I always dream that when I go to heaven my immediate surroundings will be reminiscent of the Rio corridors during the opening break of the Ladies event. After two weeks of sharing the Amazon and Pavilion Rooms with sweaty, unkempt men, scratching their asses and stuffing the Poker Kitchen's venom into their faces, the sight of hundreds of voluptuous women heading my way is a beam of light in an otherwise testosterone-dominated pit of darkness.
I expect even Willy Wonka's factory had a few red herrings, the occasional blemishes in candy heaven, so as I scour the 1,055-thick field, it's of no surprise to see a handful of men souring the landscape and continuing the recent tradition of douche bag-ness and Nevada-law-angle-shooting that seems to accompany this supposedly non-open event every year.
Whilst I confess to finding the visual sight of a poker room full of women a refreshing change, the event isn't just about adding a little sunshine to my day; it's a bid to bring more women into poker and ease them in gently through the comfort of their own species. Personally, I don't believe the tournament achieves this goal; it merely makes them comfortable in playing among women and encourages them to participate in a gender-specific tournament when they may have spent their $1,000 on the open tournament commencing the following day. We no longer play in smoke-filled saloons anymore in which sexual innuendoes and discrimination is the order of the day; this is 2011 and if a female player doesn't feel brave enough to share the felt with men, then they never will. Promoting ladies only events merely hinders this progression and continues to emphasise a divide.
However, this is a tired debate, and one that will go on and on (and has done for a quite a few years now). The point is that when that starting whistle sounds, why do so many men feel obliged to enter the tournament and soil what is one of the most fun-filled events of the Series? Whatever your standpoint, these ladies have paid $1,000 a piece, and it seems a shame to attempt to sabotage proceedings in such a manner when there are other, more productive routes to issue your complaint.
Part of me would love to believe that all male entrants came armed with a political or moral/ethical perspective, but I think the motive is much more selfish: either they believe this to be a plus EV event (I think even many of the female competitors would concur that it is) whereby they can profitably play based on that edge, or they simply think it's funny. In a world where Adam Sandler is still considered hysterical and films like Epic Movie can make millions, I wouldn't be surprised if the latter was the main incentive. Personally, I've failed to locate the hilarity. Many will claim they did it for a 'prop bet', or they're sincerely protesting about the existence of Ladies events, but the truth is that they're just being attention-seeking gooseberries, and sniggered like Beavis as they purchased their tickets with their pubescent friends in tow.
Normally, there's a mumble at the start and the usual copy-and-pasted arguments in blog entries, followed by collective cheers as each male falls victim to their respective assassin and woman-scorned. This year, however, was slightly different, as one fellow slipped through the net and made it to the final table. For the first time ever, a penis-owner had a strong chance of upsetting the apple cart and taking home the bracelet.
Even from a few tables out I could see a look of anguish on the higher members of staff present, some concerned with how this would look from a commercial standpoint, others genuinely dismayed and besmirched by the prospect of a male winner. "No way," answered one when asked if there'd be a bracelet ceremony. "There's no excuse when there are so many other tournaments to play," protested another.
The PokerNews coverage seemed unsure as to how to react. Initially, they ignored the male players and didn't upload photos of their mugs, but as the tournament grew on, Jonathan Epstein became hard to ignore, and he quickly turned from phantom (he was initially referred to as 'The Man' in the chip counts) to an equal focus in the reports. During the final, I bumped into PokerNews editor Matt Parvis, and we both agreed that this was news, and whether it was good news or bad news, it made little sense for a news site not to report it. Like when 'God Save the Queen' was banned from the airwaves, the absence and forced taboo merely created intrigue and interest rather than diverted attention away from the subject-matter.
The final table was a curious affair and I found myself temporarily sacrificing my coverage of the open $1,000 event to join the three-row thick rail. Like everyone else, I was a curious cat, and I wanted to be present if a milestone occurred. It wasn't quite a Hellmuth final table, or Tom Dwan potentially bringing the poker economy down, but it was something different, and there was a buzz about the place that I hadn't seen so far.
Kristy Gazes stumbled her way through the introductions, starting off with her "best friend" Karina Jett who was heavily pregnant, further emphasising the intended gender and surreality of the event. What was most bizarre was that on a table that included a police officer, a plumber and a body builder, the only male present filled none of those occupations - he was unemployed, which elicited what I thought was a somewhat harsh ripple of laughter throughout the room given that we don’t know his circumstances. Of course, his intro - which Kristy ensured was short, brief and delivered with a faint snarl - was preceded by the inevitable chorus of boos.
Much to the chagrin of the rail who had predominately gathered just to vie against him in a showdown, Epstein didn't really play a hand for the opening stages of the final. During this time I overheard plenty of interesting comments from the rail. One brash lady yelled "Girl Power" a few times like a Spicegirls fanatic, whilst some dude condescendingly chipping in with: "It's good for there to be villains. It builds their confidence." I even saw two onlookers move around the rail before halting at a particular spot and saying: “Just here. We have a much better angle of him now.”
