I’ve seen many things at the poker table over the decades, and some I’m not proud of.
With fifty years of poker to reflect back on, I will say for sure we need to change the way we handle abuse at the table.
Today is the day for leadership, management and players to step up their game. In the old days, players got away with so much bad behavior, especially directed at women.
And I’m ashamed to admit it’s still going on today.
A Time to Change
Poker pro Shirley Rosario recounted the following. Her story is so powerful that I have included it in its entirety:
“Dealing with men at the poker table is just like dealing with men in my everyday life. Most of the time, there are no issues. Most men treat me with kindness and respect just as they would treat any other human being. Sometimes, I encounter assholes who aren’t treating me any worse than they are treating anyone else. Those types never bother me. But occasionally, I will encounter a man that says something to me he would NEVER dream of saying to a man, and those are the men I have the hardest time with.
I chose to play poker as a profession, and I understand that all of this comes with the territory, but that doesn’t mean that’s how it
SHOULD be. Nobody should have to put up with abuse at the poker table–or anywhere else for that matter. There have been plenty of occasions where a guy has said something so over the top that I have been near tears (I am pretty good about not letting them show how upset I am), and it has really affected my game.
I remember calling my best friend and poker mentor during the break of a WSOP event saying, “I can’t do this anymore. I just want to go home.” And I remember sitting with Carol Fuchs a couple days later telling her about it and her saying, “That’s how I’m feeling right now too.”
Did I go home? No. I’m too strong for that, but it did affect me for awhile. Even now, I’m upset recalling this incident.
The hardest part for me is having other men, generally nice men who I consider friends at the poker table, sit there and do or say nothing. That’s the most upsetting part. So if men want to make a difference, then I’m asking them to speak up at the table when it happens. Stop it right there in its tracks.
That brings me to one incident that happened at the LAPC recently. There was a guy who had pulled an angle at the poker table, and the floorman was called over. The floor asked the players what happened, and when one woman explained what was happening, the angle shooter started yelling at the woman and using profanity directed at her.
The floorman immediately leaned in towards the guy and looked directly at him and said, “Stop. Stop that right now. We don’t allow that type of behavior.” He shut that guy up real quick.
The floorman was Matt Savage, and I will forever be grateful to him for that even though I wasn’t the woman involved. I thanked him the next day and actually got choked up while thanking him. The thing is that showed me what a problem it is. In the 15 years I’ve been playing, I’ve thanked one man for standing up for us. That’s what I’m hoping changes.”
Shirley plays poker at its highest levels. If she can feel like this at a poker table, how many other women have suffered the same abuse, said nothing and walked away from the game forever?
This is a question everyone in the poker industry must ask. It’s time for us to wake up and make radical changes in how we treat our fellow players and our hardworking dealers at the table.
A New Era in Poker
Tournament Director Matt Savage sums it up best:
“The bottom line is if we want poker to grow, we need more women in the game. To do this women need to not only feel welcome and treated as equals, but also to be respected and not face the intimidation I have witnessed and also stopped in the past.
Poker is a game for everyone. It’s finally time for all the abuse to stop and create a friendly environment.”
Remember when you see something, say something. It’s that simple.
That’s the responsibility of everyone who sits down at a poker table.
In Part 2, I will share more stories from some of the best women players in our game. Please be part of this very important conversation by sharing your own experiences. Email me at email@example.com.
Robert Turner is a legendary poker player most well-known for introducing the game of Omaha poker to Nevada in 1982 and to California in 1986. He created Legends of Poker for the Bicycle Casino in 1995 and Live at the Bike, the first live gaming site broadcast on the Internet in 2002.
Robert has over 30 years’ experience in casino marketing and player development. He has served as an executive host at the Bicycle Casino and MGM. He is currently working as a casino consultant.
Robert can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org for consulting, marketing and coaching. Find Robert on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/thechipburner and on Twitter @thechipburner.