This article is an op-ed. The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own.
I was surprised, but not shocked, on Monday when I saw on social media that a man decided to play in this year’s World Series of Poker Ladies Event. Minnesota-based poker player Tom Hammers paid the $10,000 entry fee (rather than the discounted $1,000 buy-in available to women) to take a seat so he could, in his words, play for charity and “help women in general.”
However, even if Hammers had good intentions by circumventing the obvious will of the WSOP and entering the Ladies Event, his misguided action reeks of condescension, bringing negative attention to an otherwise traditionally fun event, and leaves him as an outlier sucking up the spotlight.
While one can’t be certain, it’s safe to say that if the law would allow, the World Series of Poker would restrict the Ladies Event to women and those who identify as such. The law in Nevada prohibits the WSOP from exclusion based on gender so in order to try and de-incentivize men from playing, a few years back they raised the buy-in to $10,000 and give women a discount to $1,000. As if the fact that it’s called the Ladies Event weren’t enough, the 10x buy-in for men should be a clear signal that, like the Seniors Event, the series would like to have this event be a special one for a specific group.
I have yet to hear of a compelling reason to have a male enter the Ladies Event. Prop bet? Unfunny. Sexist? Sad. Nothing else to play that day? Lazy. Now, charity. Who doesn’t love charity? Charity sounds great. And Hammers laid out a plan in which he would play to raise money with any potential winnings for two unspecified woman’s charities “One for a battered women’s shelter, and maybe a homeless women’s type thing..”. No guarantees.
As if a surefire $10,000 donation wouldn’t be enough. Hammers, who has Hendon Mob results dating back to 2004 and is a longtime member of the poker community, must have thought that his entering the Ladies Event was worth so much more than the $10,000 he had in hand. He must have thought that he should spend the $10k to enter the event – being well aware of how it would be perceived and the headlines it would bring – in order to make even more (which would require him to make the final table, finishing in at least 8th) which he would then donate. He was the guy to do this.
He must have thought that disrupting the event, even disrupting the experience in the slightest for the women who played it, was going to be worth it. Or maybe he didn’t think about any of that.
Many on social media vouch for Hammers as being one of poker’s good guys. He’s called a “super nice guy”, “literally one of the best possible humans anyone could meet”, and a “true gentleman.” And perhaps he is. Which would make his decision even more confounding.
Is that why he thought it was ok? He’s so well-known, well-liked that women – who are expecting that in just one tournament in the entire 98 bracelet event schedule, they could have a single event to themselves – would grant him the exception and be so stoked to have him.
Is it a win-win because of the $10,000 juicing of the prize pool? Was that a donation? If so, he could have bought in and blinded off. Just walked away and thanked the women for being a part of the poker community. He could have offered a cash prize to the winner or an extra $1,000 to the final ten. He never had to play a hand.
Am I wrong? I’m happy to be wrong here. Help me understand where the selflessness comes in. Help me understand how there are not five different ways Hammers could have chosen the platform of the Ladies Event to contribute or bring awareness to women’s causes without being a disturbance to the event. Without having to play.
The notion that “not everyone was thrilled” or that him playing for charity brought “different vibes” is downplaying the insult that some of these women must feel whenever a man ignores the title of Ladies Event and opts to put themselves above that community just because they can – even if it’s “all in the name of charity.”
Why is he an exception? Why does his plan for potential winnings make it acceptable for him to participate in an event which has a sole purpose of offering ladies their own event? Why not choose a 10k to play in and donate winnings. How about the main?
— Katie Stone (@KatieStonePoker) October 12, 2021
In the end, Hammers busted. Sorry charity, no winnings this year. But I have hope that Hammers is the good guy that his friends vehemently support and that when all is said and done he will find another way, perhaps while the event is still going on, to research the women’s charities “type things” he’s passionate about and make an actual donation in the name of the Ladies Event.