Female Poker Player

Female Poker Player, Author to Enter WSOP Main Event Disguised as Man

One of the great things about online poker is that it is easy to remain anonymous. Just choose a screen name that isn’t your name and there you go. Even if you become amazingly successful, you never have to reveal your real name to the public, so you can belly up to a live poker table without anyone knowing that you are an online poker god. This summer, according to a report from Card Player, one female player is going to take the desire for anonymity to a completely different level by disguising herself as a man for the World Series of Poker Main Event.

The woman’s name – er, pen name – is Sia Layta and she is the author of the upcoming book, Black Widow Poker. From the book’s website:

Is the Poker deck stacked against women? Why hasn’t a woman ever won the “World Series of Poker Main Event” in nearly 50 years of competition? More than a simple training manual, BLACK WIDOW Poker explores the gender inequality women experience in male dominated card rooms and offers a new way of winning the game. It is a strategy born out of dealing with gender bias at the table, and teaches unconventional moves that will perplex opponents.

To that end, Layta will be disguising herself as a man to play in the $10,000 WSOP Main Event. On a GoFundMe page started to help her “fund the legal fight needed to prove women should have the right to dress as a man,” she says she has won five times more often in poker tournaments when dressed as a man.

World Series of PokerThere have been several occasions when men have dressed as women to play in poker tournaments, but there is a significant difference between those instances and what Layta plans on doing. First, the men did it to enter the Ladies Event at the World Series of Poker, whereas Layta is doing it for the Main Event, an open event. Second, the men really did it as a joke (not a particularly funny one) – the WSOP can’t legally keep men out of the Ladies event – whereas Layta is very serious about what she is doing.

Layta isn’t wrong when she says women get treated differently at the poker table; that’s one reason Ladies events exist. Poker has traditionally been a good ol’ boys club and though times are gradually changing, men are extremely over-represented in live poker tournaments. Only four percent of last year’s Main Event field was female. Men tend to – whether consciously or not – consider women weaker poker players; worse, men often treat women as such at the tables with condescending comments and uncomfortable stares. As a man myself, I certainly can’t speak to what women feel when playing live poker, but I do know that when female players are discussed in online forums, their worth is usually based more on their physical appearance than their poker prowess. It’s pretty gross.

From the Card Player article:

Layta said women in poker encounter bullying, sometimes arising to the level where it makes it so “women aren’t able to play poker the way men are.” She also cited a strategy example, saying that most women are better off slow playing their hands in order to get action from men. “It’s really hard to win a tournament when you have to limp in,” she said.

Should Layta make the money in the Main Event, she plans on removing her disguise.

It is not uncommon for players to dress up in costumes or even masks at the WSOP Main Event to be goofy or draw the attention of ESPN’s cameras, but masks are always removed before play starts. Famously, Phil Laak disguised himself as an old man in 2008 and played with the disguise for quite some time. After that the WSOP instituted a rule to prevent that. Rule 55, the “Phil Laak Rule”, reads as follows:

Participants may not cover or conceal their facial identity. Tournament officials must be able to distinguish the identity of each participant at all times and may instruct participants to remove any material that inhibits their identification or is a distraction to other participants or Tournament officials. Participants may wear sunglasses and sweat shirts with hoods, but may be asked to remove them if Tournament officials cannot identify them.

This rule seems to exist for a couple reasons. The WSOP sees it as unfair if a player who is known by his or her opponents can’t be identified, as in the Laak situation. This would give the undercover player an advantage, as anyone who knew how that person normally played wouldn’t be able to use that information. The other reason may be to prevent a skilled pro from subbing in for a less-skilled friend (or client, as the payment case may be). Account sharing is disallowed by online poker rooms; this would be the same thing, just more difficult to pull off live.

A spokesperson for Layta’s book launch told CardPlayer that they believe her disguise wouldn’t violate the spirit of the rule.

“In Sia’s case, she will be playing as herself, but the table will only know her (visually) as a man,” the spokesperson said. “There are also many new considerations now that people ‘in transition’ have become common. In any case, she will go forward with playing.”

Caesars Interactive Entertainment’s VP of Corporate Communications, Seth Palansky, told Card Player that Sia Layta could be disqualified – and lose her $10,000 buy-in – if she goes ahead with her disguise plan. He suggested she go undercover in a tournament without a rule against disguises.


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