Victoria Coren Mitchell - Writer, Broadcaster & Poker Player

The Guy From The Ladies’ Event

Saturday, 30 June 2012


  Well, that all seems to have rather kicked off since I’ve been asleep. I’ve now taken the guy’s name out of the original post (thread before this one). I put it in because I genuinely wanted the guy to read it; he and I had a disagreement at the table and I wanted him to understand my thinking - I put his name so that it might be seen by someone who knows him who’d point it out. It got a bizarre number of hits though, far more than anything I’ve ever posted - which I totally wasn’t expecting, and it seems harsh for that to be the top Google search result on the guy’s name forever - especially when, a few years from now, he’ll probably be really embarrassed that he played a tournament like this. (And thanks to AUscott for his comments on the previous thread, which I agreed with).
  This thread is going to be closed for comments so it doesn’t kick off again.

  A few people in the thread seemed to have harsh things to say of their own. To answer the most regular of those points:

  I think saying that “professional” female players shouldn’t play either is a bit of a red herring. The women who choose to play only women-only tournaments aren’t doing that because they feel uncomfortable with good players, it’s that they feel uncomfortable with the overwhelmingly male-dominated fields in the live game. They feel out of place. This kind of thing is a counterweight to that. Some women prefer to go to a women-only gym, or go out for drinks at night with a group of only girlfriends. It’s the same kind of idea, about feeling relaxed; they don’t mind going to the gym with fitter women, or drinking with women who get drunk slower than they do. It’s about a girls’ day out. I don’t think that’s a bad thing, or shouldn’t be allowed.

  Anyway, where would you draw the line? Some of the commenters said I shouldn’t play because I’m a “pro”, but what does that even mean? I’m on PokerStars Team Pro. But by profession, I’m a writer. I’m out at the World Series for a couple of weeks and I’m playing four tournaments. After this, my next live tournament will probably be in another few months and at home in London. To those who said I didn’t play the women’s event “for fun” - yes I did. I play all poker for fun. And that event is a lot more fun than most. Of course it’s also attractive that it’s a softer field than others. But you’re getting into Lewis Carroll territory if you say that’s a reason for WOMEN players to avoid it. The point about men avoiding it is that if they all flooded in, it would be just like every other tournament, and the shyer recreational players (who make this “softness” in the field) would go away because they don’t want to play a “mixed event” (ie. an almost entirely male event); so, in their one attempt at grabbing the cash through a legal loophole, these guys would have killed it off completely.

  (But to the guy who said it’s the only tournament that’s +EV for me because I haven’t “moved with the times”, and it’s my only chance of getting any money, that’s a bit harsh. I won an EPT event two months ago! If you expect to win five and six figure sums more often than that, you’re one of the people who’s been bamboozled by the modern myth and you need to read my book.)

  To the people who said it sounded like I started it with the guy: yup, that’s true. Like the vast majority of women in the room (maybe all of them, I haven’t met one who felt otherwise) and the vast majority of men watching as well, I was annoyed in principle by the insult of these guys playing. I think it’s rude and selfish. When one of them came to my table, I absolutely took the opportunity to ask him why he was doing it. Maybe I should have done nothing but smile and wish him luck, but I’m not Jesus! If someone does something I find offensive, for better or worse I tend to mention it. I wasn’t horrible though. I was teasing him. I was hoping he’d have a decent explanation and we could thrash out the whole idea. But when he said “Don’t get your panties in a twist” (or “bunch”, as a witness says it was, though I’m not sure that makes a difference), and then actually called the floor again after I was out, he pissed me off. He knew perfectly well he was doing something at best cheeky and at worst nasty when he bought in, he should be able to take a bit of verbal challenge.

  I did say he was an arsehole at the end. When he called the floor for that, despite the fact that I was out of the tournament and leaving, I might have said he was a dick as well. I’m not proud of that. But it’s not going to kill him. Blimey, I had a lot worse when I was his age. You want to try being the only woman in a poker game in 1998? I had men looking down my top and putting their hands up my skirt. But it wasn’t all good news - I also had them telling me women were too stupid to play, asking why I wasn’t out looking for a husband, telling me I didn’t belong there…
  Poker is a tough game and if you crumble at a bit of stick then it isn’t the game for you. However, the WSOP ladies’ event is and always was a little oasis; it’s not about hard cold bracelet and money pursuit; I’m protective of that spirit in all sorts of poker and I don’t like to see it under threat.

  I have felt a bit guilty about giving the guy a hard time, of course. I’m not horrible. I have wondered if he stumbled in by mistake, if he just heard that men played and imagined everyone thought that was fine, if he’d been horrified to find he was only one of about ten men in it and just tried to put his head down and get through it for fear of losing the buy-in, if he hadn’t expected to have to defend that choice to anyone and felt flummoxed.

  Meh, but then I remember him saying “Don’t get your panties in a twist”, and calling the floor at the end, and I’m over the guilt. This was a guy deliberately getting stuck in. He’ll be all right. He knew he was getting himself into mischief when he bought in, and when he was challenged he chose to escalate it rather than look sheepish or make a joke of it.

  Maybe he’s at the start of a long poker career. I hope he’ll learn over time, as I hope all young players will learn, that it’s about so much more than +EV and ROI. It’s about being gracious whether you’re winning or losing, about being good-tempered and sporting, about not going on tilt, about pressing your advantage but not exploiting people for the wrong reasons, about knowing when to stop, about taking the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune (whether it’s an opponent spiking a middle pin, or a bunch of women saying you shouldn’t be gatecrashing their tournament) with backbone and a philosophical attitude and a smile. Just like life, just like life, just like life. I’m still working on it myself, and always will be. I wish him luck, I genuinely do. That’s not sarcastic. It’s a long road ahead, I’m sure he’s got a good heart in there, and I wish him luck.


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