Are Poker Players Homophobic?

Feb. 16, 2012, Posted by Rob.King

Are Poker Players Homophobic?

This week, Jason Somerville took probably one of the hardest decisions in his poker career. He came out as being a Gay man. That makes him, to my knowledge, only the 2nd openly homosexual professional poker player, standing beside Vanessa Selbst. You can read his excellent blog post here.

While I'm sure there are probably more "out" players playing on tables around the world, Jason and Vanessa are part of the poker elite. Vanessa has won nearly everything, with over $4Million live winnings, with more online (and she's only been playing part time while getting her law degree), and Jason has over $1.5Million in live winnings, and a very good online record.

Why is it that there is a lack of openly Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual or Transgender players (Shaun Deeb playing the ladies event in a dress doesn't count) in top flight poker?

Maybe it's because this is still mainly a young man's game? It's generally considered fact that young men are more likely to be homophobic, and be willing to spout their hatred, and insecurities. Thing is, haven't we matured as a society enough to realise that sexuality doesn't really matter?

To  be honest, this wasn't something I had even considered before I saw Jason's name all over Twitter, getting a significant amount of support from people inside the Poker world, both media and players. Jason's heartfelt and very well written blog set me wondering. Either there aren't many homosexual poker players, or the gay players feel that they would be treated differently if they were open about their sexuality. I quickly discounted the first. People's sexuality doesn't impact their ability to work out odds, or pick up on tells (it could be argued, gay men may actually have an advantage). The only remaining option is there must be more gay and lesbian pros out there, remaining in the closet because they feel they would be ostracised from the poker community .

That reality made my blood boil. While I'm not gay myself, I grew up just outside  Brighton UK, which has been a gay and lesbian friendly place for a lot longer than I've been on this earth. I feel this has given me a very broad outlook on life, and I've had gay friends and family since before I was old enough to know what that meant. The fact that the community I've become part of appears to be intuitively homophobic has given me cause for thought.

That time to think was probably a good thing, because the more I thought, the more I remembered the outpouring of support for Jason through the social media. Maybe it's only the perception of homophobia that is causing the players currently concerned about their sexuality to hide such a major part of their lives? Maybe it's time to "show the love" for all the gay players out there, and let them be themselves while playing the game we all love.

Jason and Vanessa have shown the way for others in their situation to remain respected in their chosen profession, while being true to their own selves. We owe it to them, and other gay players, to offer our support to players wanting to join them in coming out of the closet. We need to do our best to make our tables an inviting place, free from irrational phobia, hatred and ignorance.

Rob "Hippy80" King is a recreational poker player and businessman with a history of working in Financial Services. He turned his thoughts to writing about online poker after Black Friday, and has spent much of his recent free time delving into Full Tilt Poker and its legal issues. You Can Follow him on Twitter

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