On September 15, Commerce Casino held its Ladies No-Limit Hold'em tournament as part of the annual California State Poker Championship series. It was a $300 + $35 event hosted by LIPS (Ladies International Poker Series ). All other tournaments in the series were coed events with various buy-in amounts.
Out of 95 entrants in the tournament, six were men, one of them being former baseball player and recreational poker player Jose Canseco.
The six men registered for the event with the knowledge that Commerce Casino, as with most other casinos in the United States, have a no-discrimination policy and will not refuse entry to a tournament to any person of legal age who pays the buy-in and entry fee.
In the end, Gabrielle Wagner of Los Angeles won the tournament and the prize of $11,058. The second place finisher was one of the male players, Gerald Foreman of Huntington Beach, California, but the remainder of the money finishers were women. It should be noted that Canseco was the first of the six men to be eliminated from the event.
Commerce Casino issued the following statement about the incident: "On Saturday, September 15, six males arrived at Commerce Casino and registered for the 2007 California State Poker Championship Ladies No-Limit Hold'em Event. In compliance with the law, it is the policy of Commerce Casino to not discriminate against players of any background. Thus, the six male registrants were allowed to play in the Ladies tournament.
"That being said, Commerce Casino is disappointed that it was not able to provide an event where women poker players of all levels have an opportunity to expand their skills in a female players only environment. By entering women's events, men players are hampering the growth of women's poker in Los Angeles and across the country, something clearly not in the best interests of the game. It causes casinos to re-evaluate their future tournament offerings designed for women players. Commerce Casino is currently involved in reviewing its registration policies and options.
"Nearly 100 women registered for the 2007 California State Poker Championship Ladies No-Limit Hold'em event. The tournament was won by a woman, Gabrielle Wagner of Los Angeles."
Much controversy has surrounded ladies-only tournaments of late. Journalists, professional poker players, and women from around the world have weighed in on the subject. Opinions range from support of ladies-only tournaments to the call for elimination of them altogether.
Supporters of these tournaments feel that women have had a difficult time infiltrating what has been a game long dominated by men, many of whom were not open to women taking seats at the tables, and hosting ladies-only tournaments give women a stress-free opportunity to play poker without fear of ridicule or intimidation by men. Women have responded by entering ladies-only tournaments in record numbers over the past few years.
Opponents of ladies-only events argue that poker has become an all-inclusive game, and with tournament staff members able to enforce a hassle-free environment, women can sit at the tables without fear of harassment. This side of the debate contends that ladies-only tournaments are the biggest form of discrimination in poker.
The incident at Commerce Casino involving Canseco and the other five men playing in the ladies event shed new light on the subject and prompted many in the poker community to speak out.
Susie Isaacs, a long-time proponent of women's tournaments, said, "As long as there are ladies events this controversy will rage. Most of the guys don't mind, some don't even consider them ‘real' tourneys. If the publicity seeking Neanderthals want to pound their chests and crash the ladies events, so be it. We just have to put up with it when it happens and laugh about it."
Tom McEvoy was appalled by the efforts of the men who entered the California State Poker Championship ladies event. "I think it is absurd that so-called big strong men insist on invading a ladies-only tournament. They are mental midgets. Grow up."
And Kristy Gazes had a comment on the other end of the spectrum. "That's quite funny that Mr. C and Co. showed up. I guess they missed the memo. I really think that while ladies only tourneys are a great way for ladies to feel more comfortable than in a male-dominated environment, they are discriminatory towards men, drag queens, and all other species. Poker tourneys should be open to all degenerates that want to play them, with or without a vagina!"
While both sides continue to discuss on forums and poker websites, ladies-only tournaments remain part of the lineup in most major series in casinos around the globe. Women have been leading the conversation to take control of their poker experience, but men have discovered the ability to play their own role in it.
Who will have the final word?
*image provided by Life's a Bluff *