Should women play poker with men? Or should the sexes be divided in a game that does not only rely on intelligence, but on social and visual acumen as well, skills cultivated differently in women and men?
These and other questions were raised as part of the controversy surrounding a break-in-of-sorts at the World Series of Poker Main Event in Las Vegas on June 11, as reported by The Philadelphia Inquirer. The article describes the uproar that started when eight men joined the Ladies No-limit Hold ’em Championship. One of them, Shaun Deeb, dressed in drag for the occasion, which he later apologized for wearing. Although the event was advertised as a women-only event, by law men are still allowed to enter in the competition, according the WSOP’s owner and administrator, Harrah’s Entertainment.
Deeb’s argument for his and the other men’s intrusion was to demonstrate the necessity of desegregating the game of poker by sex. His point was supported by famous woman poker player Annie Duke, who wrote on her blog that a separate women’s championship connotes differences in the intellects of men and women, and that the WSOP’s women’s event should be discontinued.
In contrast, pioneer woman poker player Linda Johnson stated that women-only tournaments serve an important function in getting women out to play in the first place. They eliminate the factor of intimidation that occurs in open events, where, although both sexes are allowed to participate, men tend to dominate the scene.
The Philadelphia Inquirer article quotes Johnson as saying, “It’s not conceding that women don’t have the ability to compete with men or about skill levels. It is about overcoming the intimidation factor, and that includes the socializing element of an all-women’s event.”
So do women-only competitions promote or detract from achieving gender equality? In at least games that challenge players’ mental acumen and intellects, should both sexes be thrown into the same field? Or does pitting women against men only scare women away from entering competitions at all? Let Vision 2020 know how you feel about these issues in the comments below.