BY RUSS SCOTT
JULY 15, 2008
WHAT’S BEST FOR WSOP? WOMEN PLAYERS AND CIVILITY
LAS VEGAS — Two storylines surfaced here Sunday at the World Series, each with potential major implications for tournament poker.
First, the deep run by Tiffany Michelle — no matter where it ends — is outstanding for the game! Not only was she the “last woman standing” in the main event, but she was third in chips with just 27 players left after Sunday’s play. She was making a strong bid for a final-table spot.
The 24-year-old from Los Angeles lasted even longer in the tournament than her friend, Maria Ho, did last year. In a curious twist, Michelle interviewed Ho last year for PokerNews.com after her bust-out in 38th place. Michelle’s poker credits also include WSOP coverage in 2006 for Bluff Radio.
A main event woman champion would be historic. Indeed, only one woman has ever made the main event final table. That was in 1995 when Barbara Enright finished fifth. She also was the first woman to win a WSOP open event (1996) and the first woman inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame (2007).
By all accounts, Tiffany Michelle has the “poker chops” to succeed in this male-dominated game. Watching her Sunday at the Rio was impressive. She showed no sign of intimidation, sported a cold poker stare that would make any macho guy proud, and played with poise and dignity.
If she, or any woman, could break through with a main event victory, the meager number of women who typically play in major tournaments (3 percent) would surely surge. That would boost the odds of having more female poker champs, and the cycle would begin to feed on itself.
Astute male players already know how well many women play. They give the ladies respect. Too many others, however, show only disdain and try to intimidate female players. They figure no “girl” should ever win their chips. Usually, however, a good woman player gets the last laugh.
“I think if I final tabled it would be good for poker. I think right now poker needs a boost,” Michelle told PokerListings.com during a players break Sunday night. “Over the last few years we’ve seen the Internet wave. I would love to see the ‘chick’ wave’, ” she said.
That’s exactly what could happen now, no matter where she finishes.
The second storyline involves civility at the poker table and attempts to deal with inappropriate behavior.
Let’s acknowledge up front that some players simply can’t, or won’t, control themselves when things don’t go their way during a game. TV execs apparently believe tirades and tumult are popular among viewers, poker viewing, so I’d bet cameras were rolling late Saturday when 11-time WSOP bracelet winner Phil Hellmuth lost the last pot of the night and went ballistic.
He railed on his opponent for calling his pre-flop re-raise with inferior cards — a suited 10-4 which turned into a pair of tens on the flop. Hellmuth folded his unimproved A-K offsuit to a big flop bet, but lost his cool when his opponent, at the urging of another pro not in the hand, exposed his marginal starting cards.
The outburst reportedly included demeaning comments about his opponent and inappropriate language — a Hellmuth trademark. A tournament official gave Hellmuth a warning, which turned into a penalty a few minutes later when the rant continued even though the game was over for the night.
The penalty would have forced Hellmuth to sit out the first round of action Sunday (nine hands) and taken 81,000 chips from his stack, more than 10 percent, for blinds and antes. That’s not what happened, however.
The WSOP announced that after a meeting with Hellmuth Sunday morning, tournament officials declared the penalty excessive. “The punishment did not fit the crime,” said Jeffrey Pollack, World Series commissioner. “Phil has now been warned and put on notice in a way that he never has been.”
In effect, then, Hellmuth, who wound up finishing 45th, received a warning about a warning, without any penalty. There was no explanation of what “put on notice” means.
The commissioner said WSOP rulings “should be as fair as possible,” which implies if some unknown amateur commits the same “crime”, his penalty also would be overturned.
The chance of that actually happening might be questioned by the majority of players who conduct themselves properly, respect the game and their opponents, and think stronger, not weaker, rules enforcement should be applied equally to one and all.
E-mail your poker questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org for use in future columns. To find out more about Russ Scott and read previous LuckyDog Poker columns, visit www.creators.com or www.luckydogpoker.com.
COPYRIGHT 2008 RUSS SCOTT
DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS SYNDICATE INC.