Is there a need for women's only poker tournaments? Lisa Hamilton would probably say yes as she just came through a field over a thousand women to win $195,390 in prize money at this year's $1,000 Ladies World Championship at the WSOP. However there are many arguments for and against women's only tourneys.
Men and women are often divided in sports and competitions that require a physical element, however pushing all in doesn't require too much strength even with a monster stack. So the question is... Why is it necessary to create a separation in poker? Annie Duke famously said that she would be refusing to play in women's only poker tournaments for this very reason, saying that poker is one of the few sports where men and women can compete on a totally equal footing.
On the other hand these tournaments do offer a less intimidating way for novice female players to gain card room experience and to give them the confidence to go on and play in mixed games. They also are great for encouraging women that might not have otherwise played poker to enter the game. They will hopefully be pleasantly surprised to find the modern card room is far from the stereotypical images they may have had, of a smoke filled room with cigar chomping business men throwing their car keys and wives into the pot. Surely any method of introducing more players and more money to the game has to be a winner?
Unsurprisingly women's only tournaments also raise some legal and perhaps even ethical issues. Just as it is illegal to discriminate against a person because of their sex, race, religion etc... In the workplace the same issues have also been highlighted about these tournaments. So much so that in September 2007 at the California state poker championship, six men including former baseball player Jose Canseco demanded entry into the ladies only event. This created a problem for the event organisers because California law states that all business establishments must provide all services and advantages to customers without discriminating against age, colour, religion, ancestry, national origin, disability, medical condition, or gender. Therefore, the Commerce Casino was unable to deny access to the tournament because of gender and of course laws of this nature exist across the world.
Women are not always treated as equals in poker anyway. This is fairly evident in online games where players with female names and avatars can often receive very different treatment. There are men who play softer against women because they think ladies are weak and there are men who play harder against women for that very same reason and to try to prove their manliness. Most online poker players will know that BigTrev64 will receive a lot less attention at the table than say pkerprincess21. Live poker has a similar element of sexism as I have found in my own experience of playing live poker. Men often flirt with me rather than concentrating on their game and even sometimes get more upset and tilt more after losing a hand against a female player than they would against a man.
Personally I wouldn't choose to play in a women's only event over a mixed event because female only games tend to be friendlier and sometimes too relaxed when I want to take the game seriously. But further than that I want to be able to play a field of the best players available and that includes men and women. Also I find men easier to read. I can obviously see the benefits of these tournaments to the wider game and I wouldn't want them to be stopped because it is important that the poker world keeps growing so there are always new games. I think we should all support women's only tournaments for the good of the game in general even if we don't personally want to play in them.