Get It Quietly

Football, bollocks and a bit of poker if you're lucky.

Location: Enfield, London, United Kingdom

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Vanessa Parody

Over on 2+2, although Brandi still pops up every now and then to entertain everyone with news from her own special world, much of the attention has switched to Vanessa Rousso. After reports of an "altercation" at her table, a few people discussed how annoying they thought she was generally. Had Vanessa simply ignored it, or responded something like "LOL who cares what you knob-jockeys think", that would probably have been that, pretty much. Unfortunately (for her), she instead posted a very long, very defensive response which was almost immediately ripped to shreds as being both inaccurate as an account of what happened and laughable in terms of poker analysis (the phrase "I made an aggressive call" came in for some well-justified stick). Eventually the whole story came out, including how she couldn't deal with the situation at the table and had to encourage her boyfriend to offer the guy out instead. As usual, everyone comes out of it worse, although the guy who upset her at the table simply admitted that he shouldn't have said anything and came out of the aftermath OK. Here's the whole thread, it's not up to "Never Trust Anyone" but it's worth a read and, unusually, it becomes more interesting later as it diverges into a discussion on calling the clock and how to deal with criticism of your play at the table. Someone called "innerpeace" makes a couple of great posts towards the end.

In my experience of forums, a pack mentality can develop and once someone becomes a target then it can get a bit over the top. But I have found it to be very rare for someone to attract a lot of stick when they don't deserve at least some of it. I have been criticised on forums for being pompous and overly-judgemental, often anonymously and sometimes in quite vitriolic terms, but at the end of the day it was fair criticism to an extent and I managed to take it on board, although I do still have a tendency to take the pulpit every now and then ;-). In Vanessa's case, I haven't had the pleasure of sharing a table with her, but with so many reports of bad form (especially being a bad winner), there must be something wrong. What's quite interesting is how the issue of her being a woman comes into play.

I think it is definitely a factor, but in an indirect way. Behaviour like this is often found in players who have flown too high too soon. They either score a big result or attract a sponsorship deal before they have "paid their dues" by putting in the hours learning the game. At this point I could just refer you to "Fooled By Randomness", please do read this book, but in brief they simply don't understand how much of their success has been attributable to short-term luck. In my own experience, when I finished 2nd at the Vic for £10K I simply had no idea how lucky I had been because I hadn't really stuck any bad beats on anyone along the way. Instead, I won 5 or 6 hands where someone found a second-best hand and mine held up. I didn't realise at the time that this was in itself extremely lucky, as a 6-way parlay. So I gave half of it back before some of the truth sunk in and I went back to learning the game at the lower levels. It's probably lucky for me as a person that I didn't cop for much more at that point in my poker career.

If you do find yourself promoted too far too soon, this can cause problems. There was a guy who won about $400K out of nowhere in an early WPT event. Six months later, by his own admission, he was flinging cards at people and shouting "don't you know who I am ?". Now this is where the gender issue comes in. Rousso finished 7th in the WPT main event at just the right time, when sites were casting around for sponsored players and any moderately attractive woman was considered a very marketable property (Erica Schoenberg also attracted a sponsorship deal on the back of finishing 17th in that event). So, because she was a woman, she didn't even need a tremendously unlikely result to break through onto the circuit. 7th place for 10 times her buyin was more than sufficient.

What I'm saying is that many players who find themselves catapulted into a game that's too big for them, for whatever reason, will find it difficult to accept the bad times when they come, as they inevitably will, because they lack the experience and understanding to realise how much of what happens is completely beyond their control. This is when they start getting defensive, justifying their own play, criticising the play of others and reacting unprofessionally to bad beats and bustouts. And the point I am finally reaching is that this is, proportionally, far more likely to happen to a female player because, for reasons that are entirely understandable, a female player is far more likely to attract a sponsorship deal on the back of an isolated result or two.

