lauren kling The battle has been ongoing in the poker world for years: should women be privy to special tournaments just for them as a way to encourage more to play the game, or does that philosophy reek of affirmative action, and both condescension and accommodation in an unfair way?  A recent decision by the World Series of Poker (WSOP) management regarding the matter has drawn both applause and fire from poker players everywhere: for this year’s upcoming Ladies event, they will charge a $10,000 buy-in, but offer any women who play a $9,000 discount, bringing the actual buy-in down to its normal $1,000 amount. Any men who want to barge in will have to do so with the full $10,000 bankroll at the cashier’s window, however.

Why the Discount Structure?

The move comes after several years of handfuls of men playing the Ladies event, and WSOP’s hands being tied to keep them out, as that would be considered discriminatory under Nevada gaming law. Not illegal, it seems, is offering promotional discounts for certain events however, and that loophole is what WSOP has taken advantage of with their ladies’ “discount” for 2013.  And while players may argue about the relative merits of keeping an all-female poker event alive, WSOP management is unequivocal in their intention to keep it an all women’s tournament, or at least make it extremely expensive for men to play if they should opt to.

“We love the Ladies event,” said Seth Palansky, WSOP spokesman, via an email that accompanied the series 2013 summer schedule. “It has history with us dating back to 1977. We want to do everything we can to bring more ladies into the game and give them a comfortable environment in which to play. As we follow all laws, the change this year allows us to accomplish our goals [ of keeping the event solely for women] while remaining law-abiding.”

Players Respond via Social Media

The social media response from big-name poker players was overwhelmingly supportive of the crafty move, with kudos coming on Twitter from poker stars such as Daniel Negreanu, Dan Fleyshman, and Jennifer Shahade.  Comments from “average man” players on various online poker chat sites were a bit more mixed.  Comments there ranged from “Might be legal, but it definitely seems discriminatory…It’s a blatant attempt to keep men out” to the more humorous outlook of  “$9K more might not be bad if you were single; I mean it’s like speed dating with eight women at every table.”

Last Year’s Men Showed More Flash Than Cash

Last year’s event brought in nine men, two dressed in full drag to play the event.  Only one, Brandon Uhl, cashed, coming in 69th for a $2,359 cash.

This year’s WSOP Ladies event is scheduled for June 28th in Las Vegas.  Like most of the WSOP $1K buy-in events, it will run for three days.