The news and politics of poker

  1. 2009-09-03 05:49:14

    Chipping Away at the UIGEA

    UPS PWNAGE picked this up in the forums but I wanted to highlight it here for posterity.

    You can read the full story here. The US 3rd Circuit Court upheld the letter of the law, but since the law does not specifically prohibit online gambling, they decided it's really up to the states to decide whether or not online gambling is really illegal. Woo hoo!


    Because only 6 states (plus DC) actually prohibit internet poker. The rest have no specific laws on the matter and, let's face it, probably can't get their shit together enough to actually pass a law on it. Especially if enough of us are watching and we let 'em know it.

    If we can break the unholy (seriously) matrimony of the religious right and Las Vegas casino interests, the UIGEA will fall eventually and online poker will be what it was. This is just one more chink in the armor.

    Posted by Ethan at 2009-09-03 05:49:14 | permalink | Discuss (2 comments)

  2. 2009-05-05 06:20:59

    More on Poker as a Skill Game

    Riffing off the discussion on this post, I thought I'd draw your attention to a recent op ed by Gary R. Reed, the Colorado director for the Poker Players Alliance:

    Poker is not gambling. For us in the Poker Players Alliance or elsewhere to go on allowing the uninformed to lump it in with gambling in general is a disservice to the game and to us. Gambling is games of chance played against a fixed statistical disadvantage.

    Poker is no such game. No fixed disadvantage exists prior to the cards being dealt and the actions or lack of same of the players determines the odds, statistics and chance surrounding any given hand. In other words the house will not take from 6% to 20% of your money given that you play long enough to make those odds apply.

    I like his quick definition of gambling: a game of chance played against a fixed statistical disadvantage. That's quite useful for us, since it draws a clear delineation: roulette and craps? Gambling. Poker? Skill.

    I think the issue that non poker players have trouble with is that there is still chance involved in poker. They see some guy on ESPN spike a one-outer on the river and think it's all luck. But chance is not the same thing as luck. Luck is beating the odds. You have to be lucky to win at roulette. Before a single roulette player sits down, the house has already won. Over the length of the table's service, it will make the house a profit. If it did otherwise, it would be broken.

    Chance is different. It just means that there is some probability of an event happening. The skill comes in figuring out when your chances are good and getting your money in. Simple, right?

    To highlight the difference, think about this: if you want to make poker into gambling, a game of luck, just deal every hand face up and play as normal. Now you're gamblin'! But that's just silly and no one would play it.

    So here's my longer definition of where to draw the gambling/not gambling line:

    1. Given the current state of the game-any game-is it possible to determine a best move to take?
    2. If so, and you take that move in each case, will you come out ahead versus other players in the long run?

    If you can answer yes to both of those, then you're looking at a skill game, folks. Chess is really obviously a skill game. Given the state of the game, which is perfectly represented by the layout of the chess board, it is possible to determine a best move to take.

    The state for poker is a lot harder. There's the betting action and the flop/turn/river just to start with. Then there's each player's past history, their mannerisms, position, etc. But given all of that information, it is still possible to determine the best move. And if you take it, you will win in the long run.

    Posted by Ethan at 2009-05-05 06:20:59 | permalink | Discuss (8 comments)

  3. 2009-03-05 06:22:04

    Anti-UIGEA Bill To Be Introduced This Month

    Reuters, on Feb. 20th:

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A senior Democratic lawmaker will push legislation this year to repeal a U.S. ban on Internet gambling that has hurt trade ties with the European Union, a congressional aide said.

    "The bill introduction should happen in the next month," a spokesman for House of Representatives Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank said.

    On Thursday, Reuters reported the EU could file a complaint about U.S. enforcement of the gambling ban at the World Trade Organization.

    Many of you are already aware that Barney Frank is one of the most vocal opponents of the nanny state shout-out to the "values voters" known as the UIGEA. It went in to effect on Jan. 19th, the last day of the Bush Presidency; banks and credit card companies have until October to start actual enforcement. Hopefully, before that happens, a more receptive Congress will be able to overturn the previous law.

    I realize this may not make the top 10 issues facing the nation for quite some time, so you're not going to hear too much about outside of the poker community. But seriously, why are we sending money overseas and giving already beleaguered financial institutions more headache to deal with?

