Thursday, August 06, 2015


I'm about a week late getting around to reading it, but this essay by Cate Hall (whom I had never heard of before) is perhaps the most thoughtful, articulate statement I've read on the problem of sexism in poker.

I noticed how women are treated at poker tables as soon as I moved to Vegas and started playing regularly. Though I never attempted a formal tally, my impression was that often a majority of things said by men to women during a poker game (excluding those immediately necessitated by game play) were things that could not and/or would not have been said if she were male. That is, they either were explicitly about her sex, alluded to her sex, or were dependent for meaning on the fact that the person being addressed was female.

Look, I'm not the most sensitive, politically correct of souls. But the cumulative effect was sufficiently sledgehammerish that one would have to be a troglodyte not to notice it. Confronting it directly is problematic for a host of social and poker-strategic reasons. However, I decided early on that I could at least avoid contributing to it.

So I set in place a mental filter on my conversation. When I was thinking of saying something to a female player, I'd stop and consider whether my comment or question was in that category I described above--the sort of thing that I could not or would not say to a male player in the same situation. By lifelong habit, I already heavily filter and pre-censor my speech in public settings anyway, so it was not particularly difficult to add another layer.

Of course there are common-sense exceptions, such as responding to something a woman has herself brought up that falls into that category. And I don't claim to be 100% perfect in following my own rule. But I am pretty good about it, and can recommend the practice to my male readers.

You're not individually obligated to clean up the mess along the highways, but you are individually obligated not to make it worse by throwing your Big Gulp cup out the window as you drive. Similarly, you don't have to be the sexist-speech police at the poker table, but you should take care not to add to it. As Ms. Hall makes clear, any one remark you make to a woman may feel to you innocuous, and may objectively be innocuous, but there is still a cumulative effect on a woman of her gender being the subject or cause for much of what is being said to her. I am not capable of experiencing that as a woman would, but I am capable of imagining it. It's sufficient unpleasant just in imagination that it makes me not want to be even a minor contributor--especially when it's so easy to avoid.

A tangential confession: One of the summers (probably 2009) that I was doing some work for PokerNews on WSOP reporting, I was of necessity following the series much more closely than I typically do, and began noticing that there seemed to be an unusual number of very attractive women having success. I started going through the PokerNews photo archives for the series and picking out pictures to put together into a post on my own blog, titled something awful like "The hot women of the WSOP." I had worked on it for an hour or two when I started to get a sense of general creepiness about what I was doing, and stopped. The next day I opened the draft post again, looked at what I had put together and thought, "What the hell is wrong with you?" I deleted it forthwith. I was sufficiently embarrassed that I had ever thought that to be a good idea that I believe I have never even told anybody I had done it--until now. Well, at least I had the good sense to abort it when I did.

Monday, August 03, 2015

PokerNews article #76

This one is my little tribute to the writings of Mike Caro, from whom I have learned so much over the years.