The female participants in the Ladies Event at the Battle of Malta poker festival were in for a weird and awkward surprise when they sat down to play cards on Sunday night.
Based from social media posts, the €110 NLHE Ladies Event at Casino Malta appeared more like a strip poker game, as all of the all-male dealers at the tables were shirtless.
While some thought the sight to be quite amusing yet very distracting, most of the women felt upset by the organizers' decision and felt it was humiliating for everyone involved.
A total of 92 women played in the said event. One of them was a poker player named Daiva Byrne, an advocate for women in poker who also represents Betsson Poker, shared her piece in her Twitter page, causing quite a stir in the poker community.
Irish poker pro Dara O'Kearney said one of the dealers declined to strip down and so was booted out of the Ladies Event.
It turns out that the dealers were offered an extra €100 as they work in the event, which included €50 for dancing on stage before the tournament, and €50 for being shirtless.
After women voiced their complaints, the dealers returned from the tournament's first break wearing shirts, and a few female dealers were added to the tables. The tournament was not initially advertised as a topless event.
A male dealer who asked to remain anonymous aired his distaste for the way he and his co-workers were placed in an uncomfortable predicament by the tournament organizers, "I think it's disgusting how with one hour's notice they want us male dealers to deal the ladies event with no tops on! It's degrading for men! In an era of social media and live streaming via mobile phones, it's borderline prostitution as dealers who would be enticed would earn €50 more than everyone else."
In the end, the tournament organizers issued an apology statement, and announced that they will donate all of the Ladies Event fees to charity, and also placed a huge €25,000 guarantee on the next year's event.
The statement read, "After careful reflection, we would like to apologize wholeheartedly for any offence caused during this year's ladies event. Our intention at the Battle Of Malta is to create a fun and welcoming atmosphere for everyone at all times during the festival. We respect all our players and staff and certainly had no intention of upsetting anyone, or making anyone feel uncomfortable. We sincerely apologize if this was the case at any time. We take great pride in our events and are fully committed to our inclusivity policy. As a gesture of appreciation for everyone who took part in the event, we are donating all registration fees from the ladies event to our nominated charity - Pink October Malta. We are very determined to grow the ladies event at Battle Of Malta, and we are happy to announce that next year's ladies event will have a guaranteed prize pool of €25,000. We really look forward to seeing you all at the Battle Of Malta 2020."
This lapse in judgment by the BOM organizers put to light an often overlooked poker issue, that is, the protection of dealers' rights. This will also give gambling operators more insight as to how to carefully promote and execute ladies events as well as how to make poker tournaments more attractive for women, without having to resort to stripping men off their clothes.
The Battle of Malta ends this Tuesday, October 22, with the Main Event final table.