WSOP should axe antiquated Ladies Event

Annie Duke
Annie Duke has been outspoken in her wish to see the WSOP Ladies Event eliminated.

A woman needs a ladies-only poker tournament like a fish needs a bicycle.

Not as catchy as Gloria Steinem's version but when it comes to the World Series of Poker's antiquated Ladies Event, the sentiment is the same. Offering a ladies-only tournament is superfluous and offensive to women.

One of the biggest proponents of losing the ladies-only event is one of poker's most famous female players, Annie Duke. The top money-earning female in WSOP history has been outspoken in defending her position that poker is one of the only sports where women can compete on an equal playing field with men. Therefore, she says, it makes no sense to have a ladies tournament.

But what about encouraging women to participate in the game, counter those in favor of keeping the women's tournament in the mix while pointing to the existing gender imbalance in the poker room.

That, Duke reasons, isn't something that will be resolved by offering a ladies-only tournament.

"Women are brought up in our culture to be careful with money, not to be aggressive, not to study math and such," she told in 2005. "These are not traits that are very good to display if you wish to be a professional poker player... I think the numbers will even out though but will never come down to 50-50."

Even so, with so many risk-taking, aggressive, intelligent women these days there's no reason why the ladies can't belly up to the felt with the boys. Keeping an exclusive event for women in the mix in this day and age is a condescending pat on the head from the WSOP.

A perfect example of this is the prize package offered at this year's WSOP: before the ladies event - which drew 1,286 women - Series organizers issued a press release trumpeting an exclusive prize package awarded to the winner of the tournament.

In addition to the bracelet, the winner would receive, among other things, tickets to a WNBA game and a makeover from the creator of The Swan, a FOX TV beauty pageant with contestants that have been tummy-tucked and facelifted within an inch of their lives.

Um, I could double-check, but I don't remember the World Series issuing any press releases about free bottle for Rogaine or endorsement contracts for Viagra at any of the other tournaments. So why the extra prizes for the ladies? Because, although it exists and Jeffrey Pollack assures us that it won't go anywhere during his tenure as commissioner, the women's event isn't as important as other events at the World Series.

To say the ladies tournament isn't taken seriously is an understatement. Though top female pros were a rarity at the event, fourth-placed finisher Katja Thater was an exception. But after picking up a gold bracelet in Razz a week later, she admitted to that she's not a big fan of the gender-based events or some of the poor play she saw during the tournament.

"I don't like to play ladies only events," she said. "But PokerStars brought me in so I said, okay, let's rock it. Really, we played the first 10 hours, and I had no idea what we had done. It must have been something to do with poker, but I had no idea what. The second day we started playing poker."

Awarding a bracelet for an event where the quality of play is questionable decreases the value of a World Series of Poker bracelet. Like the casino employee tournament or the equally maligned seniors' event, a women's title isn't equal to that of a H.O.R.S.E or Omaha tournament.

The WSOP has a history of eliminating other tournaments that dilute the significance of the gold bracelet (Five-Card Draw, Chinese Poker or, ahem, the businessman's event, anyone?).

Ultimately, though, none of this really matters if the money-hungry 2007 World Series of Poker is any indication.

The ladies tournament grew by about 100 entrants from 2006 and has more than doubled historical playing fields. In other words, the women's event is a cash cow for the WSOP and, until it stops pulling in money, it isn't going anywhere.

Read the other side of the argument at No Nixing WSOP Ladies Event.



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