Pick On Someone Your Own Size
Saturday, 30 June 2012
THIS THREAD IS NOW CLOSED FOR COMMENTS.
VC: I’ve gone through this post and taken out the name of the guy (thanks ASUscott for your comment below). I’ll put another post up in a minute.
So I’ve got involved in my second row of the World Series, this time with a man - but let me tell you, he doesn’t have the balls of those hookers in the Rio bar. Unfortunately, he does still have XY chromosomes and some sort of scrotal sack; hence the row.
I didn’t use to play in women-only poker events, or really approve of them - but I’ve written several times about why I changed my mind, so I won’t go into that again. But the WSOP ladies’ event was always an exception anyway. It’s got a long and sweet history, it’s been running here since before Chris Moneymaker and before the Rio, before the poker revolution and serious women players; it’s still peopled with the mothers and wives and women in novelty poker earrings that used to make up the entire field (back when it used to run on Mothers’ Day, in the days when you’d see 0 women in the other big events, whereas these days you see… ooh, often as many as five) and it’s just… it’s just lovely. There are now 61 events in the World Series of Poker, not counting second-chances and satellites and deep stacks and God knows what else; I love it that this unique, lively, sociable, light-hearted novelty event still survives. It’s one of the few things from the old days that does.
But if certain people had their way, it wouldn’t survive. I’m talking about the ten or fifteen… shall we call them wankers?... who have considered it clever, in the last two or three years, to insist on playing this tournament despite not being women. Of course men can’t be BANNED from this event, that would be against the law. It can only run as a women-only event by the grace and good manners of men, who choose not to buy in because that would spoil something nice - in just the same way that any of us choose to say thank you to a dealer or a waiter, or choose not to barge past another person to get through a door, which is nothing to do with the law and everything to do with being a kind and pleasant human being.
Unfortunately, not everybody has grace or good manners. When I first heard, a few years ago, that men had started playing the tournament, I didn’t hugely care. I just thought they were idiots. I didn’t really think it was awful until I heard about an old lady who’d been bought into the tournament as a present by her son, who’d had her aces cracked by a man in drag and (as she walked away from the tournament) wiped away tears - because she felt humiliated and insulted, and because she’d been looking forward to a friendly day of girls’ poker and it hadn’t happened, and the treat had turned into something sour and disappointing. It wasn’t the defeat, it was the deceit of having looked forward to a day out that wasn’t what it promised to be.
I felt a fraction of what that old lady must have felt, today, when (during level seven of the tournament, after a field of 936 players had been whittled down to 250) a lad moved to our table.
He was young, sallow and hooded. He was the first person to join our table without smiling or saying hello. The mood changed immediately. It had been so cheery, everyone gossiping and laughing and swapping stories - the one tournament where, even if you get knocked out, the money feels well spent on a fun day. It was relaxed and giggly. At one point, when the air conditioning got even more ridiculously cold than usual, I put a pair of tights on at the table. I can TOTALLY see why women who don’t otherwise play poker, who dislike the aggressive mood or fear the wasted expense, feel safe and welcome and pleased to be in this one. But when this kid sat down, the mood changed. The sorority was broken. The fun stopped. The older ones on the table looked particularly sad. One of them asked whether he’d told his mother he was playing this tournament, and whether she had anything to say about it. He ignored the question.
It’s not like the women don’t know these guys play the tournament because it’s a soft field - it’s like saying “Hi, I think you’re stupid and I’m going to take advantage of you.” I mean, of COURSE it’s a soft field. That’s the whole point: those women who are unfamiliar with poker, or nervous of it, can fit in here and not feel stupid. If all men decided to ignore the request to let ladies play alone, and they all bought in “because it’s a soft field”, then there’d be thousands of men in the tournament, the shyer ladies would stop playing it, and it would be just another male-dominated $1000-$1500 No Limit Holdem crapshoot like the FIFTEEN others in the schedule. And then it would be axed because they don’t need sixteen. Well done everybody.
Do you understand this, men who play in this tournament? Do you understand what happens, if everybody thinks like you do? Or did it never cross your mind?
Make no mistake: the guys who sit down in this tournament are the same sort of people who’d barge past old folk in a queue, or slide their cars into disabled parking spaces. When they think they’ve spotted weakness, their minds leap immediately to their own personal gain. Which is a pretty scummy way to think, even if they don’t know they’re thinking it. They’re not just insulting the women who play, but the men who are decent enough not to. They must see those men’s good manners as weakness as well. After all, if they were really trying to make a political point about the tournament, they would protest outside - not join it.
