Life on the felt can be tough, especially on women. The growth of women's poker has encouraged an atmosphere of competition between the sexes, but it has also, on occasions, can produce disrespectful and occasionally abusive behavior. There are still some men, and even though I hate to admit it, some women, who are willing to berate another player for what they deem bad play. Because many women are new to poker and more prone intimidation, they are often on the other end of this criticism.
To keep the game enjoyable, women need to protect themselves at the tables. There are several ways to accomplish this and gain respect as a player with out losing one's cool or running from the room, vowing to never play poker in public again. First is to create unspoken boundaries. You don't have to approach a table and state what your boundaries are. The boundaries will be understood by the way you hold yourself and conduct yourself when you are at the table. If you show respect for yourself the others will follow suit at the outset. This is not to say to be egotistical or prideful but be modest and confident in your capabilities. Let everyone at the table know you are there for the same reasons they are and that you have the same right to be there.
Poker is a sport that does not require strength but it does require thick skin. One doesn't need muscles or any particular physical strength to play, but one must be able to take the beats and be able to take the "smack" that flies around the table. Look at Daniel Negreanu. Daniel talks smack. I love to watch the chitter-chatter and good-natured back-and-forth between him and the other players. You can take him quite seriously in his message, and yet it is not done in a superior manner. There are many well-known players, on the other hand, who can be outright insulting and vicious. Seeing the attention they get from the media gives newer players and even some seasoned players the idea that this behavior is acceptable.
If the banter is becoming uncomfortable and can no longer be taken lightly, calmly tell the person they are out of line. Calmly is the operative word here. Look them directly in the eye and say, with no inflection whatsoever in your voice: "You are out of line." Don't let anger you feel get the better of you. If you can keep your voice neutral there is not much the other person can do except stop the offensive behavior.
Of course, there are always players who will ignore you and press the issue. Keep that same calm voice and let them know if they have something constructive to add to your game to please talk to you after the game is over. You would love to learn more about poker from other players' perspectives. Even the diehards give up at this point. Everyone loves to have their opinions heard. By suggesting that you would take their advice puts you both in a better light and makes for a better game. Don't just tell them you will talk to you after the game. Actually talk to them. After all, you never know… you might just learn something new.
If the abuse still continues, ask the dealer to intervene or get the tournament director or poker room manager; let them deal with the insulting player. There are a lot of poker rooms out there and none want the reputation of allowing that type of behavior to continue.
Finally, be confident in your skills. Know the game; know the rules; know that you deserve to sit at a poker table and are more than deserving to win. There is nothing better than to be led to a full table with a rack of chips and to see the eyes of those who think that women are weak poker players light up, then to see those same eyes cloud over as you clean up. Doing so calmly and rationally does more than stop the abuse. It gains respect from the insulting player and from the other players as well. Others will look at you differently as a person and a poker player.