WPA Raising the Bar with Poker Room Certifications, Purple Tie Guy Program

6 min read

The Women’s Poker Association is asking poker room operators — and men across the country — to help attract more women to the game through its ongoing #RaiseItUp campaign.

WPA Raise it Up
The WPA is working to attract more women to poker by encouraging casinos around the country to implement anti-harassment policies at the table. (Image: Women’s Poker Association)

As one of its key efforts, the organization recently launched a new poker room certification program whose goal is to highlight certified poker rooms that are upholding standards designed to raise the comfort level of women poker players.

“People are starting to understand what our mission is. And our mission is to elevate, educate and empower women to play poker,” said Lupe Soto, the group’s president, and founder.

A poker seal of approval

Spend enough time in any poker room and you’ll likely see numerous examples of men behaving badly toward women at the table, whether overtly or through more subtle means like commenting on the quality of their play or explaining how they could have better played a hand. One of the WPA’s core missions is to make poker rooms places where women (some who might be new to the game) can visit without the fear of being bullied, intimidated, or harassed while at the table. 

“We understand there are barriers for women entering into the game, and the biggest barrier for women is that there’s an unwelcoming environment in poker rooms,” Soto said. “So our goal is to shake the tree a little bit and let operators understand that until we eliminate some of these barriers, it’s going to be difficult to bring women into the game.”

That’s why the non-profit organization is in the process of reaching out to poker room managers across the country to certify them as WPA-approved.

A WPA certification is a way to provide women with some peace of mind that the poker room is on board with the organization’s mission and is working to weed out bad behavior toward women at the table. “What (certification) actually does, is it allows women who want to play the game understand that the operator has a zero-tolerance abuse policy in their room, along with a methodology that creates ways for people who experience that kind of abuse to be handled,” Soto said.

The Boston Billiard Club and Casino in New Hampshire is the first #RaiseItUp Certified room, with more being processed. The WPA sent a mass mailer to poker rooms around the country and interest is trickling in. Eventually, the WPA will offer a directory of the certified rooms on its website when more come aboard.

Becoming WPA certified

To be certified by the WPA, the poker rooms must agree to the following: 

  • Clearly display rules near the entrance of the poker room, including “zero tolerance” of abuse or harassment
  • Conduct annual cultural awareness and sensitivity staff training
  • Display the provided WPA Certification in the room
  • Include the WPA Certification on social media, ad campaigns, and branding
  • Support #RaiseItUp by liking, sharing, and retweeting posts about WPA
  • Support #RaiseItUp awareness events

It’s for the overall good of the game of poker, said Tara Windsor-Smith, Vice President of WPA.

“It all boils down to is we want to elevate the game. You’re having more fun because people have better presence about themselves and they are handling (problem) players in the game differently,” she said.

Welcoming women players

Certified poker rooms are also being called upon to help find local women who are passionate about poker and who are positive role models to serve as volunteer WPA advocates. Considered a crucial part of the WPA’s foundation, these women serve as local faces for the organization around the country and internationally.

Advocates work with the certified poker rooms to create programming designed to bring new women players to the game, and encourage them to stick around. For new players, these efforts could be as basic as providing tours of the poker room and teaching new players how to register for tournaments. The goal is to make newly minted women poker players comfortable and confident as they begin playing live poker with strangers.

“It can be intimidating if you don’t know those things. To walk into a room where you’re only one of a few of the ladies around and then to not know what to do or where to go, it’s a huge intimidation,” said Windsor-Smith.

Advocates also assist in organizing marketing and member recruitment events, and support those events by attending them and sharing information on social media. The WPA now has 44 advocates throughout five regions in the US and is looking for more.

The WPA is also looking for board members and volunteers to help with everything from graphic and web design to program coordinators.

Tie one on for poker

For men who want to publicly support the WPA and its mission, the group has created the Purple Tie Guy program which provides them with a patch they can wear at the table. The organization asks men to wear the patch while playing and to post a short video with the patch on social media using the hashtags #purpletieguy, #imapurpletieguy, and #wpapurpletieguy declaring their support.

It’s an easy way for men to show they’re behind WPA’s efforts to make poker more inclusive for women, Soto said. “It’s a visual that a woman — or anybody — who sees the patch, they know that that individual supports women in poker and they want to support them growing in the game,” she said.

Patches are available through the WPA’s website for $1 shipping or can be had for free from any board member or advocate in the wild at poker rooms, seminars, and WPA events. 

The WPA’s Twitter feed is loaded with videos of men declaring their support for the organization’s mission.

“We’re going to open more doors for more people who want to come play, and that’s just a better representation of the game of poker,” Windsor-Smith said. “Poker is something I think deserves respect and I think we’re going to get it this way.”

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