I was talking to Sian Lloyd, Series Producer for Late Night Poker and we were discussing the line-ups for the groundbreaking TV series. During our discussion we agreed that there needed to be two ingredients in order to capture the attention of the viewer and one of them was a good cast of characters. In the early seasons of Late Night Poker these characters epitomised the view of a poker player in the mind of a casual viewer. Sian called them gnarly and I think the word is perfect. Secondly, you need the very best poker players in the world. This mix keeps the casual viewer and the poker enthusiast both interested in the show. In the good old days the gnarly characters were the best players in the world but the tides of poker are blowing in a different direction these days. Most of today’s better players are not gnarly but boring - boringly brilliant.
So where do the female poker players fit into this equation? Are any of them gnarly? Do their personalities shine through the TV set like a beacon of light? Are any of them the greatest players in the world? I can’t think of any female poker player that makes me laugh in the same way that a Luke Schwartz or a Dave Ulliot makes me laugh. I can’t think of a female brat like a Mike Matusow or a Phil Hellmuth. The Global Poker Index (GPI) ranks Vanessa Selbst (20th at time of writing) as the only female player in the top 150 tournament players in the world. So based on skill alone the role of the female cast-agent is a poisoned chalice. So if there are no glimmering personalities and the most consistent players are male how are female players going to be chosen to participate in these types of events?
I was coasting around the Hendon Mob Forum to see what the most popular poker posts were. I wasn’t surprised in the least to find that the thread everyone was interested in was called “Poker Hotties.” It was a thread created for people to post photographs of the most beautiful poker girls in the world. No matter what industry you work in sex is everywhere. Whether we like it or agree with it, we live in a hyper-sexualised world. There was a time when you used to go searching underneath your Dad’s mattress for his copy of Big Jugs, but today a 14-year old boy can just walk into a newsagent and buy a copy of FHM and it is sufficient enough to get your rocks off. When I work on the poker tour as a live reporter I always have a little chuckle to myself as the video lads try everything in their artistic armory to create a poker video that will amass a locust infestation of hits. It didn’t take them long to learn that the game of poker goes out of the window if you create a video entitled, “Tatjana Pasalic Swimming in the River.” Even the videos that do not contain any sexual innuendos but still include words such as Kara Scott or Royal Flush Girls send the hits flying through the roof whereas Johnny Fucking Chan’s quads get busted by the Royal Flush of Mike Matusow receives as much interest as a naked gay wrestling match.
In the modern world, the way a woman looks might as well be included on their resume right alongside their list of higher education results. These days if you are a woman, the beautiful face and a great figure will give you the edge over an average looking girl with a brain the size of Stephen Hawking. There are no threads on the poker forum asking who the greatest female poker players are. All the poker industry is interested in is if they fall into the “will” or “will not” category. If the poker industry view their female counterparts like this then how does the rest of the world see them?
When Pokernews recently ran an ad-campaign to find a replacement for Gloria Balding the advert was called “Hunt for a Hostess.” Clearly the people who ran Pokernews thought that a key job requirement was that the applicant must be female. If not it would have said, “Hunt for a Host.” Why couldn’t a male, with an in depth knowledge of poker and experience as being a host not do the job as well as a woman? Put simply Pokernews needed someone who was funny, interesting, good looking and female. Pokernews are not the only site that use females in these types of roles and in fact virtually all of the sites who provide live updates at poker tournaments insist on using females in front of the camera. When we see a YouTube video of Kara Scott interviewing John Juanda are the people clicking play doing so because they want to see Scott or Juanda? So it seems that the producers of shows like Late Night Poker will always want a pretty face to be in the line up. As the “Poker Hotties” thread shows, people who like poker like a pretty face. At first when I read the “Poker Hotties” thread my stereotypical male urges flew to the forefront. I waded through the 32-pages hoping to see a quality bit of fanny. But then after a while I got bored and started to think about how sad it is that the world has such a stereotypical view of the female species. But isn’t it through the choices of women themselves that this has developed? When a female poker player agrees to have photographs taken for FHM magazine isn’t this just adding fuel to the stereotypical engine?
As the game progresses will the men and women in the game of poker deploy different strategies? The men will know that they need to win EPT’s, WPT’s and WSOP bracelets in order to be ranked as one of the games true greats. The women in the game, while also seeking those same laurels, will also be equally as aware that if their skills desert them that they can rely on their sexual attractiveness to help push them along. Unfortunately, for women poker players it may be more advantageous for them to be at the top of the “Poker Hotties” thread than the GPI.