AngusD switched from pro chess to poker two decades ago and has been professionally involved in the game on numerous levels since the very beginning of online poker, including playing as a poker ambassador both online and at major festivals around the globe. He has written much about the game over the years, and brings to YPD a wealth of experience in all aspects of the poker industry. Meanwhile, his many years on the pro chess circuit (he’s an International Master and prolific author) afford him an interesting perspective on the psychology of poker.

· Published 23.01.2021 · last updated 23.01.2021

Is poker going to be affected by the Woke movement?

If the ambitions of a 23-year-old forensic psychology graduate in the Netherlands come to fruition, then a fundamental aspect of the game could undergo a drastic change…

There was a time when the word ‘woke’ was simply the past tense of ‘wake’… but, in recent years, it has officially been given another meaning, namely referring to someone being ‘aware of and actively attentive to important facts and issues… including social justice’.

Regardless of our politics, and however worthy such a way of thinking is, it seems like there is no longer any subject in the world that, to some extent, hasn’t been impacted. The latest could be poker.

Poker, being a gambling game that for many non-players conjures up images of cowboys in rowdy saloons shooting at each other, is always going to be susceptible to attracting varying levels of ill-informed, unjustified stigma and criticism. However, we could be forgiven for thinking that the traditional deck of cards itself was safe, inspired as it is by centuries of history from cultures and peoples from around the globe.

And this is where the aforementioned Indy Mellink, of Oegstgeest, Netherlands comes in. Questioning the convention in the usual deck of cards that sees an apparent sexual inequality assign a higher ‘value’ to a King over a Queen, she decided to do something about it by creating a genderless version.

Now, with her new design, out have gone the King, Queen, and Jack, replaced with Gold, Silver, and Bronze! Thus the picture cards now have images of gold bars, silver coins, and a bronze shield rather than the intriguing royal portraits that poker players have used, without the slightest problem between genders, for literally centuries.

According to Reuters, she was explaining a card game to her cousins and wondered why a king was worth more than a queen.

“If we have this hierarchy that the king is worth more than the queen then this subtle inequality influences people in their daily life because it’s just another way of saying ‘hey, you’re less important,” Mellink told Reuters. “Even subtle inequalities like this do play a big role.

It didn’t take long before a business idea was spawned, and 1,500 packs have been sold to customers as far afield as the U.S. according to the news agency.

Not surprisingly, the idea that using this new variety of deck would mean that we’d start having a full house such as ‘Golds over nines’ or a ‘pair of fives with a Silver kicker’ and so on, hasn’t gone down well with UK poker players. This is a nation which, while championing the cause of equality and rights, endeavours to do so while at the same time maintaining a pragmatic outlook and trying to keep things realistic. There has never been a problem with the card values that have existed for generations, and nor have female poker fans bemoaned that they play a game where Kings rank higher than Queens for the sake of establishing rules.

A look at various online comments about this latest idea reveals a unanimous opinion – from both women and men – that as far as poker is concerned, doing away with the royal cards would be unnecessarily messing with (and spoiling) a key aspect of the game. Furthermore, as a number of poker players pointed out, in chess the King is limited to moving around just a single square at a time, while the Queen is by far the most powerful piece on the board, with limitless mobility, in any direction!

There might well be sales of the genderless deck of cards here and there, but it’s a very safe bet that the (totally harmless) traditions which have seen poker and countless other games and sports maintain a healthy popularity over many years in the UK (and without anyone feeling any injustice) will continue. British poker fans don’t need to worry about finding themselves needing a Bronze to fill that Gold-high straight…

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