Monday, June 09, 2008

Man tries to play WSOP ladies event

BARGE participant Alan Jaffrey attempted to play the ladies event in drag. Here's what he wrote about it:

I showed up at 11:30, met Patti, Sabyl, and a couple of friends at the coffee shop, borrowed Patti's hat, had them adjust my necklace andapply makeup, posed for photos with supportive and enthusiastic ladies at a couple of nearby tables who were also playing that afternoon, walked to the Amazon room, and promptly got pulled aside and kicked out by Jeffrey Pollack, Commissioner of the World Series of Poker. I'm honestly surprised by this - as I told Jeff, I've never heard of anyone being denied entry to a poker tournament, including ladies events, on the basis of sex. He claims that "in the 31-year history ofthe World Series of Poker ladies event, no man has ever played."

I asked if he was not concerned about the sex discrimination aspects ofthis decision. "Not at all. Men are not a protected class." He talked about how they treat this event very seriously - "as do I, sir" - and about the importance of protecting "the integrity of the game." (Thought but not said: "Sir, judging from recent decisions byHarrah's, I have far more concern about the integrity of the game thanyou do!) He asked if I could understand his point of view. "I don't accept it, and I don't believe it's right. But you're the boss, and if you say I can't play, then I can't play." I'm disappointed and annoyed that I can't play, since I expected tohave more fun in this event than perhaps any other in the WSOP, and I'd really love to win the bracelet. C'est la vie.

I don't know whether or not they have the legal right to discriminate in this way, but I'm not going to make a big fuss. I don't care enough to fight it, and I have too much to lose to risk Harrah's blacklisting me and preventing me from playing future WSOP events. Maybe I'll have better luck in the WSOP Negro World Championship. Oh, wait, they don't have that. They wouldn't even dream of running that. Hmmmmm. At least I got a nice outfit out of the experience. Photos later.

Nolan Dalla chipped in his always well-thought out reasoning:

While I understand the spirit which motivated Alan to play in the Ladies Poker World Championship, I disagree strongly with his assumptions and conclusions. The WSOP feared that many men might "storm the castle" in this event. There were even fears that Phil Ivey might come in drag and crash the tournament (Note: He has a $2 million side bet that he will win a gold bracelet this year and has vowed to play in as many events as possible). No man (to my knowledge) has ever played in the Ladies event. Allowing a male to play in this event potentially opens up the floodgates which, in my view, would destroy the concept of a LADIES World Poker Championship.

Here's the scenario: One man plays this year. Twenty play next year (citing precedent was already established). Then, in 2010 a few hundred show up. Four years later, the Ladies event is no more. Argue all you want about equality of the sexes and the absurdity of offering special events for women, but the bottom line is:

(1) These events are immensely popular. Women enjoy them. So long as HET remains in business to profit, they are serving a market demand.

(2) This event brings many new players to the game. This point is irrefutable. I work 6-8 of these events a year and they are packed with new faces. After they bust, they gravitate to live games and other tournaments. This tournament is a terrific feeder for the entire WSOP.

(3) Finally, this tournament has been around for 31 years and meets the WSOP's goal of trying to diversify its games and composition to the greatest extent possible.

Alan is justified in being disappointed he could not play. On a personal note, I think most ladies would have welcomed him in the tournament. But the key point is -- he could have been the lynch-pin that ultimately destroys the Ladies World Poker Championship and for that reason I am in complete support of Harrah's decision.

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