As a tournament reporter, one of the first things I do at the start of a day is walk the floor. Sure, I make note of where established pros are seated, but I'm also trying to get a sense of the room. Here at the Casino Municipal we actually have two adjoining rooms in use - the main room with 32 tables and an overflow room that contains another 15. Due to the volume of expected entries, those tables are playing 10-handed for now but that will be adjusted as soon as possible.
At the start of the day, 45 of the 47 tables were in use. Dealers sat alone at the remaining two tables, patiently awaiting additional registrants. The 45 aren't all full yet - some are playing 8-handed, some 9-handed, some 10-handed - but if I had to guess I'd say that there are around 400 players split between the two rooms. As I made my way around, I felt like I was seeing lots of women.
Intrigued by my sense that perhaps today's tournament would buck the trend of minimal female participation in tournament poker, I started counting representatives of the fairer sex. Between the overflow room and the upper half of the main room, 29 tables in all, I counted 19 women - about 7.5% of the field. That's not massive female participation, but I thought it could represent a nice uptick over the norm.
Then I counted the bottom half of the room. At 16 tables there were exactly zero women. In an odd quirk of the table draw, all the women are either in the overflow room or in the upper half of the main room. 19 out of 400 is closer to the 5% that is the accepted norm of female participation in live big buy-in poker.
My heart-warming story dashed, I began to think about that strange quirk of tournament poker - the table draw. Here in Viña del Mar, the table break is simple: high to low. Tables 47-33 in the overflow room will break first. Once all players are in the main room, the tables will break from Table 32 towards Table 1. Thus players who drew low tables, say Tables 1-16, can be sure that they will not break for a long, long time (or at all) today. Players at higher tables could bounce from table to table throughout the day, depending on their luck with the cards - the seat cards.
Yesterday's leader, Rodrigo Quezada, was parked at Table 4 for most of the day. He could settle in, build himself a table image, exploit that table image and establish solid reads on the styles of his opponents. Judging by his 226,500-chip stack, he did an excellent job of all of those things.
By contrast, players facing the prospect of several table breaks don't have the luxury of time to make reads and establish an image. Their fates are more left to quirks that develop in individual hands and to executing plays that lack as much data and instead rely more on individual hand nuance and a naked hope that the play works out.
So to the group of women bunched up on the right side of the room, I say, "Play well - and may you break to a low table."
Dave Behr is a freelance contributor to the PokerStars Blog.
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