“Why are you playing this tournament?” I asked him.
“Why shouldn’t I?” he said. “It’s not illegal.”
“But it’s a ladies’ tournament”, I said. “It’s a nice thing. Men gatecrashing it makes it less nice. Why would you do that?”
“Yeah but, yeah but”, whined the guy, like Vicky Pollard in a hoodie, “why should my friend be allowed to play it when I can’t, just because she’s a girl?”
“She can use the ladies’ restroom as well”, I said. “Do you want to use that too? Do you think it’s unfair that girls wee together and you’re not meant to go in? Do you want to go in, to prove a point?”
“That’s not the same”, sniffed the guy. “This is discriminatory.”
“Seriously?” I said. “You think men are discriminated against in this world? In poker? You think a few ladies turning up with sparkly handbags and aces for earrings, to play a game by themselves on the one day in two months when it isn’t a 20-1 male-female ratio in here, means that men are suffering and you need to take a stand?”
“Oh stop getting your panties in a twist”, said the little gentleman. Honestly, with lines like that it’s amazing he was free to play a poker tournament at all, rather than busy with lovestruck young women, or maybe some friends. Perhaps they all had other plans today.
I mean, we were a nice bunch on that table. If he’d said something charming or funny, or even slightly apologetic, we’d have liked him and it would all have been fine. If he’d even attempted to mount a proper argument for playing, it would have been interesting. But he offered nothing. Nothing funny, nothing clever, nothing cute, nothing charming: not even the faintest attempt to be likeable as he chased this “soft” money. Just a grubby little remark about panties.
At this point, the floorman came over.
“I tell you what”, I told him, “I’d appreciate it if you could ask this guy to leave my underwear out of his conversation.”
“Yeah but she’s ATTACKING ME!” snivelled the chap.
The floor, quite properly for the information he’d been given, told us both to play nicely and walked away.
“I wasn’t attacking you”, I said. “I was asking you why you’re playing this tournament, when it obviously upsets people and I don’t understand why you’d do it.”
He screamed for the floor to come back.
“She won’t leave me alone!” he bleated.
“Come on”, said the floor. “You have to show him some respect.”
“I really don’t”, I said. “I’m not going to abuse him, and I wasn’t, but I don’t respect him and I surely don’t have to pretend I do.”
The floor gave me a one-hand penalty, which seemed a small price to pay, and said the next time it would be a one-round penalty. But I was a little revolted that the guy had called the floor. After all, the only possible argument for his joining the tournament (and it’s a spurious one) is freedom - but he wants to deny my freedom to say what I think? In America, the land of the free? He wants me penalised for giving an opinion?!
But there was no opportunity for that, because a little while later I check-raised all-in against two players with AJ on a J-high flop, they BOTH called, but a king on the river hit the lady with KJ and I was out. I didn’t mind. She was really nice. I was happy for her. Before the gatecrasher got there, she’d been telling me all about fly-fishing at Yosemite. Once he arrived, she’d gone silently into her shell like most of the others.
“Now that I’m out and I can’t get a penalty”, I said to the guy, “I’m free to give you my opinion before I leave, which is that we were all having fun until you arrived, and when you sat down the fun stopped, and you knew it would when you registered. You’ve deliberately spoiled things for these nice women and that makes you what we call in England ‘an arsehole’.”
“FLOOR!” he shrieked.
I mean, really? Calling the floor, against a player who’s out of the tournament and leaving? This is a guy who wants to sit down in a ladies-only event because he thinks we’re weak, and then when one woman looks at him the wrong way, he screams for nanny?
What does he want - to ruin this special tournament, to promote himself above all the other men who politely don’t play, to throw logic and manners down the plughole, to do something obviously bad for the game (ie. be an obstacle to one of the few friendly gateways for new players to get into it), and for NOBODY to tell him he’s doing anything wrong? Maybe he thinks it’s unfair that the tournament is even played out at all; perhaps he thinks they should just hand him the money, shake his hand and tell him he’s handsome.
I really hope he’s been knocked out by now, so those nice women on the table can go back to having a good time.
But he’s only young. If a couple of people explain a few things to him about what really matters in the world, maybe he’s still got a chance of growing up into someone who isn’t a total arse.