The Borgata Poker Open main event has long been a popular stop on the World Poker Tour and a thriving multi-event festival has grown up around it. In particular, the annual Ladies Championship has become a regular draw for the card playing members of the fairer sex. This year’s event looked set to be as popular as ever, so popular in fact, that a man decided to register.
Under New Jersey law, the Borgata is unable to bar anyone from a tournament on the basis of their sex. In order to keep the spirit of a ladies event intact, the predominant male contingent are politely asked not to buy-in. In general this gentleman’s agreement is adhered to, but earlier this week Abraham Korotki decided to break with etiquette. One man in a field full of women would not have caused such a hubbub, had Korotki not gone on to win the Borgata Poker Open Ladies Championship.
His heads-up opponent has added an extra layer of controversy to proceedings. Nicole Rowe was recently diagnosed with breast cancer and will shortly undergo a double mastectomy. The Borgata Open blog ran a story on her even before the tournament began. In the article she spoke of her deep depression and how poker provided a way to forget her troubles for a few hours. The impending operation and inevitably lengthy recovery time will place an extreme financial strain on Nicole and her family.A big poker win would go a long way towards easing the burden. Heads-up against Korotki she asked if he would chop the prize pool, explaining that she planned to use the money to cover her medical expenses. Her male opponent refused and went on to take the full first place prize of $20,892.
Abraham Korotki has since pledged to donate his winnings to charity, including a breast cancer foundation. The 40 year-old Rowe was fairly ambivalent about her opponent, and still picked up $11,889 for second place. “It doesn’t matter. It was 16 hours of being cancer free, a diversion from my reality.” She also intends to give $500 of her winnings to a breast cancer charity.
Korotki’s victory is perhaps the most divisive in Borgata history, with many players, both women and men, outraged at his decision to invade a female-only event. Their ire only intesified by his actions heads-up against a breast cancer victim. Supporters, on the other hand, applaud him for standing up to the sexism of a single gender tournament. Korotki himself says he just wanted to play more poker. “I got tired of going home early,” he told journalists after his victory.
Conflicting reports about his behavior are also causing some confusion. While some observers claim he acted with dignity and politeness, other testimony is less gracious. The Borgata Open blog quoted one anonymous player from the same table as Korotki. “He wasn’t just there for fun, he was obnoxious. Every hand he needled people.” He also claims that no member of staff ever asked him to leave the event, although PokerNews has reported that, “many women…witnessed Borgata officials trying to dissuade Korotki from participating.”