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Poker News | Casino Poker | Tournament Reports

Enright Wins LIPS Event in L.A., Male Player Makes Final Table

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The argument over the legitimacy, legality, and political correctness of ladies-only tournaments rages on. Another ladies poker tournament at the Bike, another man enters the tournament… The only unique factor in this story is that a seasoned pro, Barbara Enright , won the event, but the tale deserves space on this web page because of the ongoin debate and its relevancy to the poker community as a whole.

Many men say, “Let the girls have their own tournament. Who cares?” And many women say, “Leave us alone to have our own events.” Not so fast… This is much more than an issue of men vs. women; it is an argument that includes important issues like the discrimination, segregation, sexism, and the nature of poker itself.

But I digress… Let’s get to the tournament results first.

The event was the fifth in the Legends of Poker tournament series at the Bicycle Casino in Los Angeles. It was a $340 buy-in ladies no-limit hold’em tournament hosted by the LIPS Tour, and a total of 101 players entered to create a $29,061 prize pool. In the end, it was long-time player and WSOP Hall of Famer Barbara Enright who took it down for the $10,971 first prize.

What some don’t want the public to know is that at least one man entered the tournament and went on to make the final table, ultimately finishing in seventh place for $725. John Vorhaus was that man, and he is no stranger to poker, having authored numerous strategy and other poker-related books. (It should be noted that Vorhaus’ name has been removed from the official results and replaced with “unknown” in the seventh place spot.)

According to Vorhaus’ blog, he entered the tournament to cover the story from the inside and find out the true function of women-only poker events by asking his competitors. He chose to accomplish this mission in a dress and wig, which is not exactly an original plan, but he did well in the event and came out with a better understanding of the exclusionary tournaments, claiming that the poker community should leave them alone. “Because at the end of the day, the issue isn’t fairness,” he wrote. “It’s freedom.”

The bottom line, however, is that the reason Vorhaus was allowed to play in the first place was because restricting a tournament to only one gender is discriminatory and prohibited by California law. In January of 2008, the Bureau of Gaming Control in California took a stand on the issue and noted that such tournaments that read “ladies only” may violate the state’s anti-discrimination laws and were thereby forced to allow men to play in any advertised activities and refrain from promoting such events with exclusionary language.

Other men have taken advantage of California’s anti-discrimination stance on the subject, like baseball pro Jose Canseco and others at the 2007 California State Poker Championship LIPS event. However, all states and casinos don’t adhere to such practices, such as the World Series of Poker in Nevada. During the 2008 WSOP at the Rio in Las Vegas, Alan Jaffray attempted to enter the ladies world championship event on principle alone, but after he bought in and went to take his seat, WSOP Commissioner Jeffrey Pollack asked him to leave and accept his refunded buy-in because he would not be “allowed” to play.

In a court of law, ladies-only tournaments held as part of larger tournament series and events would not stand up. Discrimination is simply no longer allowed by law in the United States, which is why most “ladies” tournaments must allow men to participate. Whether they wish to play in such an environment is any man’s choice, though with the smaller prize pools, larger casino rakes, and ire of many women in the events, it is no surprise that most men choose not to play.

Why women choose to segregate themselves and attempt to hold exclusionary events seems to revolve around the notion of making women feel comfortable at the tables and allowing them to become familiar with tournament poker in scenarios that don’t include men. But when the argument proceeds to turning the tables (so to speak) and discussing men-only tournaments – or blacks-only, Asian-only, etc. – most claim that this is a different situation altogether, though it is precisely the same. Keeping women out of a male tournament would bring out the big guns – outrage, lawsuits, and cries of discrimination – which effectively renders any argument about the legitimacy of ladies tournaments invalid. Discrimination is discrimination.

In the end, it is the nature of poker at its core that should render ladies tournaments outdated and unnecessary. Outside of the components of luck and skill, any other player can compete on the same level, regardless of race, ethnicity, physical handicap, legal age, size, and gender. It is one of the unique aspects of poker and one that makes it so popular in all walks of life. Putting any limitations on it, especially that of gender, jabs at the essence of the game itself.

The court of public opinion is clearly divided on the issue of ladies-only tournaments. Popularity among many women will keep such events running for the time being, but their relevance and ability to hold such events under the law might give them a long overdue expiration date.

*Editor's Note: Simply amazing that Mr. Vorhaus is allowed to play, places in the money, and then is listed as unknown.*

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