In the almost gender-less world of online poker I’ve acquired an aggressive image which many top-tier regulars correctly adjust to with thin calls and light 3-bets. However, for me live poker is a totally different beast. To give you a taste of this, recently a man folded Ace-King face-up in the big blind to my late position 10 big blind shove saying he knew he was beat. Needless to say, I didn’t show my Ace-Deuce.
I took a bit of heat in the 2+2’s “That’s What She Said” ladies forum for a thread I started about how to take advantage of being a woman poker player. In the thread, I said that:
“As for taking advantage of [other player’s] perceptions, often when I sit down at a table, some dude will start explaining a hand to me. If I think it is +EV I will act a bit ditzy (blonde hair ftw), and unable to get whatever excruciatingly obvious point he is trying to make. This usually sparks a lot of dudes trying to explain it to me, and at this point I can easily deduce the skill level of most of the players at the table. I have also reinforced their opinion that I am likely to be a literal player, as well as having made the table chatty which could benefit me even further down the road.”
Some people (mostly women) thought it was unethical to act at a live poker table, which I adamantly disagree with. I think that pretty much anything that happens at the table is all part of the game (short of assaulting people and angle-shooting which violate the rules of the game). The same people argued that it perpetuated a negative view of women, which I also disagree with.
For one thing, why is one woman supposed to be representative of all women poker players when the same would not be true for a man? I think all but the most sexist men in the world are able to recognize a good player regardless of gender. Furthermore, I am getting an edge from the players having stereo-typed me which I think is a profitable level and as fair as their assumptions of me in the first place. Perceptions and stereotypes are an inevitable part of life, let alone of poker, and ignoring them will not make them go away.
Also, what is the alternative to “playing dumb” when I sit down at the table and a mega-strategy discussion is going on and men begin explaining basic concepts to me? Is it to correct the other players when they miscalculate outs or odds-- thus improving their poker prowess? Surely, that cannot be considered a better option —and in fact discussing correct strategy at the tables is one of my biggest pet peeves.
If any acting is “unethical” then logically it follows that anything short of sitting down at the table and saying “I am a pro player, coach, make training videos, have edited poker books, and am married to a best-selling poker author, blah blah blah” would be ethically unacceptable. Why, in a game that is all about imperfect information would it only be considered ethical to play my hand face-up?
Recently, I was playing in a live tournament when an older gentleman asked me what I did for a living. Usually, my response is to give something that offers a partial truth, such as “I’m a writer/editor.” But I was caught off guard and answered that I played poker professionally. I immediately regretted my answer as the whole table began asking a bunch of rapid-fire questions like “What’s your biggest score?” “Have you been on TV?” “Who sponsors you?” and on and on. I realized that in just answering the question with one hundred percent truth it had basically come out as a brag that broke rapport with the whole table, even though that was not my intent at all.
From that moment on, the players put me on a wider range and severely limited my ability to take a pot down with a raise preflop. The players, though curious and well-intentioned, kept asking me questions even when I was in the middle of a hand. I felt like I had almost insulted everyone and implied that I was better than them just by outing myself as a pro, and suddenly the tables had turned and I was the one that felt stupid.
A couple of the naysayers that were offended by my above post in the forum complained that our goal should be to get women to be respected in poker. I find this amusing since I think the way to have women respected is to stop pretending that there are no gender stereotypes in poker and instead find ways to profit from being a minority. (As an aside, being respected at a random table is not of any importance to me and I find it an odd goal for others to strive for—being underestimated is a lot like flopping a disguised set.)
The only way to level the gender divide in poker is to have every player use every tool they have in their arsenal in order to win within the confines of the rules of the game; which, last time I checked, didn’t include a penalty for batting your eyelashes.