You have to love the Ladies' Championship at the World Series of Poker ... don't you? I mean, every year, 5,000-some men joke about playing since they can't be stopped, then 1,000-some ladies gather to play poker, then 100,000 players and onlookers get into a debate over whether a bracelet should be awarded, whether that bracelet is legit and whether there should be a ladies-only event at all. Good times.
Of course, one or more of those men tossing those jokes around was bound to cross the gender lines eventually. Successful poker playing is about finding an edge and by all accounts, there's a lot of dead money in that tournament. Shaun Deeb & Co. finally crossed the line this week and now the entire poker world is up in arms, right on cue. Three weeks into the WSOP is when everyone starts getting strung out by the grind, so tension is high enough to boil over when the most contentious annual debate comes up.
Here's where we currently stand: Deeb apparently felt obligated to apologize for his actions, there are rumblings of the WSOP potentially taking action against him and his cronies, Daniel Negreanu and Annie Duke are at one another's throats (lobbing volleys at each another from the comfort of their respective blogs), and no one has come any closer to a solution.
Here's the good news: I have one.
On one side of the debate, there are those who would state that the Ladies' Championship is a long-standing WSOP tradition. They believe it provides women who are uncomfortable with the locker room feel of the poker table a reprieve from peering male eyes. Also, it's been said that it promotes entry into the tournament poker world for our single most-neglected demographic. On the other side, there are embittered players who argue the event is an insult of the gender inequality variety, that the bracelet is delegitimized by the limited participation and that the tournament's inclusion in WSOP Player of the Year standings is unfair. All valid points.
No solution is going to make everyone happy since every poker player is a unique, opinionated, outspoken and occasionally insecure creature that fears change. Were I the three-headed Ty Stewart/Seth Palansky/Jack Effel monster, I'd try to find a middling solution: remove the bracelet and hire bracelet designer Steve Soffa to design a diamond-studded Ladies' WSOP championship watch.
The watch has traditional ties -- actually predating the bracelet -- while offering a suitable and unique prize for a unique event. There will be some who will argue that these changes lower the stakes, but it's a fair price to pay in the face of the larger issues such as communal harmony and the preservation of the event. It seems unlikely that more than a handful of women would stay away because of these changes (re: dead money), while at the same time, men will be offered less incentive to compete. It's not a solution that solves all problems, but it seems unlikely to offend too many people.
Regarding the threats of Deeb & Co.'s banishment, were I the aforementioned trio, I'd suggest while the spotlight is still on the issue that an announcement is made stating any future similar infractions will result in a lifetime suspension. It's their tournament and they make the rules and the threat will be enough to keep men from entering (as they can't legally be stopped from doing) in the future. For now, though, I say let them stay. Their behavior wasn't the most graceful by any means, but they weren't breaking rules and such banishment would bring an unreasonable end to an ongoing debate.
WSOP Update by Andrew Feldman
For the first time in a few weeks, there were no bracelets awarded at the World Series of Poker on Tuesday night. Three final tables will conclude and in total, there will be seven events in progress at the Rio on Wednesday. Here's a look at what to watch:
Event 24, $1,000 no-limit hold 'em: It's taken only four days of action, but the field of 3,289 is finally down to the final table. Leading the way is J.D. McNamara who, along with Kiet Tuan, will take in a dominant chip position to begin the final day. McNamara and Tuan both have $2.3 million and will have stacks that dominate the other seven. To put it in perspective, the third-place stack of Blake Kelso is $1.1 million and the short stack of Jeffrey Tebben is $466,000. All nine players will be playing for half a million in top prize money and each will be going for his first bracelet.
Event 26, $2,500 six-handed no-limit hold 'em: With the elimination of Daniel Negreanu in 16th place, the final 15 headed to bed to rest before their final day of play on Wednesday. Each of the 15 is guaranteed $23,537 for his efforts and one lucky player will head home with $630,031. Steve Cowley holds the biggest stack, but Justin Smith and bracelet-winner Erik Cajelais will be going for this major victory as well. Javier Etayo from Madrid, Spain, will hopefully be able to overcome his country's loss in the World Cup and focus on the task at hand.
Event 27, $1,500 seven-card stud high-low eight-or-better: I left off yesterday saying that Jeffrey Lisandro would be one to watch on Day 2 in this event. Unfortunately, Lisandro hit the rail, paving the way for Maxwell Troy to emerge as the chip leader of the final 23. David Levi, Katrina Jett, recent EPT champion Kevin MacPhee and bracelet winners Blair Rodman and Brandon Cantu will be coming back on Day 3. Dutch Boyd, Scott Clements and Phil Ivey were among the players who cashed, but have been eliminated.
Event 28, $2,500 pot-limit Omaha: 596 players entered this event and only 102 survived to Day 2. I'll be watching three players as the action progresses on Wednesday: Richard Ashby, Tex Barch and T.J. Cloutier. Ashby and Barch both won bracelets in the past week and are both in the top 15 entering play. A second bracelet is most definitely in reach for the duo. I don't think I need to produce a reason to watch Cloutier. His involvement in this tournament says everything! The poker legend has lacked WSOP success over the last few years and just maybe he'll want to win this bracelet to replace the one he pawned earlier this year.
Event 29, $10,000 limit hold 'em world championship: Remember how I said to watch Jeffrey Lisandro in the seven-card event yesterday? I meant to watch him in this event. Lisandro ended the day in the chip lead and as one of five players over the $100,000 mark. Other notables include Russian Vladimir Shchemelev, who ended Day 1 in sixth out of 107, and Ladies' Championship troublemaker Shaun Deeb, who worked his way to ninth place. There's a long way to go in this event and the winner will earn $425,969 for his three-day effort.
Twin $1,500 events begin today. Event 30 will feature a couple thousand battling it out in no-limit hold 'em. Event 31 will offer the first HORSE event of the Series and most likely a field under 1,000 players.