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Player Behavior: Drawing More Women To Poker

by Greg Raymer |  Published: Feb 24, 2021


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In part one of this series, I talked about how criticizing another player at the table is bad form. Of course, there is a lot more to it than just that if you wish to be a solid citizen at the table. After soliciting input about this subject on social media, some of the best responses had to do with behavior towards women. I have seen plenty of poor behavior directed at female players over the years, and I have no doubt that such behavior is part of the reason there are still so few female poker players, let alone professionals.

I want to credit Daiva Byrne, as much of what is written below is primarily based upon her input. One thing you should notice is that many of her suggestions are also true regarding how men (and women) should behave towards all players, regardless of gender.

Men, do not comment on a woman’s appearance. It is one thing to say, “Nice dress, is that new?” It is quite another to say, “Hot dress, it shows off your curves.” Avoid asking intrusive personal questions, such as, “Do you have a husband/boyfriend, do you have kids, or where do you work?” Don’t offer to buy her a drink, unless you are buying drinks for the table. Don’t call a woman by a pet name. If you don’t know her name, feel free to ask her what she likes to be called, same as you would a man. But don’t just refer to her as “babe,” “honey,” “sweetie-pie,” or anything like that.

For the most part, we can summarize all these behaviors as being a combination of unwanted flirtation and demeaning comments. Just like men don’t come to the poker room to find a date, neither do women. It is highly likely they’re not interested in finding love at the table, regardless of how well you play, how good you look, or any other qualities you have.

One thing women hate is being talked down to. This is something they deal with constantly, as it is very common, not just in poker, for men to feel like they can teach women. I have seen men approach women at the golf course driving range to offer unsolicited swing advice. And I have laughed at times, since the guy can’t break 100, and the woman he’s trying to coach is a scratch golfer. Men too often assume they know more than a woman. At least half the time, they are completely wrong.

Even if you’re not talking directly to a woman, and even if no women are at the table, you should avoid all comments that are sexist, misogynistic, or demeaning to women. You should also avoid comments that are racist or discriminatory to any group. Even when your table is all guys, the lady at the next table can probably hear you. This not only makes it less comfortable for her to be there, but also more likely she won’t come back.

And don’t just sit back and do nothing if you see another man talking like this at the table, especially if they are belittling or being verbally abusive to a woman. Speak up, and ask them to stop. If you’re not comfortable getting directly involved, ask the dealer to call the floor. Get management involved. Any competent manager wants to stop behavior like this. This is exactly the kind of thing that hurts their bottom line.

Speaking proactively, what should you do? Be friendly, polite, and inclusive. Talk about appropriate subjects. If somebody is new to the game, be helpful. Ask first if they want your help, and only then explain whatever is needed. Let new players know about options, such as buying the button, asking the dealer to signal for a server, how to use comps, etc. If they’re uncertain about their action, politely explain their options.

For the true beginner, when facing a bet and looking unsure, I might say, “You can fold, call that bet of $10, or raise anything from $20 to all-in.” Snarling at her to “quit slowing down the game” will not help. It will just add to the pressure she is feeling as a novice player. Again, it will make the experience less pleasant, and she will be less likely to return. The goal is to bring more women to the game, not drive away those that do play.

Be polite and kind. Treat her like you would your own daughter, or mother, or grandmother. Treat her like you would expect another man to treat these women in your life. At the table, female players have to deal with the same bad behaviors as the men, and then more on top of that. If we want to grow the game, we must strive to always act our best, to opponents of either gender. Make everyone feel included, help everyone enjoy themselves.

Most players are there for the entertainment, the mental challenge, and the camaraderie. Make sure they get that, and they will be back, win or lose. If you’re playing for fun, make it fun for everyone, and you will also have more fun. If you’re playing for money, it is even more important to make it fun for everyone, because that will help you win even more.

Have fun, and play smart! ♠

Greg Raymer is the 2004 World Series of Poker main event champion, winner of numerous major titles, and has more than $7 million in earnings. He recently authored FossilMan’s Winning Tournament Strategies, available from D&B Publishing, Amazon, and other retailers. He is sponsored by Blue Shark Optics, YouStake, and ShareMyPair. To contact Greg please tweet @FossilMan or visit his website.