    Posted by Ethan at 2009-03-05 06:22:04 | permalink | Discuss (1 comment)

  4. 2009-01-22 06:57:14

    UIGEA is Now In Effect

    As of Jan. 19th, banks are now required to try to block monetary transfers to illegal online gambling businesses. Anyone having more trouble than usual transferring money?

    Read more here

    Posted by Ethan at 2009-01-22 06:57:14 | permalink | Discuss (1 comment)

  5. 2009-01-19 04:21:30

    Major Win for Poker Players in Pennsylvania

    A Pennsylvania judge has ruled that poker, specifically Texas Hold'em, is a game of skill. This is great news! One of the reasons that poker is much more regulated than, say, Bridge, is that lawmakers think that poker is a game of luck, not skill. They must think that anything involving cards is based on luck. This isn't casino war here, people! Fortunately, a judge agrees:

    In a ruling handed down by Pennsylvania Judge Thomas A. James Jr. in Columbia County on Friday, it was ruled that Texas Hold?em is a game of skill and therefore not gambling under state law. The ruling sets an ???excellent bar? for future poker litigation, according to Poker Players Alliance (PPA) Executive Director John Pappas.

    The basic question, according to Judge James??? ruling, is whether poker is dominated by chance or skill. He commented ?Simply, if chance predominates, Texas Hold?em is gambling. If skill predominates, it is not gambling.? In Pennsylvania, video poker machines are not allowed because their outcomes are primarily due to chance, not skill. In the case of Texas Hold?em, however, Judge James explained that extensive literature exists that describes winning strategies to play the game. He even cited Mike Caro?s ???Secrets of Winning Poker? by saying, ?the money flows from the bad players to the strong players.?

    Go read the whole thing - the case revolved around something familiar to many on this site - a home poker game staked out and busted by the police. The good news is not only that the defendants were acquitted--as a result of this, it will now be harder for people running honest home games to be convicted.

    I wish I knew enough about law to speculate on whether this decision will have national implications.

    Posted by Ethan at 2009-01-19 04:21:30 | permalink | Discuss (3 comments)

  6. 2008-12-06 07:14:43

    Negreanu: Don't Risk it on a Coin Flip

    I ran across this article and wanted to pass it on and see what others think about it:

    In tournament play, it's generally advisable to avoid risking large sums of chips in coin flip situations, like pocket sixes vs. A-K.

    After all, the pocket pair only is a very slight heads-up favorite. Why risk your tournament life on a near 50/50 proposition?


    In tournament poker, a big chip stack is something that should be protected and not gambled away.

    The full article has a good example explaining the statement. It makes sense to me - the difference between two places can be huge. What do you think?

    Posted by Ethan at 2008-12-06 07:14:43 | permalink | Discuss (6 comments)

  7. 2008-11-06 06:28:10

    Yesterday's Election = Great for Online Poker

    In case you are living in a cave, Barack Obama and Democrats across the country won yesterday, and won big. For poker players, this is nothing but good news. Remember that it was a Jim Leach from Iowa and Robert Goodlatte from Virginia, both Republicans, who authored the UIGEA. Bill Frist and John Kyl, also Republicans, pushed it through the Senate.

    Democrats Robert Wexler and Barney Frank, two of Congress' most staunch online gambling advocates, won their house races handily. They both are pushing legislation favorable to our cause.

    Frank is pushing HR 6870, aka the Payment Systems Protection Act, which will stop the Treasury from enforcing any of the UIGEA's provisions until the language in it (such as the first three words, "unlawful internet gambling") can be defined.

    Wexler is introducing HR 2610, the Skill Game Protection Act. This will protect online betting for "poker, chess, bridge, mahjong or any other game where success is predominantly determined by a player's skill."

    So we've got two bills, both of which will legalize online poker. With the widened Democratic majorities in both houses and an intelligent, sane President who has no debts to pay to any fundamentalist types, these bills should head right through. Hopefully Congress will get to them in January. Unfortunately, I'm sure Congress will also have a lot of work to do, and these bills may not make it to the floor for some time.

    Posted by Ethan at 2008-11-06 06:28:10 | permalink | Discuss (4 comments)

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