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Woman To Risk Disqualification Playing World Series Of Poker Disguised As A Man

Author Of Book On 'Gender Bias' In Poker Will Gamble With Buy-In


The Rio, home to the WSOPA poker pro is willing to risk being kicked out of the most prestigious poker tournament in the world in order to promote her new book.

An upcoming book entitled Black Widow Poker features the experiences of a West Coast poker player with the pen name Sia Layta. She plans to head to the upcoming World Series of Poker in Las Vegas this summer to play publicly during the book launch. Layta said she will enter July’s $10,000 buy-in main event and play disguised as a man. The book was written to explore the “gender bias” in the poker world that she says keeps women from playing the game.

Layta said women in poker encounter bullying, sometimes arising to the level where it makes it so “women aren’t able to play poker the way men are.” She also cited a strategy example, saying that most women are better off slow playing their hands in order to get action from men. “It’s really hard to win a tournament when you have to limp in,” she said. Her book is also part strategy guide.

A woman has never won the WSOP main event, a tournament that has been running for more than 40 years. Only one woman, Barbara Enright in 1995, has made the final table. Just 272 out of the 6,949 players (four percent) in last year’s main event were women.

Layta, who has played poker for more than a decade, told Card Player in an interview that she plans to remove her disguise, which will include fake facial hair and take about 30 minutes to assemble before sitting at the table, should she make it far enough to at least get her money back. She declined to give her real name. Still, her plans likely will run afoul of the rule book at poker’s richest tournament festival. It could prove costly.

Back in 2008, poker pro Phil Laak played day 1 of the tournament, which runs for over a week at the Rio hotel and casino, with a latex mask on in order to disguise himself as an older man. The costume ultimately wasn’t very convincing and people soon knew it was Laak, but the incident raised eyebrows and led to a rule in order to protect the integrity of the event.

The WSOP carries the rule to this day.

“Participants may not cover or conceal their facial identity,” reads the WSOP rule. “Tournament officials must be able to distinguish the identity of each participant at all times and may instruct participants to remove any material that inhibits their identification or is a distraction to other participants or tournament officials. Participants may wear sunglasses and sweat shirts with hoods, but may be asked to remove them if tournament officials cannot identify them.”

According to WSOP spokesperson Seth Palansky, anyone trying to disguise their identity in the tournament could be disqualified and forfeit their $10,000 entry fee. “My advice is that she take her idea to another event without that rule,” Palansky said of Layta’s plan.

Despite the risk involved if caught, Layta has no plans to scrap the idea.

“We’ve investigated this and [the rule] seems to apply to players trying to put a ‘pro’ in their seat — or some other fraudulent move,” a spokesperson for her book launch told Card Player. “In Sia’s case, she will be playing as herself, but the table will only know her (visually) as a man. There are also many new considerations now that people ‘in transition’ have become common. In any case, she will go forward with playing.”

The stakes are high, especially considering Layta wants to make the final table and improve how women are viewed at the card table. An ejection from the tournament would mean she misses out on a chance to win a first-place prize that will likely be north of $8 million. Her book recounts experiences she’s already had playing “dozens” of poker tournaments across the country disguised as a man.

Layta hopes that her book, but more broadly a changing culture in America regarding gender equality, will help women find more equal footing in the industry. She thinks that eventually “women are going to start flowing to poker.”

Tags: Poker Tournaments,   WSOP,   Main Event,   Rio,   Las Vegas,   Gender