GGPoker: Still Tone-Deaf Regarding Women in Poker

GGPoker: Still Tone-Deaf Regarding Women in Poker

GGPoker has chosen a side in its battle over Dan Bilzerian. That side is not with the majority of women in poker who are disgusted by GGPoker signing him as a “poker ambassador.” Rather, it is the side of the man-boys salivating over Bilzerian’s ego and weapons and money and naked women.

If women held any positions of power at GGPoker, the company would never have even considered signing someone like Bilzerian as an ambassador in the first place. If anyone in power at GGPoker truly cared what women in the poker industry think, the company would not have ignored the complaints after signing him.

None of that happened.

GGPoker not only signed Bilzerian with pride, it responded to Twitter comments about Bilzerian’s “girls” and made a general joke of the complaints while encouraging the immature comments.

For those confused about why that is a problem – or why Bilzerian is a problem – please refer to my detailed opinion piece from early December 2020.

GGPoker’s Response to IWD

March 8 was International Women’s Day (IWD).

Some poker entities lined up some things to highlight women in the game and open more discussions about gender disparities. PokerStars launched a new initiative, and Robbie Strazynski’s The Orbit provided a well-rounded forum with views from various parts of the industry.

GGPoker did set up a charity tournament to benefit “women’s charities.” The site did this via its relationship with the Fantastic Ladies in Poker (FLIP) group, with which it recently signed some kind of partnership. However, I was one of some women who acknowledged Daiva Byrne for her significant efforts but saw GGPoker’s IWD nod as merely lip service.

Why did we not believe GGPoker’s IWD actions were genuine?

It goes back to the Bilzerian signing ordeal. It is difficult to believe an entity sincerely cares about women in poker while it also promotes a misogynist like Bilzerian. That’s called hypocrisy.

GGPoker on the Attack

It got worse.

Let’s go back for a moment to remember that one of the most outspoken critics of the Bilzerian signing was poker pro Vanessa Kade. Her first comment about the Bilzerian announcement called the new GGPoker ambassador a “sleazy, sexist tool with toxic followers.”

Is there a lie in that assessment of Bilzerian? I think not.

It is also important to note that Bilzerian publicly responded to Kade on Twitter for all his fan-boys to see, “Quiet hoe, nobody knows who you are.”

Evidently, they do. And Bilzerian, as a new ambassador of GGPoker, called a respected member of the poker community a derogatory term – or a garden tool. Spelling is not his strong suit.

GGPoker was upset by her outspoken criticism of their new boy. They were even more upset when Kade commented on their IWD charity tournament. She noted that “ceasing to sponsor misogynists” would have been the proper step to take on IWD.

How DARE she?!

Well, GGPoker had just about enough of that. The following day, GGPoker messaged Kade that they closed her affiliate account. She had it for years and received residuals from the players who signed up for GGPoker accounts through her, though she hadn’t promoted it in nearly two years.

Their letter to her started very professionally with, “Hey Vanessa.” It went downhill from there.

“Affiliates are partners, and you clearly terminated that partnership a few months back,” wrote a woman named Rachel from GGPoker. She must have been referring to Kade’s initial comments about Bilzerian, though I am not positive.

The letter then gets weirder. “It’s a shame you can’t see all the things we’re trying to accomplish…” “I’m sorry you have chosen to take a stand against us instead of riding this awesome wave with us.”

Kade’s response, though, was priceless.

GGPoker Doubles Down

Two days after GGPoker cancelled Kade’s affiliate account, the site made its first public statement regarding any of this, from the Bilzerian signing forward. And it wasn’t helpful.

GGPoker apologized to “our community for the recent series of events that has led to multiple controversies.” While the site admitted that the timing of its affiliate breakup with Kade was “poor,” it claimed that she violated the company’s terms and conditions via “on-going actions over three months.”

Then, it went off the rails. GGPoker said they cannot control what their ambassadors say on social media. “Yes, an ambassador of GGPoker made a derogatory remark in response to being attacked.” They go on to say they didn’t agree with Bilzerian’s response, but they claim he made it as a response to Kade attacking him in the first place. GGPoker blamed Kade.

GGPoker also asked that poker media “remove any public mention of a member of our affiliate department,” as she is now the victim of cyber-bullying.

I am not happy that she is being bullied. I am also not happy that Kade is the subject of hateful bullies like Mike Dentale. When GGPoker asks him to remove his harmful tweets to Kade, I will gladly edit this article to remove the GGPoker employee’s name.

Doug Polk Mansplains

It was inevitable that a man in poker would step up and say something. That man was Doug Polk.

He responded to Kade’s tweet about the GGPoker letter by making fun of Kade for noting that the cancellation notice came on the day after IWD. Polk missed the entire point.

Oh, but he wasn’t done yet! Far from it. He had some advice for Kade about culture, sexism, misogyny and business…and even race. Some of the key quotes from this stunning thread of mansplaining tweets:

–“She felt it was necessary to mention this happened on the day after International Womens Day as if this is some hypocritical stance against women. Newsflash – Its not.” (He missed the entire point.)

