Achieving a goal is most often done through the execution of a smooth, organized, logical plan. Whether trying to induce change or lobby for tradition to prevail, cool and collected plans typically reign supreme. Those who choose an extreme action by which to achieve a goal are often met with attention but ultimate rejection. Thus is one of the big stories that emerged from the 2010 World Series of Poker Ladies No-Limit Hold’em Championship.
As far as the organization of the event itself, it was as smooth as any other event running at the 2010 WSOP. And women-centric groups like the High Heels Poker Tour were set up nicely as well, with a room full of vendors with products and services available to female poker players. It was also clear that many of the women playing in the ladies championship event were considered their plans well in advance, too, to which some of the clearly carefully assembled outfits could attest. Even the Harrah’s and WSOP staff were prepared, armed with knowledge that men were seeking to play in the event and confident that they could discourage them at the outset.
On the morning of Friday, June 11, as players began to gather for the noon start of the tournament, the men arrived. When they couldn’t be dissuaded from buying in to the event, the staff began its movement to the extreme. They began by searching the men, including their backpacks, to look for anything that might allow Harrah’s to eject them from the property. One such player did have a pill in his bag for which he could not produce a prescription, and reports surfaced that the police were called on a drug charge. Other male players were subject to the extensive searches in what they claimed felt like harassment. In addition, the men who played in the tournament were scrutinized, and some were claimed to have been verbally threatened to be banned from the WSOP for the rest of the year and possibly for life. That prompted at least one of the men to call the Nevada Gaming Commission to report the threats, and a representative visited the Rio to chat with at least one known WSOP official.
Some of the women did not respond kindly to men in the tournament field, and a few of them reportedly addressed rude and insulting comments to the men. The majority of the men were respectful (though some claim that entering the tournament in itself was disrespectful) to the women at the tables, and the one man who dressed in women’s clothing realized the offense some women took to his choice and changed clothes during the first break. But the women did not hesitate to show their collective displeasure, and spurred on by official announcements when men were eliminated from the tournament, many of the women applauded the bustouts of male players. Cheering another person’s demise is typically something frowned upon in sports or games, especially in poker.
Day 1 of the ladies championship tournament at the WSOP was marred by extremes on both sides of the aisle. Men entering the tournament to make a point was extreme, especially considering the fact that most of those men had never spoken publicly about the issue on prior occasions or made any other attempts to make a statement, through a petition or written pleas, for example. Harrah’s and the WSOP chose an extreme initial response to those actions. And the women who verbally assaulted the men and cheered when they were eliminated from the tournament went to their own extremes to make their point.
There was some real ugliness on the day that many proclaim - no matter how sexist it may sound - to be the “prettiest” day of the WSOP.
All of the incidents surrounding the ladies event, not to mention the tournament itself, spurred more than the usual annual opinion articles and blog posts. There were internet radio shows dedicated to the debate, and Twitter was used to throw points as well as insults back and forth. Most of the points made were relevant and thoughtful, though some merely insulted those with whom they disagreed.
Without getting each of the many arguments, it is safe to say that there are central points at the center of the controversy. Should a segregated event be one that awards a WSOP bracelet that is technically on equal footing with all other bracelets? Should men be allowed to play the event, and if so, does Harrah’s have any legal recourse for punishing those who do register? How can the issue be seriously addressed before the 2011 Series in a way that can provide a solution that will satisfy the most people?
One thing is clear; the issue must be tackled, and it must be done with clear heads, reasonable discussions, and legal, non-discriminatory means. Extreme actions and reactions accomplish little and tend to harm more than help.
On a brighter note, a hearty congratulations goes out to Vanessa Hellybuyck of France, who became the first French person to ever win the ladies championship and only the second French person in the last two years to win any WSOP bracelet. She was surrounded by friends and family when she defeated Sidsel Boesen to claim the title. The semi-pro player, who is also a web designer and pianist, is a member of Team Poker 770, and according to Bluff Magazine, she was ecstatic about the victory. “It is a dream come true,” she said. “This is my first World Series. It means the world to me. I can’t describe it.”
Also see: He Said