Prejudice in Poker: Let’s be Consistent

TAGs: Cardplayer Lifestyle Poker Blog, Editorial, Lee Davy, Royal Flush Girls, Strazynski, World Poker Tour

Lee Davy airs his opinion on a recent comment made by a female poker writer about the continued existence of the World Poker Tour’s (WPT) Royal Flush Girls (RFG), and begs the question, ‘are we consistent with our prejudice?’

Prejudice in Poker: Let’s be ConsistentWhen you watch an episode of the WPT what goes through your mind when you see the RFG’s walk onto set and litter the final table with money?





Robert Strazynski, the founder of the Cardplayer Lifestyle Poker Blog, recently penned a very well thought out article entitled: “Why Don’t More Women Play Poker? Leading Poker Ladies Unite for Change.

In that excellent and thought provoking article poker writer Jennifer Newell, a person I have the utmost respect for, told Strazynski: “Change has been slow regarding women in poker for a number of reasons. I believe the main reason is that the majority of male players see no problem with the status quo. It’s not until women rally together and a few brave men stand up to demand change that it actually happens. What it takes are women like the ones who have participated in this article to not only take a stand and speak up but do it continually until enough people in charge actually listen.”

Newell continued to cite some of the positive changes that have been made in recent times to make poker a more welcoming place for women, but the paragraph tapered off as follows…

‘At the same time, however, she cited a few instances where progress has yet to be made, such as the continued existence of the WPT’s ‘Royal Flush Girls.’

When I read a paragraph like that I head straight to the assumption that the extinction of the WPT’s RFG is progress?

This is an opinion I would like to prod and poke with a little more focus, because I am confused when it comes to the topic of prejudice in our game, in particular the hypocrisy that creates a constant ambivalence in my mind when it comes to my stance on such issues as sexism, feminism and prejudice in general.

Let me start out by saying that I love women. I was raised in a household full of them. I respect them and don’t believe in anything other than a state of equality. That being said I am a hard-wired stereotypical man. It’s important to remember that I don’t choose to breath…I am breathed. Neither do I choose all the thoughts that come into my head…I am not my thoughts.

There are times where I may say or act in a sexist way. It’s not my intention to cause harm. I am just interested in challenging opinion, and provoking debate.

When I first started working with the WPT I had a problem with the RFG’s. It had nothing to do with the way they looked, or the way that they were dressed, instead it was about their role; more notably how hard they worked.

A strong work ethic ranks high in my core beliefs and values. Once again, this is not something that I created. I inherited this belief and value from my Dad. The same man who carved an array of sexist jokes into my psyche.

I didn’t understand their world. Being photographed and filmed did not fit into my understanding of ‘work’. I would often wonder if they were being paid more than me for doing less. This created an instant dislike to them and I hadn’t even met any of them. I don’t believe this makes me sexist, but it does make me prejudiced.

This is an example of how the mind can formulate opinions through the act of a few minutes of thin slicing. A menu of gut instinct, hardened beliefs and a set of inherited values.

I don’t think like that today.

I am the type of person who changes his view quite a lot and the work ethic of the RFG’s is an area where my opinion has changed.

Their role is different to my mine. Do I have to ‘work’ harder than them? The answer really depends on your view on ‘work’, but more importantly it doesn’t matter. What does matter is our roles within the organization.

So what are our roles?

I believe our roles are very similar. We are both paid to attract more people to the game of poker. I do this through my writing and the RFG’s do this through their physical aesthetics and talent in front of the camera.

When I first started watching the WPT on television I loved watching the RFG’s come onto the stage and tip that money onto the table. It was an important part of the show. It was the equivalent of the boxer’s entrance during a big fight. It increases the tension and excitement of what is to come.

I also thought they were beautiful.

I derived enjoyment from the form of their legs, the game of hide and go seek played by their breasts and the beautiful landscape of their faces. It was one of the reasons that I tuned in every week.

