Recently I was asked to take part in an academic study about women in poker, and of course I was happy to help out. Since the research was partially funded by an institute out of Las Vegas that consults with casino operators, the questions primarily pertained to the difficulties that women encounter when playing in casinos. They were interested in knowing how to make the experience more appealing to women.
I know lots of women who play poker, so I asked a few of them for their opinions. Here are the answers I got:
1.) Casinos need to offer more tournaments for women exclusively.
2.) Offering free lessons on how to play would bring in new players.
3.) Dealers need better training in how to handle offensive behavior toward women from male players.
4.) Less expensive tournaments need to be offered for newcomers.
None of these suggestions are ground breaking ideas, but they do offer some solutions. The thing that surprised me the most was the fact that there is still so much fear on the part of women about entering a casino card room for the first time. Several of the women I interviewed (good players one and all) mentioned that they could not “get up their nerve” to enter a card room, even though they really wanted to. The reason? They don’t want to be the only woman at the table and be insulted or intimidated by the men there. And when you think about the first time you played in a card room you can probably relate to their dilemma. Who wants to go into a competitive situation with money involved and stand out like a sore thumb? Especially if you are trying something for the first time.
Many of the women mentioned the fact that what held them back was “mens’ attitudes.” But is that really the issue? Would it be any different if the situation was reversed and men had to walk into a card room full of women? I think that either way, it’s breaking the gender barrier, not the attitudes per se.
But if it is at least in part, a matter of “attitude,” can casinos counteract some of that in the long run by implementing the ideas above? It will be interesting to see if Las Vegas card rooms become more “female friendly” in the coming months as a result of this research. If they do, I think they will start to see a lot more women playing poker.
In addition to writing for Examiner, Rebekah is the editor and senior staff writer for PokerStars Women–a blog and news site for women in poker. She also covers women in poker for various other publications.