The Battle of Malta organizers may now need to look for ways to reverse the damage done after sparking outrage among the poker community for encouraging male dealers to go topless during the Ladies Event. The male dealers were asked to go topless in exchange for some extra cash.
During the €110 buy-in event organized exclusively for female players, organizers decided to take the bold step of sending their male dealers to the tables with no shirt on, in an attempt to spice up the event. But the result proved to be the other way around, as many in the industry expressed their disgust for a move that displayed poor judgment.
Extra Money Up for Grabs
According to first-hand accounts, merely one hour before the Ladies Event was about to start, male dealers were asked if they could do their jobs shirtless, for an additional €50. The offer didn’t sit well to many professional dealers who felt disgusted with the move.
One male dealer who chose to remain unnamed, said the decision, which was relayed with just one hour’s notice, was degrading for male dealers. The dealer said it felt really awkward to pitch the cards shirtless especially nowadays when people are quick to post things of interest on social media. The dealer added that the act was borderline prostitution as they were offered to get an extra €50 more than everyone else if they’d go topless while dealing at the tables.
The dealer said it’s about time that the industry takes them seriously and not treat them as “dancers” or “strippers”, because clearly, they play a vital role in the overall growth of the industry.
The topless gimmick wasn’t actually the first weird act that male dealers were asked to do at the festival. During the starting flights of the Main Event, organizers tried to replace the usual Shuffle Up and Deal, with Shuffle Up and Dance, where male dealers were again offered extra money so they’d show their moves before getting cards in the air. Dancing dealers were reportedly offered an extra €100.
Women in Poker Advocates Share Their Views
The charade received negative reaction from a number of women for poker advocates and several individuals working in the poker industry.
Betsson Poker representative and poker player Daiva Byrne took to social media to vent her concerns, saying the gimmick was unnecessary and only came across as demeaning for both the dealers and women players. Irish poker pro Dara O’Kearney agreed with Byrne and sympathized with one particular male dealer who was taken off the Ladies Event for refusing the request to go topless. This dealer was among the best professional English dealers according to O’Kearney.
Ivonne Montealegre, International Affairs Director for the Women’s Poker Association (WPA) also expressed distaste at the move, saying it was a poor judgment decision from the organizers. Montealegre said such marketing gimmick will not contribute to achieving their goal of creating an equal ratio in the industry. Montealegre also said sexualized dress codes for both men and women is an issue that should be addressed, adding that the WPA will not give its support to events that promote discriminatory dress code requirements for dealers, as the move will have a direct impact on poker perception and participation.
Florence Mazet, who also played in the Ladies Event, said that while women players take part in the event purely for fun, organizers should still take them seriously as there is still money on the line. Women play to improve their skills, they are not just people that need to be entertained. Mazet also said that the dealers who went shirtless even looked uncomfortable and so did the players.
Microgaming Poker Network’s Dana Immanuel also shared the same opinion, alongside Maureen Bloechlinger, who is also a strong advocate for women in poker.
Battle of Malta Issues Apology
Battle of Malta organizers have since issued an apology for any offense caused by the move, which they said was originally intended to add more fun into the ladies event. They have now pledged to donate all proceeds from the tournament to the Pink October Malta charity and assured everyone that the 2020 edition of the Ladies Event will feature a bigger guarantee of €25,000, more than double the €10,000 guarantee this year.
The recent blunder committed by BOM has initiated fresh discussions on a number of major issues in the world of poker that often go under the radar, such as protection for dealers, and the appropriate execution of ladies tournaments.

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