I also thought the same way about the anchor on the show. This was never a man, and instead it would always be a very beautiful looking woman. Today, this job belongs to Lynn Gilmartin.

Now we have three roles in the mix: a writer, a RFG and an anchor. All three positions have their own challenges, but the concurring theme is our responsibility to attract more people into the game of poker.

So why isn’t Lynn Gilmartin’s continued existence being challenged like that of the RFG?

On one hand you have a beautiful woman who’s job title is Royal Flush Girl. Her job is to use her beauty and intelligence to attract more people to the WPT, and on the other hand you have a beautiful woman whose job title is Anchor and her job is to use her beauty and intelligence to attract more people to the WPT.

If the perception exists that the RFG’s only attract more men to the game, then wouldn’t the same be true of a beautiful female anchor? And why would men, or women, not respect other women just because they use their look as part of their role within the poker industry?

Do you have any idea how much hard work and effort it takes for someone to look that good? Do you think they just have a perfect rate of metabolism, and that they are a few of the fortunate ones who ‘can eat what they want and they always look great?’

Have some of them paid for cosmetic surgery?

I guess so…and I paid £1,500 for a MacBook Pro when I could have bought a cheap little thing for £300. It’s my business. It’s my role. It’s what makes me better at my job and I don’t see any difference with the RFG’s.

A professional sportsman’s job isn’t just played out on the field. They have to work hard outside of that environment to build up their physical presence so they can compete at the highest level.

As a writer I read a lot of books, I am sure Lynn Gilmartin watches a lot of TV presenters, and the RFG’s go to the gym every day and work on that body.

It’s all work, albeit in different roles, and each one of them should be respected.

When you think about Tyra Banks do you think of her as an overtly sexual being who causes harm for women, or does she liberate women? Look how powerful she has become and how much influence she has over the young women of today.

Tyra Banks didn’t just burst onto the world scene with her amazing business acumen. She used whatever she had at her disposal to become a success, and now she has reached a position where she be quite influential in the world. What would have happened if we had cut out her job at the start?

Where would she be now?

And what about Beyonce?

She has 13.3m followers on Twitter and 11.3m followers on Instagram. Are all of these followers male or is a large percentage of them female?

Beyonce is being cited in some quarters as a modern-day feminist, and yet she arguably uses her look to gain popularity and attract more people to her brand – a lot of whom are female.

Now this is a seriously talented woman, but she also likes to create MTV videos, and gyrate on stage in the minimal amount of clothing. She is beautiful and she shows off that form. She shows women that it’s ok to be beautiful and not to hide.

Then you have Adele.

Another seriously talented women who doesn’t take her clothes off to promote her brand and instead relies on her amazing voice and song writing skills to do that for her.

Two completely different women, in the same industry, with different ways of achieving the same goals.

I don’t see anything different between a RFG and a female poker player who would prefer to sit down at the table in her tracksuit, flip-flops, bed hair and unmade face.

They are both doing what they love. They are both working hard. They are both attracting men and women into the game of poker.

If we are to agree that the role of the RFG does not conform to our view of ‘what helps promote the game of poker to more women,’ then we are hypocrites of the highest order.

How dare we say that the media and the poker organizations are not helping promote the game to females, and by the same token look to cut some of those females out of employment in that very community.

It reeks of hypocrisy…and yes…perhaps I just ‘don’t get it.’

Perhaps, you do need to be a female to fully understand the history and all of the challenges that you have to face day in and day out. But I grew up a half-caste Chinese Englishman living in South Wales. I have faced the bigots and I have learned that it’s not their words that hurt me; neither is it their actions. Instead it’s the attachments to my own thoughts on their prejudice that causes all the damage.

Drop the notion and their sticks and stone no longer break my bones.

The way to promote poker to more females is to continue placing a focus on the females in the game, and this includes the RFG’s, who are an integral cog in the poker machine, and a group of beautiful and talented women for whom I have the utmost respect for.

Celebrate their existence for peats sake…don’t castigate it.


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