Jose Canseco's decision to enter a women's-only poker tournament at the Bike has the old men-vs.-women in poker argument receiving more than normal discussion these days. Canseco was one of six men who decided to enter the event, and though they were dissuaded from entering by the event's director, the six nonetheless stuck to their guns and insisted on the right to play.
Rumor has it that Canseco wore a miniskirt for the occasion, though none of the photos from the event show that, instead just showing him during play at the table. Not that it would have been the first time in a skirt for Jose, based on the Surreal Life Moto-Crossdressing thing...
Despite's Jose's long-standing desire to be a media whore, with over two decades of outlandish incidents peppering Canseco's past, the more serious point is the topic of women's-only poker events. Despite the fact that poker is supposed to be the great equalizer among games, where skill at the table is the only thing that matters, women's events have not only persisted, but have shown marked growth. The most often cited reasons for the proliferation of women's events are that the provide a low-pressure way for women to get used to the live poker scene, apart from the intimidation caused by the predominantly male fields in most open poker events --- 90% or higher, in most cases --- brings to bear.
Both sides make convincing arguments, and the argument bearers are far from being neatly split among gender lines. Annie Duke's oft-repeated line as her reason for not participating in women's events indicates the non-segregated approach. "I can't stand the smell of perfume," Annie was once quoted as saying.
Others chuckle at the fact that in having Canseco and the other five men enter the women's event, the unusual, perhaps even discriminatory of women's-only events was exposed. There's absolutely nothing wrong with a women's-only event that's privately owned and run, which is the catch that the organizers at the Bike ran into. But it also raises the question of how larger, publicly-run events are perceived.
Foremost among the events affected by this discussion is the women's event at the World Series of Poker, with its relatively low $1,000 buy-in (less than that of any other WSOP event, excepting those with rebuys) and its status as one of the longest-running events at the WSOP. WSOP Commissioner Jeffrey Pollack has publicly avowed on several recent occasions that the women's event will not only continue, but will continue as a bracelet tourney. Along with the casino employee and senior events, the Ladies tourney is a rarity, a closed-field event within a schedule of roughly 95% open tourneys.
Whether women's-only events are good for poker hardly seems to be the point; they sure seem to be, based on the numbers of women they've drawn into the poker world. This is a good thing. Nonetheless, it's hard to be too upset at the likes of Jose Canseco for having a bit of fun with the separate-but-equal status accorded these events.
One thing's for sure: it's a debate with no easy answer. Expect it to be a continuing topic for discussion, too.