Imagine trying to run a poker tournament with over 6,000 players and tens of millions of dollars in prizes. There’s a lot you’d plan for: how to prevent cheating, how to make sure nobody gets an advantage, how to ensure there were enough dealers to go around. Logistics are important, too, including making sure there are enough bathrooms to go around. What you might not expect is to have to police who is going into those bathrooms.
Yet that’s exactly the problem that the World Series of Poker has had to deal with in this year’s Main Event. In a tournament where well over 90 percent of the entrants are men, it was inevitable that the bathroom lines would be longer for them than for the women playing. That, apparently, led some men to stream into the women’s bathroom instead, a move that did not go over well with ladies who were also playing in the event.
“First break: constant flow of men in women’s bathroom, and they don’t even have the decency to close the stall doors while using them,” tweeted Vanessa Selbst, who was playing on Day 1B of the WSOP Main Event. That day saw over 2,100 players in the Rio, the vast majority of which were men.
This wasn’t Selbst’s first time getting into the middle of a bathroom controversy at the WSOP. As one of the top tournament pros in the world, Selbst is often thrust into a position of speaking for female poker players, and found herself in that role back in 2012 when that women’s bathroom was literally repurposed as a men’s room instead.
The two bathrooms that sit in the main hallway of the Rio’s Convention Center are the most convenient ones for players, and the WSOP decided that due to the number of men participating in events, they would use both of those rooms as men’s rooms that year. This certainly reduced the wait for men, but was very inconvenient for any women playing in the Amazon Room, which is the primary playing hall for most tournaments.
“I get [it] for starting days of huge events, where there is always a huge line out the [men’s] bathroom,” Selbst said to Card Player back in 2012. “But, days like today, when there is never a huge line outside the men’s room, it’s really not that big of a space issue.”
Perhaps the more important point was the issue of how the decision could be perceived.
“I just think it sends a really bad message to women,” Selbst said at the time. “It’s not inviting of women in poker.”
The issue was later discussed by the WSOP, and at some point, the women’s bathroom was returned to female players. But this year’s incident showed that some men still felt the need to take over the second bathroom, even when it was clearly marked as a women’s room.
At the same time, however, the WSOP seemed to have realized the importance of showing women that they were welcome and valued in the poker world. Soon after complaints by Selbst and other women, the WSOP responded by placing security guards outside the women’s bathroom during the next break. That prompted several players, including Maria Ho, to thank the WSOP for their quick response to the issue.
Another pot decision handled quickly and decisively by management, you could say.