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The Other Side of the Felt, Vol. 3: The Ladies-Only Tournament Debate

The Other Side of the Felt, Vol. 3: The Ladies-Only Tournament Debate 0001

According to a recent online poll, 40% of those that responded feel that "ladies only" tournaments are not good for poker. I myself have flip-flopped on the issue as many times as a presidential candidate.

My current stance on the subject is that it brings more players into the game that might never play unless these events existed, and what is wrong with that? I used to look forward to the WSOP Ladies Event because more than half the field was players I had either never seen before or would only see once a year. Back then, it seemed like the same 200 players for 40 straight days, and the ladies tournament on Mother's Day was a nice break.

Lupe Soto is the founder the LIPSTour and had this to say: "Ladies events are designed to bring women into the poker arena in a comfortable, friendly, yet competitive environment. Through these venues a woman can learn the game, hone her skills and move on to open events with confidence. Even though we have made great strides in the game, it is not unusual to be one of a handful of women in a mostly male poker room. We would like to change that, and in some areas, we have succeeded." Lupe has also just broken ground with the Women in Poker Hall of Fame at Binion's. The first four inductees were Linda Johnson, Barbara Enright, Susie Issacs, and Marsha Waggoner. All four have played a huge role in women feeling comfortable enough to enter what is considered a male dominated "sport".

The biggest criticism of ladies events is discrimination. Many ask why there are women's-only events and not events for just men, or for one race, or religion. Apparently the state of California feels the same way, as they have mandated that casinos allow men to play in ladies-only events, and even that calling them "ladies only" may in fact be unlawful under the Unruh Civil Rights Act. The truth is that men have played in ladies-only events as far back as 1996, when players dressed in drag to play a ladies event at Bay 101 in San Jose. Among the crossdressers were WSOP bracelet holder Perry Friedman and two-time WPT champion Phil Gordon. The most famous player to attempt to win a ladies-only title has to be ultra-macho former baseball star Jose Canseco, who attempted that recently at Commerce.

Despite the criticism, the World Poker Tour has decided to start its own ladies series. Kat Kowal is the Executive Vice President of WPT Studios and she sees the value of ladies events. Said Kowal: "Women are such a major force in poker — they account for about 40% of all online players, yet they are only representing a small portion of the big events in land-based casinos. Ladies events provide opportunities for those amateur and semi-pro women who want to take their game to the next level or test their skills in a tournament environment without having to pay a costly five-figure buy-in. Ladies events support and perpetuate the evolution of the sport and recognition of the women who play." Women's tournaments on TV seem to be popular also as the World Poker Tour Ladies Night continues to be the highest rated show every year.

The bracelet issue is another complaint I have heard. There is a large group of players that feel that the WSOP should not award bracelets to non-open events like the ladies, employees or seniors event. These days there are so many bracelets given away, what is the difference if there is another given away for a ladies event that has over 1,000 players? It is still a major accomplishment deserving of a bracelet. If having ladies events increases the percentage of women playing up to 20%, that would be millions of new players in the game, not to mention that poker rooms around the world would not only look better, but definitely smell better, too. Women could be the next big poker explosion to keep the momentum going.

My biggest mystification is the fact that women are not winning more events. If 5% of women play in majors why don't they win 5% of the major tournaments? I think that women winning major televised tournaments, like Annette Obrestad has done at WSOP-Europe, would be huge for the poker boom as well. So step it up, ladies, we are all counting on you!

For those interested in supporting ladies poker, here are some upcoming events:

LIPSTour

Sun, Feb 10th, 10:00 am PST

Canterbury Park Racetrack & Card Club - Shakopee, MN

$100 + $25 (No Rebuys)

Wed, Feb 13th, 12:00 am PST

Sunshine Players Group Cruise - Mexican Riviera

$100 + $25 (No Rebuys)

Sat, Feb 16th, 11:00 am PST

The Orleans Hotel & Casino - Las Vegas, NV

$150 + $25 (No Rebuys)

Sun, Feb 24th, 10:00 am PST

Canterbury Park Racetrack & Card Club - Shakopee, MN

$100 + $25 (No Rebuys)

Sun, Mar 2nd, 2:15 pm

The Bicycle Casino - Bell Gardens, CA

$100 + $25 (No Rebuys)

Sun, Mar 9th, 10:00 am PST

Canterbury Park Racetrack & Card Club - Shakopee, MN

$100 + $25 (No Rebuys)

Sat, Mar 15th, 11:00 am PST

The Orleans Hotel & Casino - Las Vegas, NV

$150 + $25 (No Rebuys)

Sun, Mar 16th, 9:00 am

Bay 101 - San Jose, CA

$300 + $30 (No Rebuys)

In association with World Poker Tour Ladies (WPTL)

Sun, Mar 30th, 10:00 am PST

Canterbury Park Racetrack & Card Club - Shakopee, MN

$100 + $25 (No Rebuys)

World Poker Tour Ladies

Sun, Mar 16th, 9:00 am PST

Bay 101 - San Jose, CA

$300 + $30 (No Rebuys)

In association with Ladies International Poker Series (LIPS)

Sun, Mar 29th

Foxwoods Resorts and Casino - Mashantucket, CT

$530 + $70 (No Rebuys)

Sun, April 13-14th and April 25th Televised Final Table

WPT Ladies Championship

Bellagio - Las Vegas, NV

$1,500 + $90 (No Rebuys)

See you at the final table!

Matt

Matt Savage is one of the world's most recognized poker tournament directors, and has been involved with over 350 televised events including the World Series of Poker, World Poker Tour, and many others. Matt is a founder of the Tournament Directors Association, the first inductee into the Poker Managers Hall of Fame, and actor in the movie Lucky You. If you have questions about any rulings please send them to AskTheBoard@PokerTDA.com or check out Matt's website at SavageTournaments.com.

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