Table Talk: The All-Inclusive Game Poker Claims to Be

all inclusive in text

Yesterday’s column was one that focused on the marginalization of and discrimination against women in poker. It saddened me to write it because I hoped the poker industry had come further than reality dictated of late.

If you read it, either you are applauding my efforts or wanting to throw my glass of cognac in my face. I have a new bottle, though, so I’ll just pour another glass and keep going.

Many poker companies use the anyone-can-play premise to sell poker to the masses. Companies like PokerStars (Disclaimer: I do some contract work for PokerStars) sponsor a wide range of poker pros who encompass the global nature and wide-ranging appeal of the game. Others in poker do whatever possible to welcome new players, from training and free-play poker sites to ladies-only tournaments that try to give women a safe environment in which to compete and learn the game.

But no ad campaign from a poker company could come close to the recent publicity garnered at the Australia New Zealand Poker Tour stop in Queenstown.

Jonathan Bredin’s interest in poker mimics that of many other 23-year-old players. He loves the game so much that he had his favorite hand – black kings – tattooed on his left upper arm. He plays as many tournaments as he can, though online poker is the easiest for him. And like so many others, he won his seat to the ANZPT Queenstown Main Event via an online poker satellite.

What was different about Bredin was that he was wheelchair-bound with limited use of one arm and speech problems due to cerebral palsy. He communicated throughout the tournament to friend/assistant Chris, who moved the chips and cards per Jono’s commands. And what brought all of this information to the front page of poker news websites was that he won the tournament. And he won with the specific hand tattooed on his arm. His goal for the AU $93K prize money was different from most as well, as he intends to buy a car that allows someone with his physical limitations to become more mobile. Of course, he’s going to play more tournaments, too.

Bredin is not the first person with a physical challenge to win a poker tournament, but the attention given to his victory has brought more attention to the claim that anyone can play poker. And anyone with the intelligence and skills to outthink, outbluff, and outplay his or her opponents has a shot at poker fame and fortune.

This is the message that garnered my interest in the game when I first began to write about the topic. I was intrigued by the many different personalities in poker and the fact that true success was not based on gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, or even physical ability. This is why I continue to write about poker. And stories like that of Bredin’s victory keep me in the industry.

This is also why I am so confounded when some in the poker media choose to portray women in poker as sex objects instead of equal players. When women are stereotyped and disrespected by those in the poker media who claim to want what’s best for the game of poker, it angers me. And it inspires me to write, no matter the consequences of losing potential work, being scoffed at by peers, and being dismissed by those who claim that I’m crying wolf.

Poker has been a huge part of my life for the better part of a decade, and the game’s integrity means a lot to me. I have worked hard to write about women in poker in a respectful and meaningful way so as to encourage more women to play and the media to give value and equal treatment to women via its coverage.

Every time I see a “hottest chicks in poker” article or mention to “girls on the rail,” I feel that I have failed. Moreover, the poker community has failed as a whole. Instead of passing on these types of articles or blog posts, they should be boycotted. Instead of feeding into such derogatory depictions of women in poker, players and fans should call out those writers and companies for the negative images they perpetrate. And it’s going to take the courage of men to stand up and say something, as women continue to be the minority in poker. (I wonder why.)

I hope to see more of Jono Bredin in the poker news coverage. And thanks to him for reminding me of some of the things I love about the game and the poker media.

Now, if the poker industry could give the same type of respect to all women in poker, we might actually be making some progress.

Thanks for listening. Cheers.