Should Professional Poker Have a Dress Code?3 years ago
Poker players are not exactly known for being the most well dressed bunch. In fact, if you walk into a casino, you can instantly spot what has become the “grinder’s uniform” - blue jeans, a dark colored hoodie, sunglasses, and massive headphones. The outfit started out as a mark of pride, a signal to other aficionados that you took your game seriously. Today, that enthusiasm has waned, and being spotted at the poker table dressed like that is more likely to get you labeled a dick than to get you any respect.
But while an informal uniform may have been adopted for over a decade, the idea that poker players would have some kind of formalized “dress code” is a topic that remains controversial.
The case for a dress code
Those who support it reason that the game’s best players can be highly visible, appearing in all kinds of formal and informal media channels that are seen by people all over the world. Often, these images show players who have just won tens, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars - all while being dressed in clothing that might make you think they were actually homeless. Those in favor of a dress code argue that this type of thing perpetuates negative ideas and stereotypes surrounding poker players, and so should be changed. If you are going to be in the spotlight competing in a competitive event, you ought to dress the part of a respectable competitor.
Except, Poker is not a game of kings
That would be all well and good, if it weren’t for the fact that it’s completely and utterly ridiculous.
One of poker’s main appeals is its “every man/woman” aspect - the idea that the average person can find success. So, while I’m sympathetic to the idea that the game needs to present a good face to the public, a dress code is simply a horrible way to go about it. It would send the wrong message that poker is a formalized activity that only belongs to an exclusive group of elite players. This could give the feel of a barrier to entry - which is the last thing that we want. Poker is not a game of kings, it’s traditions and lore are built by exactly the type of people who would show up to win a million bucks while dressed like a hobo off the street. We shouldn’t be messing with that vibe.
Keep the personality in the game
With the exception of a single World Series of Poker Bracelet event, poker is an individual pursuit. There is nothing more individualistic than the way that you chose to dress. The game is at its best in the public spotlight when the personalities of the people that play it are on full display. In my opinion, taking the color out of TV events by forcing a dress code on people would detract from one of the most entertaining aspects of live poker. Live tournaments need more spontaneity and fun, not more conformity. Who can forget Phil Hellmuth riding into the World Series of Poker Main Event dressed like Caesar, and then playing hands in a breastplate? Phil Laak’s own prop bet to dress up like an old man fro the entirety of day 1 of the WSOP? Had a dress code had been enforced for televised tournaments, they might not have happened.
Impossible to write; impossible to enforce
Which brings me to my final point, which is the fact that it would be impossible to agree on what the dress code should be, much less enforce it. If we are going to start from the idea that there won’t be a standardized “uniform”, then where do we go from there? Are short sleeves ok? Hats? Sunglasses? How dirty is too dirty? Do articles of clothing have to be valued at a certain amount?
The amount of ridiculous questions you could ask if you do this mental exercise are proof positive that it’s an idea that should be indefinitely buried. The only dress code at the poker table should be the basic standards of common decency for covering yourself in public (and it should be noted, even THAT can be controversial to define).
In fact, the only good thing that might come out of a dress code would be the hilarious ways in which poker players would come up with to ridicule it. And that’s saying something, because as we already know, poker players aren’t exactly the most well-dressed bunch in the room. Given a reason to actually dress poorly, I shudder to think what they might actually come up with.
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