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One Time, Dealer: Women In Poker - Demanding A Seat At The Table

by Dealer Chick |  Published: Feb 12, 2020

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Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be a dealer on the circuit grind? Do you have a question about behavior, etiquette, or anything else related to running a poker game? Do you want to know what dealers really think about while they’re pitching cards? What does it take to become a dealer? How should you treat dealers? Are dealers people, too?

Send your questions for The Dealer Chick (TDC) to editor@cardplayer.com, and read on for more advice, adventures, and real talk about life on the road for a traveling poker dealer.


Women in Poker: Demanding a Seat at the Table

Hi Dealer Chick,

What’s up with all these ladies tournaments not letting men play unless we pay huge entry fees? If we shut them out of our tournaments, there would be hell to pay! Fair is fair.

Signed,

Equal Rights for All, Right?


Dear Wannabe Poker Activist,

My ex-husband once said to me, “I don’t know why all you women and minorities get so worked up. If you just worked harder, you’d be successful. You don’t need special treatment. It’s not fair.” After I got over my shock, I replied, “Spoken like a white male.” We divorced not long after. Point being, if you’ve never had to fight for your seat at the table, you don’t understand why other groups of people go to extremes to be represented.

There was a time when women comprised about one percent of the field of poker players. Most tournament directors would say that that number is probably closer to 10 percent currently. One could eyeball the circuit and agree. At any given time, there’s an average of one woman per table.

The number of players for the 2019 World Series of Poker main event totaled 8,569; only 350 of which were women. In the one poker event that every grinder dreams of taking down, only 4.1 percent of the field were women. That’s an event with a pricey buy-in, but the numbers are still telling. Women are not even close to equally represented.

In 2003, Chris Moneymaker proved that any man could win the battle on poker’s largest stage and consequently caused a poker boom. An accountant from Tennessee became the main event champion off an $86 satellite entry, taking down a $2.5 million prize for his efforts. Suddenly, men who’d never played the game were trading cash for poker chips and learning to make continuation bets as they dreamed about becoming the next big pro. Those who weren’t old enough to hone their skills on the felt in person were cashing in online.

In 1995, Barbara Enright was the first and so far only woman to crack the final table proving that a woman could get damn close, too. But the ladies have yet to earn the top prize. Why? Is it because they’re not good enough? According to Moneymaker himself, the answer is no.

In a recent interview with Chris Read, a representative for Women’s Poker Association, Moneymaker said, “I think women are much better poker players than men. You’re much more intuitive, you don’t let your egos get in the way. Honestly, the women that I’ve played with at the highest levels are always better than the guys. You just don’t have the numbers. As you can see if you go to any cardroom anytime, it used to be about one percent of the field were women and now, there’s a woman at every single table just about. Now granted, it’s only one or two, but it’s a growing sport. It’s one of our biggest growing markets and I kind of hate it because they are tough, but it’s good to see them at the tables.”

The Women’s Poker Association is a group of women volunteers founded by Lupe Soto with a mission of encouraging female players to join the sport. Ruth Hall, a board member for the WPA and poker influencer out of Austin, Texas, comments during an interview with Everyday Profiles, an online poker interviewing forum, on why she feels women need an exclusive venue in the form of ladies only tournaments.

“What I find in poker, is that in the beginning—when women are expanding and coming into the casinos from a home league or from an online league—they have to walk into the casino and sit down at a poker table, there’s a level of comfort for women to sit down with other women, verses a woman sitting down with men,” Hall explained. “Far be it that there’s a difference in skill level because poker is one of those non-gender games. But, I think there’s a level of comfort for the female to sit down with other women, other sisters, where they feel that they are welcomed. I think that once they get that sense of welcoming, and they find that sisterhood, then they can evolve and move on to the open events with the men. I’m a perfect example of that.”

Giving women the opportunity to play without men at the table isn’t intended to slight anyone, but rather to pave the way for ladies to find their seat at the table. And while women are no longer scoffed at for wanting to play a “man’s sport,” the men are catered to in ways that women are not.

If you disagree, go to any casino or social club and count the number of male cocktail servers or massage therapists. Sure, there was the recent shirtless dealer fiasco at the Battle of Malta, but that’s an example of someone in a corner office thinking they know what female poker players want. To be fair, I don’t know any serious male poker competitors who want that kind of distraction with hundreds of thousands (sometimes millions) of dollars on the line either.

Since the industry has yet to figure out how to draw more women in, the ladies have taken it upon themselves to cultivate their own numbers. Groups like WPA and LIPS (Ladies International Poker Series) hold ladies-only tournaments to encourage new female players to get in the game. Circuit stops for every major poker tour host similar tournaments to accommodate them. During a 12-day circuit stop, most venues offer one ladies-only tournament.

And yes, a man is going to have to pay ten times the going rate to enter it. Do the ladies hate men? Not even a little. But if a man is going to put on a dress and make a mockery of women fighting for their seat at the table, it’s gonna cost him.

Men, next time you find yourself sitting next to the only woman at the poker table, instead of flirting with her, or degrading her for daring to be there, or trying to teach her how to play, perhaps you could just welcome her to the felt? Maybe if more men did that, ladies-only tournaments would be a fun option instead of a necessity. We may be harder to beat for some, but at least we usually smell better. ♠