The scenario is simple. I’m looking to meet men, good-looking ones of course, but the dating scene is rough. I also have a bit of an interest in poker. I flip on the television and see players like Gus Hansen and Patrik Antonius, attractive specimens by most standards, and I decide that I must play more poker. I need to get into the casinos, win some satellites, and get into high-stakes tournament poker, because if I can only throw down $10,000 for a buy-in, I might have the chance to play at the same table with attractive men or possibly share a few words during a break.
Seems reasonable, right?
According to a statement made by the late Chip Reese and included in the forward to Gus Hansen’s 2008 book “Every Hand Revealed,” this would be a reasonable thought process. In fact, it has already happened. According to Reese, “Gus is not only a very talented poker player but also a popular one worldwide. His popularity among women has greatly increased female interest in the game of poker.”
It is entirely possible that more men feel the same way, which is why the ESPN cameras tend to focus on some of the better looking poker players at the World Series of Poker. Though Patrik Antonius couldn’t seem more disinterested in the game much of the time, he is a beautiful man. Though Gus Hansen often doesn’t even play the big buy-in tournaments anymore, he was named one of the 50 sexiest men alive by People Magazine in 2004. Poker magazines also tend to put these types of men on the covers of their magazines rather than some of the…let’s say…more unsavory looking characters.
But if men truly believe that this type of marketing will not only appeal to women but bring them to the poker tables, I believe they are sadly and sorely mistaken. Thus, this is another example of how little many men know about their female counterparts.
First, women are much smarter than to spend money on tournaments for the sake of being in close proximity to good-looking men. Women not only understand that the vast majority of men in any poker room or in any tournament are less than attractive, but they understand that the stakes at which they would need to play to be near men like Hansen and Antonius are prohibitive in most cases. Women tend to be more frugal and use more common sense with their funds, so the only ones who will play high-stakes poker are those who are experienced poker players, those who have dedicated a particular amount of time and effort to a game for which they are passionate about and play for the sake of the game itself, not who they might sit next to at the table.
Second, most of the women who are looking to meet the rich, handsome players do it without touching a poker chip. They can stand on the rail of a poker tournament, and if their purpose is to attract the attention of players, they dress provocatively or employ some other wily tactics to do so. Poker groupies can be found at any tournament, but most of them never play a hand of poker.
Third, those who know anything about the biggest names in poker also know certain facts about them. Most of the attractive ones - Antonius for example - are married. And others have a reputation for, well, using women or even employing the services of those who require payment in advance. This isn’t to say that there are not some attractive, single men in the poker industry, but the numbers are low.
What will bring more women to poker? Treating them as if they’re shallow and superficial certainly won’t do it. But emphasizing the fact that gender doesn’t matter at the poker table has the best chance. No amount of physical strength is required to play poker, which means that men and women have an equal chance of winning a particular pot or a tournament title; the only thing separating the two is the amount of poker knowledge and skill, along with the luck factor. More women will win tournaments if they play in larger numbers.
Should the men who run the poker tournaments and companies that sponsor them choose to market to women in an intelligent way and focus on the equality of the game itself, they may find themselves with more female players. But by playing to the lowest common denominator, as do the companies that advertise using women in bikinis and lingerie, many of whom are Playboy models or even porn stars, companies do more to alienate the vast majority of women from the game. Appealing to the masses of women who could not only bring money to the game but put a more realistic face on it is the key.
While I hesitated to so harshly disagree with Reese posthumously, it needed to be said that his statement and the corresponding thought process is not only insulting to women but will have the opposite effect of its intention. Women will play poker in greater numbers if the poker industry appeals to their strengths, not their implied weaknesses.
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