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Mike Dentale and Cate Hall played a heads-up match on a live Poker Night in America stream after a months-long Twitter beef. #MikeAndCatePlusHate was extremely well-received by the poker community, drawing approximately 10,000 viewers to the Twitch stream and thousands more who watched the YouTube videos after the fact.

Post-game summaries accurately reported the outcome of the best-of-three match, but the details were a bit confusing. As someone who did not watch it live but planned to view it at a later date, most articles about the match gave me the impression that Hall won the first two games because she got an incredible run of cards. She got hit by the deck, they said. He didn’t get any hands, they wrote.

So, I watched the nearly four hours of coverage of the PNIA games with commentary by Doug Polk and Shaun Deeb. I saw that she did hit some hands, but most of my observations were different from that of several writers. I saw a clear win by Hall in every way.

Hall Outplayed Dentale

It was clear to the commentators during the match and some of the post-script writers that Hall clearly outplayed her opponent. Of course, she hit some hands, but she also played most of them quite well, knew how to get paid off, and folded away from some dangerous spots.

She also did her homework. Not only did she enlist coaching from Polk prior to the match to enhance her heads-up play, she had friends watching the live stream, which was on a 30-minute delay, in order to message her with hand results and tips. There had been no rules to the contrary, so there is no clear reason for Dentale’s decision not to do the same. She merely did what most players do when playing on a livestream when rules permit it.

Hall also read her opponent like a book. She was able to detect his insecurities from the start of the first game and detect his various levels of tilt throughout the two games. While he tried to get under her skin with insulting table talk, she spent most of the first game in relative silence. During the second game, she did begin responding to him in small doses, but mostly with a level of sarcasm that was typically over Dentale’s head. That, along with Hall’s domination during most of the second game, led to Dentale becoming quieter as the match continued. She played her opponent as much as she played her cards.

Hall Outclassed Dentale

Keep in mind that the entire beef between Hall and Dentale was instigated by the latter. She merely tweeted about a hand she played in the WPT Five Diamond World Poker Classic Main Event in December.

She and another poker pro began discussing the hand on Twitter when Dentale jumped in to call her “clueless.” He continued to tweet at/about her, and she challenged him to play heads-up. Dentale was the person who began the whole beef by insulting a person with whom he wasn’t even personally acquainted.

On the livestream, it didn’t take long for Dentale to begin berating her for her play. When she won the first hand with flopped trip eights, he criticized her for not raising more and winning more chips from him. He continued to be annoyed by her play, whether he won or lost hands. While Hall remained quiet and focused, he condescendingly tried to school her on betting and basic strategy. He called her decision to quit a lucrative law career for poker “stupid,” and he followed that comment with one about how he would be happier if they could just be respectful of each other.

“Did you realize there’s a lot of variance in heads-up when you first challenged me?”

“You’re so bad, it’s amazing.”

“God, you’re so bad.”

“I’ve never seen such bad play in my life.”

“Cate, remember, you will always suck, especially in my eyes.” … “There’s a lot of women out there that earn my respect, and I say damn, those are some good girls, those girls can play. It definitely isn’t you.”

And he called her “hon” after she bluffed him off a hand at the start of the second game and then showed him a card that put him on further tilt.

After her second and final win, Dentale retreated to the commentators’ booth, where he proceeded to make excuses for his play and tried to garner understanding from Polk and Deeb. He also made sure to talk more about Hall. “I don’t think she’s gracious, accepting, and thankful for her run-good,” he said. “I think she disrespects the poker community by not being humble.”

Oh, the irony!

Poker Community Matures in Some Ways

While my opinion of the skill factor differed from some writers, most who wrote about the match provided fair critiques of the action and focused on the play. Strangely enough, most of the 50-plus-page thread on Two Plus Two about the match also focused on a discussion of the action and other topics pertinent to poker. This is notable because of the changes that have taken place over the past decade.

After spending nearly 12 years as a poker scribe in some form or fashion, I can attest to the maturation of the poker community. To find a massive thread on Two Plus Two with only a handful of outrageously sexist comments is encouraging, as is the ability to scroll through to find others confronting less blatant but still misogynistic comments.

Of course, there was one post-match article that was so filled with misogyny that it was almost laughable, but colleagues and players alike seemed to overwhelmingly call it out for the hit piece on Hall that it was.

All in all, the reactions to the match have been heartening. My feeling that Hall’s play was underrated by male players and critics stands, but that is a relatively tame complaint in the scope of the past decade of poker. Ten years ago, it would have been difficult to get past the critiques of her hair and clothing to find out what others thought of her abilities. While some of those sexist attitudes still remain and must be confronted, the maturity of the community with response to the Hall-Dentale match is notable.

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Jennifer Newell

Jennifer has been a freelance writer in the poker industry for a decade. She left a full-time job with the World Poker Tour to tell the stories of poker. She now lives in St. Louis, writes about poker while pursuing other varied interests, and speaks her mind on Twitter… a lot.