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America’s split personality January 19, 2007

Posted by pcorcoran in Link, News, Poker, Politics.

America’s split personality, case study #314:

Poker. It’s now a multi-billion dollar industry, what with the round-the-clock ESPN coverage, the online poker rooms, the “Indian” casinos popping up in every other county, and the beers-and-cards-with-the-guys nights all over America. And it’s also illegal almost everywhere, in a hunted-aggressively-by-the-federal-government way reminiscent only of the War On DrugsTM.

It’s been a big news week in the world of online poker. First, two Canadian executives of the British online funds transfer company NETeller were arrested because their business sometimes facilitated cash movements from American citizens to onlnie poker rooms. Then, in today’s news Derek Kelly, the owner of the private British poker club Gutshot was convicted of violating the British Gaming Act.

I play on pokerstars.com, an online poker room based in San Jose, Costa Rica. Until yesterday it was trivial to move money in and out of my account there. (Yes, I do move money out — do you think I’d still be playing if I were losing?) Now it’s slow, complicated, and no longer free. I’ll have to pay legal money-launderers disguised as Visa payment services, businesses which remain open because they too are housed in countries currently outside the influence of the U.S. black-boots.

Derek Kelly’s defense was based upon the position that poker is a game of skill, not one of luck, and is therefore not subject to the same restrictions as other forms of wagering. I think he should have won on this point. Even the state of California supports this position.

Everyone knows that luck plays some part in poker. But anyone who has ever played more than a smidgin of poker understands that luck takes a distant back-seat to skill. From a mathematical perspective, as the number of hands played approaches infinity, the hands dealt to each player approach absolute parity. The difference after that is skill — skill in understanding and reading human psychology, and skill in being able to instantly assess the relationship between the probable outcomes and the implied rewards of any given hand.

The thing that irritates me is that even though playing poker is legal in California, as a California resident I’m still not allowed to play poker online. Why? My guess is that it’s because the government doesn’t get their share of the pie. Pay to play.



1. chestersdad - January 19, 2007

What’s also strange about the Neteller arrests is that it seems to go after those execs for activities not covered by the new internet gaming act, and centers around sports betting — yet poker is a casualty of it.

It’s funny how we can simultaneously have ads for poker sites, poker on NBC, not to mention newspapers printing betting lines, all an acknowledgment that people do gamble like mad, yet have this crackdown. But we all know how hypocritical America is, especially those in power. That’s how we have people like Mark Foley writing laws that he goes on to probably violate, or people like Bill Frist (cat-killing-lunatic) slipping anti-gambling legislation into a port security bill for the sole purpose of a presidential run that in a rare moment of apparent sanity he instantly abandoned.

2. pcorcoran - January 20, 2007

It’s funny how as a poker player I instantly tuned out the implications here for online gambling. When I read the NETeller news I only really saw it as a bust on poker.

Obviously the real target here was the Golden Palaces of the world. PokerStars was just collateral damage, albeit not unwelcome in the eyes of the other 40-something states which don’t condone monetary exchanges as a result of poker competition.

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