During one of the breaks, I overheard a few people asking Epstein some questions (some media; others irate railers), and he pretty much gave the same answers saying that he just felt like playing and that he didn't realise people would be so upset, and that now he does, he kind of regrets entering. Even if he said he was going to donate his winnings to charity, I don't think he'd have been able to turn this blood-thirsty crowd. He was like a comedian who'd told a racist joke; the situation was unrecoverable and his limited popularity was sinking fast.
When Epstein did eventually participate in a hand, he was all in, and coin-flipping with Ad-Qd versus the Ts-Tc of Marsha Wolak, who just happened to go on to win the event. As the crowd shuffled forward, and various segments called for cards and chanted "Beat the dude!", the flop was dealt: Kc-Jd-2d, which, naturally, garnered gasps from the audience as Epstein increased his outs. A Kh turn modified the possibilities, but the 6h river was a brick and the crowd erupted like Mount Vesuvius.
Never before had I witnessed such celebrations over one hand. Wolak launched from her seat to hug the rail like long-lost siblings, the crowd began singing Bananarama's rubdown-classic 'Na Na Hey Hey Goodbye' and even the tournament director contrivicbuted by bashing out 'Hit the Road Jack' over the microphone.
It was a strange situation in some ways. There's nothing illegal about what he's doing; it's just bad etiquette, and now that he's in the final, and given that he's unemployed, this money would, I imagine, mean a huge amount to him. Even though I don't agree with what he's doing, booing, heckling and celebrating his demise goes against the standards of poker behaviour that are preached, and almost makes those involved as bad as Epstein. I hate to roll out the clichés, but two wrongs don't make a right.
Nevertheless, I think it's good that he didn't win. The sadist in me wanted a heads-up confrontation at least, if only for entertainment value, but I think if he'd actually captured that pink-studded bracelet, it would have made a mockery of the Series and left a somewhat sour taste in people's mouths. Initially, I thought it would be a harsh way of ridding the schedule of the event and encouraging ladies to play open events, but now I think it may have caused an opposing effect. Such debate, however, may prove academic, as I've heard that (i) Nevada law is changing and (ii) even it doesn't, they'll make it a $10,000 buy-in with a 90 percent discount for ladies.
With the hysteria surrounding Epstein, we were temporarily distracted from another story from the tournament: Deborah Worley-Roberts finishing in 19th place for $5,810. Deborah is regular player on Black Belt Poker and a current Orange Belt in the Belt-Up Rewards system. She also attended this year's Black Belt London Live, finishing 41st for $550. She has enjoyed a GUKPT cash before, but this was the first time she'd made the money in the World Series of Poker.
"This is my third event," she revealed en route to the cashier, "but my first cash. I should be happier, but I feel like s**t at the moment. I might even play the $1,000 event tomorrow."
When I inquired about Epstein, her response echoed the views of most of the players in the tournament: "Sadly, I didn't get the chance to play the [add explicative here] and knock him out."
Despite surviving the majority of a four-figure field, Deboarah was eliminated at the tale end of Day 2. Again, bracelet-winner Marsha Wolak was the sniper, this time finding As-Qd all in on a 7c-Qs-4d flop versus Deborah's 6c-7d. The Orange Belt had outs, but none arrived as the turn and river came Ks and 3h respectively.
Deborah’s isn’t the only success story for Black Belt Poker this year. As I write, both Warren Wooldridge and Kevin Williams are still in Event #54’s $1,000 No Limit Hold’em Freezeout with 138 players left. Jerome Bradpiece and WSOP Warrior Master League Winner Hasmukh Khodiyara also made the money, adding some welcome dollars into the Vegas Prize Fund.
Hopefully, both will survive to Day 3, but either way, make sure you follow all the action on our Vegas page where you can find live coverage of 10 WSOP events (including the $10,000 Main Event), as well as all the latest news, results, pictures and articles.
Vegas 11: Operation Bracelet
Vegas, Baby - Jerome Bradpiece
Vegas: Advice from the Pros
Paint It Black - Part One: Wassup With WSOP?
Cashing In; Where to Play Cash in Vegas - Sam Razavi
Snoopy's Top 10 Las Vegas Tips
For the Love of Ivey
Interview: Ashby Going for Bracelet #2
Richard Ashby Finishes Fourth in Event #11
Cody, Perrins & The UK Upsurge
Vegas 11 - Meet the Team
Chufty Makes Second Final Table
Paint It Black - Part Two: The Wait to Regulate
Meet the Mansion
Interview - Jared Tendler
Two Blue Belts; Two Cashes
3 Yellow Belts Win $13K Packages
Vegas 11 - Live WSOP Coverage
Ashby Denited Hattrick in $10K PLO
The Variance of Vegas
BBP/WSOP in Pictures
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A Happy Median - Snoopy
No Novacaine; It Dulls the Senses - Neil Channing
TiLT, Clowns & A Small High
Moving House is Stressful - Warren Wooldridge
Unjust Action - Adam Latimer
Form - Kevin Williams
Lucky Number Seven - Snoopy
Colemas, Cork & Changing at O'Hare
Starting High - Richard Ashby
Keeping the Faith - David Docherty
Escape from L.V - Snoopy