01st Dec2021

World Series of Poker – How men and women levelled the playing field

by James Smith

A debate that’s been toyed with since the first Ladies Event in 1977, is the fact that both men and women should be allowed to compete alongside each other at the World Series of Poker (WSOP), instead of women being forced to compete separately.

To begin with, it was revolutionary that women were even allowed this space to play Poker in the first place, after a troubled path full of discrimination in the casino. However, male competitors would then enter the women’s WSOP just to make a point, citing anti-discrimination laws and causing disruption.
As the game of Poker only relies on slight skill, and is mostly based on luck and fairness – the question stands to this day: should men and women continue to compete separately? Read on to find out more.

Men in Poker

Gambling, for many years, had been a male-dominated sport. Despite these activities being outlawed in the past, these laws didn’t affect upper and middle-upper class men, who could still gamble to their hearts’ desire. Even dealers were purely male until the Second World War, when women were hired out of pure necessity. The first advert for a woman to work in the casino was posted in 1943, a whole four years after the war broke out. Even then, many players preferred – and trusted – male dealers the most, and would refuse to partake in any games involving a female member of staff. Casinos were generally the place for men to escape their lives and their wives – with ladies of the night, alcohol and betting available, for men, and men alone. The involvement of women was seen as a threat to political status, class and gender divides.

Ladies that don’t lunch

Throughout the years, women have fought and risked their lives to be able to take part in games, discussions and gatherings. Eventually, the ladies WSOP event was launched in 1977, providing them with a safe space to do so. The tournaments were significantly cheaper to enter than the men’s, with the first one costing just $100 for the minimal buy in – making it the lowest prize pool in WSOP history. This rose gradually in the coming years, and the event promised to give women a non-threatening environment in which they could play Poker too. Whilst some men crashed the event, for some, it was seen as a great opportunity for their wives to be amused whilst they went out and played Poker themselves. For women, having access to such an event was revolutionary.

Joining forces

Online casinos took to the scene in 1996, and when technology would allow, live dealer casinos took the world by storm. At a casino website, live dealer gameplay allows you to play games like Poker in real time, against other players. During these games, there’s no way to know whether or not you’re playing (or being beaten) by someone of the opposite sex.

It’s these kinds of thought-provoking considerations that make you realise that women having the opportunity to play their own tournaments as equals, free of discrimination, is a fantastic revolution from times gone past.

Now, the WSOP prides itself on its inclusivity, allowing anyone over the age of 21, no matter their gender, as long as they can afford the buy-in. This gives complete novices the chance to compete against big Poker pros, offering anyone the chance to catch a glimpse of the ‘Poker dream’.
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