Battle of Malta Organizers Recuperating From Case of the Sexist Stupids

Then there’s the tale of the Battle of Malta tournament organizers who decided to add a bit of variety to their series’ special ladies event by deciding it would be a great idea to have the event’s female participants dealt to by an assortment of topless male dealers. It’s been in the news the past couple of days. It was one of those stories where I didn’t know whether to rage or giggle, in part because it was so stupid and ill-conceived that it couldn’t have been malicious, unlike much of the sexist behavior that goes on in this poker world of ours.

So, to recap: There didn’t seem to be any advance notification that the dealers who would be sent out to work this event would be decked out as the topless male poker dealer version of Chippendale models, so players received a largely unwelcome surprise. It also appears to have been a surprise to the series’ sponsors, including 888 and MPN; MPN issued a brief Tweet saying they had no advance knowledge of the planned window dressing.


Topless male dealers for the Battle of Malta’s ladies event was an idea born of stupidity

Among those in attendance was Daiva Byrne, the Betsson spokesplayer and promoter of various women’s poker initiatives. Byrne, who’s rather more attuned than most to social correctness in these situations, quickly posted a couple of photos of the offending concept, then (along with many of the other players) got in the organizers’ face about correcting the problem.

At the first break, the dealers were instructed to put their shirts back on, and from there, the ladies event participated more or less as normal. But lordy, the ewwww factor was already through the roof. You really have to hand it to Battle of Malta organizers, who later issued a brief statement regretting their choices: it’s hard to take an event that’s intended to make poker more inviting to an under-represented demographic, then muck it up in such a hideous way.

It later turned out that the dealers were required by the staff to be topless to deal in this event, and they were paid an extra 50 euros each. The dealers could pick up an extra 50-euro bonus by taking part in an impromptu strip tease held just before the event started. The mind boggles. Women of course were not invited to participate in this special whatever-you-want-to-call-it, and dealers of less-attractive-to-the-majority don’t seem to be present in the photos either, suggesting any dealers on staff were also disincentivized from taking part.

So utterly and completely tonedeaf. Women want to show up at ladies events to play competitive poker without having to deal with the whole “guy” thing at the tables. So the Battle of Malta team went out of their way to slather a thick layer of naked guy on top of the entire proceedings.

One thing is clear: The Battle of Malta team that thought this one up was entirely male. And it was likely a smallish group as well, because an idea such as this was way too stupid to have made it through the larger group. The 2018 BOM series listed Rodolfo Zirio and Luca Vivaldi as tournament directors, and it’s likely one or both of them were involved in this 2019 fiasco. If so, they should step up and accept the responsibility personally, rather than trying to slide off with a slim corporate apology.

But there’s another lesson to be learned here, no matter who pulled the trigger on this embarrassment. If you’re going to run an event exclusively for women, and it includes some sort of novel promotional concept, you might want to run it by one or more women first. You just might same yourself a poker world’s worth of upbraiding in the process.


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