–“So if its international womens day, the next day now has some rules on what decisions businesses are allowed to make?” (Still beating a moot point to death.)

–“Can you fire a black employee on black history month if they were hurting your company? If its National Coming Out Day do we need to wait for next week if a gay affiliate is causing problems? Can you fire an irishman on St Pattys Day?” (Dear God, I don’t even have time to take this one apart.)

–“Its easy/popular to yell sexism/racism at the top of your lungs and pretend thats the issue.” (Mansplaining 101)

If you click on that tweet, read the thread, and then read the comments on it, the vast majority of them involve men deciding how women should feel about misogyny. They also love to use talking-point words like “virtue signaling” and “social justice warrior” and “woke” instead of acknowledging that sexism and misogyny are actual problems.

And sadly, they seriously believe they have a clue.

Daniel Negreanu Mansplains

Lead ambassador for GGPoker, Daniel Negreanu, had been silent on the issue of the Bilzerian signing. Despite having used his social media platforms in the past to express support for women’s issues, he had nothing to say about Bilzerian.

Jeff Gross then interviewed Negreanu for his podcast and asked him about the general issue of women in poker. Let’s just say I was not the only one unimpressed.

In response to efforts to bring more women into poker, Negreanu turned that question into why women don’t play poker. He mentioned economic disparities and varying interests. He noted that women buy 94% of romance novels, and those publishing companies don’t spend a lot of time on figuring out how to sell those novels to men. Women who want to play poker do play poker.

“I don’t believe, personally, that the idea that a man saying something to a woman is a reason why she wouldn’t play poker. She could play online; she could play live. I’m friends with Jennifer Harman, who’s been around forever, and she dealt with some real shit back in the day. And she’s like, whatever, I’ll show my tits if it means you’re gonna call me here or you’re gonna fold when I don’t have it. Right?”

“I just don’t buy for a second this idea that if the WPT would just not have women that are scantily clad bring out the money that more women would play poker. It’s just complete bullshit. It makes no sense.”

“We demean women and we disrespect women by having such a low opinion of them that the behavior of a few men would stop them from doing something that they enjoy. You don’t think women are smart enough or tough enough to decide for themselves whether or not they enjoy poker? You think they’re going to let the treatment of men or the marketing or whatever of it stop them from enjoying the game or making a living from it? I don’t buy that for a second.”

“I think there was one time at a WPT at the Commerce or whatever, they had like this food display, and there was a woman laying on the table with sushi on her, which is a thing. I don’t know why people like that or whatever. People were like outraged, like this is why women don’t play poker! No, it’s not. Not one fucking woman, not one fucking woman says, oh, that woman had sushi on her tits and she was at a poker event, so I’m not associating myself with this stuff. It’s complete hogwash and bullshit. It’s just bullshit.”

Negreanu then decided that if women put their efforts into fixing the pay gap so that women have more disposable income, that will bring more women into poker.

Wow. That was an entire mess.

Not only did he mansplain how women feel about poker, he called women’s feelings about various chauvinistic poker promotions bullshit and explained that the only reason women don’t play more poker is that they don’t make as much money as men.

Therefore, women need to focus their efforts on fixing the gender pay gap.

Boom. Problem solved.

Silence is Compliance

As David Lappin correctly pointed out in his article about Kade and how GGPoker treated her, silence is compliance. All representatives and employees of GGPoker remained silent in the face of truths and criticisms about Bilzerian for months.

Jon Pill wrote an article about the situation as well, pointing out the tone of the GGPoker letter to Kade. He called it that of the “abuser’s classic: ‘We’re sorry you made us do this.’” He also highlighted the gaslighting by GGPoker and the silence of all GGPoker ambassadors about Bilzerian.

None of the larger poker news sites have covered the most recent GGPoker move against Kade. And only Pokerfuse addressed some of the controversy at the time that GGPoker signed Bilzerian last year.

Further and even more saddening, many of the biggest names in poker remain silent on the issue altogether. Justin Bonomo is a prominent player speaking up for Kade. Kara Scott has never been silent on the issue. But some big names decided that this is the time for making jokes about “woke culture.”

Kudos to those speaking out. And even more kudos to those who advocate for listening to women, trusting women, deferring to women on issues that involve women. I, for one, appreciate you.

As someone who cares about poker and has worked in the industry for nearly two decades, I am saddened to see a brand like GGPoker – with so much potential – risk it on Dan Bilzerian. Further, I am deeply disappointed to see so many silent poker players and members of the poker industry, including the media. After listening to people like my colleagues and me express concerns, complain, and offer ideas for many years, they see situations like this and say nothing.

Your silence is deafening.



About Jennifer Newell

Jennifer began writing about poker while working at the World Poker Tour in the mid-2000s. Since then, her freelance writing career has taken her from Los Angeles to Las Vegas and back to her hometown of St. Louis, where she now lives with her two dogs. She continues to follow the poker world as she also launches a new subscription box company and finishes her first novel. Jennifer has written for numerous publications including and has followed the US poker and gaming market closely for the last 15 years. Follow Jen on Twitter

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