee that meets with WSOP and Harrah's organizers to bring new ideas and a better playing atmosphere to the events every year. While some players felt they did come away from the poker camp with some valuable information to help them stay the course in the Ladies Event, they also obviously felt they had been left out in the cold in having a prominent spokesperson such as Annie Duke in the trenches fighting for more and continued support of women-only events.
Annie was contacted by well-known tournament director Lupe Soto for clarification of what really happened, as many women players on her forum and players at Soto's LIPSTour events had voiced harsh concerns about any possible negative influence Annie may have, regarding the Ladies Event, with Harrah's executives. Annie was very forthright in her explanation as to why she wanted to see the Ladies Event removed from the WSOP.
Annie believes the history of the Ladies Event show us that the creation of the event was meant to give wives, girlfriends and mothers something to do while their husbands or counterparts were playing in the pre-events of the WSOP. If this is true, her viewpoint could be that this is so demeaning to women that Annie herself is trying to make a change in the organization of how this event is perceived. Annie would have made the Ladies Event a championship in its own category, removing it from the points* or bracelet eligibility; she would have done this for the Seniors Event as well. But does this run contrary to the wishes of the majority of women players?
Jeffrey Pollack, Commissioner of the WSOP, wrote in his blog: "I want to put a nasty rumor to bed. Someone has been telling folks at the tournament that the Ladies bracelet event is going away. Absolutely wrong! As long as I'm Commissioner, and as long as women keep turning out in droves for this event like they did this year, the Ladies World Championship will be on our schedule — as a bracelet event and as a very special part of the WSOP."
Two-time WSOP Ladies Event bracelet winner Susie Isaacs was concerned when she heard the rumors of a cancellation of the Ladies and Seniors events in next year's WSOP. "It is both irresponsible and arrogant of someone to try to remove these two events from the WSOP," said Isaacs. "For what means and ends would this serve in the best interest of poker?" Susie also spoke to Jeffrey Pollack, and he once again confirmed that as long as he is the WSOP's Commissioner, there will be bracelet events for the ladies and the seniors. In return, Susie assured him she would be a participant as long as there was an event. Susie finished this year's Ladies Event in 35th place and has long been a supporter of women-only events.
Kathy Liebert, long a top-ranked woman poker player, had her own thoughts on the subject. "To remove the Ladies Event from the WSOP would cause more damage than good. Ladies' events often offer lower buy-ins that afford new players a comfort zone to play and learn the game. This in turn introduces the growing women's market to professional levels of play, such as the WSOP Ladies Event." Liebert even hosted a ladies' event a year ago for the Cherokee Casino in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Her brief summary: "Huge success!"
No doubt this subject will continue to be a controversial one. Women remain one of the fastest-growing market segments in poker, and catering to these players wishes will ensure their increasing participation.
[Editor's note: As of 2007, the Ladies and Seniors events are no longer points events for the WSOP Player of the Year race, but both remain historical bracelet championships.]