Meet Jason Somerville (winner of a WSOP bracelet and over $1.7 million in tournament prize money), who took to his blog this week to explain why he decided now’s the time to let the world know something he only figured out about himself a couple of years ago — he’s gay:
One of the things that I think is universally liked about poker is that the game is open to anyone. If you’ve got the cash, we’ve got a seat open. It doesn’t matter if you’re white, black, Christian, Jewish, a woman, physically disabled, a foreigner, a felon, or smell terrible, we’ll make room for you at the not-necessarily-proverbial table and let you play. Everyone comes in on an equal playing field, getting the same cards, the same chips, and left alone to make their own decisions. It’s a cutthroat world, but the waters are open to anyone who wants to swim. This universal acceptance/open invitation is sort of the centerpiece of poker – it’s a major reason we had a boom in 2003 after Moneymaker’s win at the WSOP ‘proved’ “anyone can do it, all you have to do is play.” Maybe it’s because of that cornerstone of acceptance, maybe it isn’t, but our community is pretty tolerant overall (maybe it’s more indifferent than tolerant). Bottom line, it really doesn’t matter who you are, or what you do; barring some truly awful behavior that usually has to do with a long-time abuse of the community’s trust, you’ll be accepted, or at worst, begrudgingly allowed in. It takes something pretty messed up to be truly ostracized from the poker community as a whole (the only person I can think of is Russ Hamilton of UB superuser fame, and the Full Tilt top guys will definitely make the list if players don’t get repaid).
Of all the diversity and variety that the poker world contains, though, there is a noticeable lack of openly gay poker professionals. Vanessa Selbst is a top tier player, a brilliant woman and an amazing person, but other than her, I’ve never met a single gay professional poker player, never mind a high profile one.
I’m not quite sure why exactly that is, and of course everyone is entitled to be as open as they want to be about their personal lives, but for there to be zero high-profile openly not-straight men in poker seems…bad. Archaic. Reflective of a community that isn’t open to all, when we actually are one of the most open communities in existence. Maybe it’s not because of something unique to poker, and it’s just a relic of the old-school mentality when the world’s default mindset was at best “don’t ask, don’t tell,” but, come on, it’s 2012. Whatever the reason… zero??
I’ve struggled with how to discuss this, with how to balance my desire for privacy with the fact that I do want to be myself publicly – and the fact that I think it’s overdue for a guy to be open about it in poker. I’m no Daniel Negreanu, the royalty of real talk, but I do pride myself on saying what I think and simply being who I am; but I suppose you could say in the past being “truly myself” has come with a bit of an asterisk. Privately, amongst friends, I can say I’ve been doing that for some amount of time – but publicly, and in poker, that hasn’t completely been the case. I haven’t exactly always been where I am now, though, and haven’t really been ready to share my story publicly. Privacy reasons excepted, that won’t be the case any more.