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Jonathan Epstein gets just reward for making final table of WSOP ladies event3 July 2011
By Vin Narayanan
For the past two days, Jonathan Epstein has been the target of derision at the World Series of Poker for making a deep run in the $1,000 Ladies No-Limit Hold'em tournament. And he deserved every bit of it, from the "bust that dude" chants that rang out just before he finished ninth in the tournament Sunday to the being loudly booed during every hand he was involved in Saturday night.
In fact, there were more people lining up to jeer Epstein in the Amazon Room at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino than there were watching Phil Hellmuth, Doyle Brunson, Michael Mizrachi, Daniel Negreanu and Tom Dwan play in the marquee $50,000 Player's Championship.
Epstein is hardly the first man to play in a ladies event. The WSOP and other poker tournament organizers often have men register for ladies-only events; the WSOP can't prevent men from entering a ladies' event without running afoul of sexual discrimination laws and regulations. Gregg Sessler won a WSOP Ladies Cirucit event in 2009. Some men have dressed up in drag to play. Others played the tournament because they believed there shouldn't be a ladies' tournament. Poker doesn't offer either sex an inherent advantage, so why should there be a separate tournament for women? At least that’s the rationale they offer.
And in a vacuum, that is an argument that has merit. Poker is a game of skill. Men and women alike can master the game. And there is no physical component that gives either sex an edge.
But we don't live in a vacuum. We live in a world where women make up about 4% of every WSOP tournament field (excluding the ladies' event). We live in a world where you might get 115 women in an open $1,000 event, but you'll get 1,055 in a women-only event. Can anyone remember the last time they saw 1,000 women playing in a poker tournament? Try last year at the 2010 WSOP Ladies tournament, where 1,054 players took to the felt. These tournaments get women to come out and play. And that's a good thing for poker.
So give the fans at the WSOP -- many of whom were men -- credit. They grasped the douchey nature of men competing in an event for women. They understood that it's important for women to have moments like this in poker, and no one should take away from the moment. And in the end, they provided the greatest deterrent the event could have against male participation -- a public rejection and censure.
In fact, the fans in the Amazon Room did the WSOP a favor. The WSOP doesn't have to tweak the buy-in structure (lower for women, higher for men) in order to keep men out of the tournament. They just have to keep letting the fans ridicule the men, and everything else will take care of itself.