With the <a href=/news/2007/09/womens-poker-spotlight-canseco-enters-tourney.htm>recent invasion</a> of men into women's-only poker events, the organizers of these events are scrambling to find a possible solution. Sponsor group LIPSTour is looking at ways to coordinate with hosting casinos to make these events possibly members only. LIPSTour founder Lupe Soto has been anticipating something like this happening, as there had already been a few scattered incidents in the past of men wanting to enter the ladies events. "Until now, we've been able to sidestep the discrimination issue by convincing the one or two men that they won't have a very happy or successful experience. The next step to ensure the integrity and professionalism that LIPSTour has injected in its events would be to invite the general membership only. Women enter ladies-only events because it's their choice. To take away from that now after building the women's market in poker would be so detrimental to women's poker. We have worked very hard to reach women who have been apprehensive to step one foot into a live card room."
While other ladies groups feel very strongly about protecting the women's-only tournaments they still have to consider the anti-discrimination laws. California law states that all business establishments must provide all services and advantages to customers without discriminating against age, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, disability, medical condition, or gender. Therefore, the Commerce Casino was unable to deny access to the tournament because of gender. Admitting the "membership only" players may not be in compliance with these laws. While anti-discrimination laws vary from state to state, they generally imply the same as California.
Crystal Osgood of the Ladies Poker Association is taking a different approach. "We want to protect the basic structure of the women's-only events, but we cannot deny any man admittance. This is very disturbing to the ladies who play, but we simply have our hands tied at this point by the anti-discrimination laws." One idea the organization is feeling out is to offer a women's-only tournament and possibly a "Battle of the Sexes Tournament". This structure would open the choice to women whether or not they want to play with men and at the same time offer men a tournament to flex their poker skills against a large population of poker-playing ladies. This idea seems very appealing on the surface but has much planning and marketing to be done before the tournaments could be implemented.
The recent California Ladies Championships were held at Oceans Eleven this past week. I asked a few men at the cash tables what their thoughts were on the subject of ladies-only events and men entering these events.
Jared of Oceanside, California had this to say, "I don't have a problem at all with women's-only events. What I do have a problem with, is the fact that there aren't men's-only events to make it an equal balance and opportunity. I was shocked when I read that Jose Canseco and five other men entered the ladies event at the Commerce. What man in his right mind would want to be known as the 'Ladies Champion'? The guy would never be able to show his face at a poker table again! Could you imagine the jokes and ribbing this guy would take over beers?" he said, laughing hysterically.
Mike, also of Oceanside chimed in, "I think ladies-only events like this one at Oceans Eleven is great! I've seen the apprehension in lady players at the cash tables, and if these events bring more women into poker I think that is fantastic! I'd much rather be playing with a beautiful lady than a table full of bearded smelly guys. Women smell so much better! I would NEVER enter a ladies only event though. I couldn't live it down with my friends; they can be VERY unforgiving!"
So overall if appears the hosting casinos and the ladies groups have a little work cut out for themselves, in how to protect the environment that the ladies deserve and have grown accustomed to, and how to keep equality in the balance. One suggestion that comes to mind is a simple one: a well-placed disclaimer at the registration window or desk informing players that the event playing that day is a "Women's-Only Event" in appearance. Depending on the state, a smaller version of the anti-discrimination law could be added at the bottom. This allows men to visualize what they would be up against in a women's-only event, and at the same time informs women that the potential exists for a man to enter according to that state's discrimination laws. This also goes without saying that it would let the hosting casinos off the hook for any legality that goes along with discriminating against any player due to their gender.
I sincerely hope that this situation comes under control or defines the existence of what is to happen to women's-only events. It would be such a defeat and step backwards for poker in general to limit the possibilities in which players feel comfortable to enter the arena of poker.