I don't think there's any reason why women shouldn't be able to play the game as well as men. I do think there's a reason why they don't. I suspect that men are far more likely to obsess about the game enough to put in the huge amount of time that is needed (by everyone except the naturally gifted) to reach a high standard. I know it's a sample size of one, but a friend of mine could have been, and in fact already was, a really good player. However, she lost interest in the game after a couple of years and moved on. When TV and sponsors are so desperate to feature female players though, those who are out there are often promoted too far above their ability, and the result is that a false impression can be created. If you've ever watched a "women only" TV game you'll know what I mean. Now I think of it, this goes all the way back to Late Night Poker. A lot of the players on that show weren't great, but often they were so desperate for a woman to give some variety to the show, they ended up with someone who was completely out of her depth. I can think of two in particular who I know for a fact couldn't beat the £20 tournaments in Luton. Time Out once previewed the programme as "Six poker professionals and a supermarket cashier compete in the late night poker showdown".

My point is that it's not necessarily wrong for attractive women to become high-profile in poker, I understand how the world works. However, it does create a false impression. If you watch Vanessa Rousso play poker on TV you could be excused for thinking "Jeez, women are such donks, and pains in the ass as well". If you watched Vanessa Selbst, it would be a lot different. But the latter isn't on TV because she isn't considered as attractive as Rousso and so on, and more to the point because she seems to be a serious winning player who doesn't need sponsorship to play at this level. In addition, anyone who is promoted beyond their poker ability is also likely to be promoted beyond their emotional and mental strength, which is what leads to all the bad behaviour. Getting something without working for it sounds great to start with, but it leads to so many problems down the line, in many fields. Poker is so tough that these problems are exacerbated and the cracks are split open very quickly. Maybe it all amounts to being careful what you wish for, especially somewhere like the World Series.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

v good post Andy. More later.


9:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another excellent post. Enjoying all these extra posts from Vegas Andy,

Best of variance in the ME,



9:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post Andy. Really enjoying the Vegas blog. Keep it coming.

good luck


1:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The "too much too soon" factor is one that should be mentioned in any poker book ABC. If I were to give you credit for one thing in your poker career, it would be your ability to recognize that it happened to you, and that you had the mental strength to go back to the groundwork.

I suspect that some of this ability comes with age, some comes with temperament, and some comes with experience.

But it hadn't occurred to me that women were under greater threat here, because their marketability if they are good looking makes it far more likely that they will be promoted to a level way above their ability. That doesn't make women bad players, but it puts them at risk.

I remember first playing poker at the age of 14 or so and beating the kids at school. Then when I was 18 or so I got into an "adult" game that was, in retrospect, astonishingly weak. But I didn't know that at the time. I thought I was the dogs' bollox.

Then there were the university games -- equally weak. And the games at the Young Chelsea. These were a bit tougher, in that there were a few people there who knew what they were doing. But most of them were awful.

I won my cash by being a nit, although we didn't call it that then.

It took a few sessions at the Vic in the late 1970s for me to realize that, hey, maybe there are things I need to learn.

But, hey, I had a social life. I had booze, and there were plenty of private games I could play without needing to play at a higher level. So, why bother? Hell, I was copping it for two grand a year in the late 1970s, playing three times a week or so. Where was the incentive to get better?

And that was about how it stayed. I drifted out of the game, back in for social games, then out again, until about 1999.

It was only the introduction of online poker that actually made me work to become a better player. But, like you, I didn't sit there and curse my bad runs when I was outplayed. I sat down and read stuff, and thought about things, and (most importantly) concentrated on self-discipline.

These so-called 'coping skills' are the very things that attractive young women tend to lack, because they lead a protected life. But it is these skills that they need the most in the rarefied atmosphere of top-level poker.

I don't think it's a coincidence that the women who have made it during the Internet age (and survived) had, with one exception, 'paid their dues' before the sponsorship lunacy started. I'm thinking of Jennifer Harman, Clonie Gowan. These women knew the tough side. They played the men in the men's way.

The one exception is Isabelle Mercier (Katja Thater has benefited from the sponsorship, but she is well-good at at least some games, no doubt about it). I've not seen any of Mercier's play, so I have no idea how good she really is; but I've heard little of her exploits in the cash arena. Which, as you know, I still consider the real test...



8:58 PM  
Blogger Fred Titmus said...

What's worse, 'too much too soon', or 'too little too late'?

BTW, I hope the post title was a nod to the French minx/waif who sang that wonderful homage to the finest poker player this side of Potters Bar, Ray le Taxi.

12:45 AM  

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