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Poker News | Gambling and the Law

Poker Plus - Alphabet Poker Soup

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Everything today has a shortened nickname; looking like alphabet soup to describe it. Not that long ago the alphabet was used mainly by TV stations, ABC, NBC, and CBS. Then there were the government agency alphabet guys; FBI, CIA, or to lump them all together - just the Feds. Now it seems like every official name gets shortened with no vowels to be bought anywhere.

Years ago we got used to seeing letters instead of names. The World Series of Poker naturally became the WSOP, four words shortened to four letters makes it much easier for the writers covering the event I am sure. We got used to that, seeing WSOP instead of the full name. Then we were deluged with the poker alphabet everywhere we looked. The World Poker Tour is the WPT, the Asian Poker Tour is the APT, the Spanish Poker Tour is the SPT and every poker event that crops up is automatically alphabetized.

For poker players, all these abbreviations are just an accepted part of the poker world. One exception however is the UIGEA.

Unless you don’t play poker, don’t know anyone who plays poker, or you live in a cave, you have read or heard about the UIGEA. Officially known as the Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act, as a writer, I can honestly say I am glad to be able to shorten that to five letters. But, as a poker player, I am nowhere near the realm of glad that it exists to write about at all.

Anything you want to know about the UIGEA can be found in other articles, both here on PokerWorks and all over the internet. Therefore, I won’t delve too deeply into all of it, other than to say it stinks.

The whole UIGEA mess started off smelling like a barrel of rotten fish. The governmental powers that be knew they would never get the bill passed, so they decided to sneak it in with a bill they knew would get passed. After that darkest of days in America, September 11th, 2001, Americans would rally behind any bill that contained the word “security.” We were so paranoid about security it was impossible to find a roll of duct tape at the hardware store. Did we really think duct taping our windows was going to keep out a dirty bomb? We were so overly security conscious, that when the UIGEA bill was bundled with the “Port Security Act” it was a shoo in to be passed, an unfortunate forgone conclusion.

But just how has the UIGEA affected poker players in the USA? For this poker player the answer is; not very much. Thanks to the few poker sites that refused to bow out of the US market, playing poker online is for the most part, the same as it was before the UIGEA. Depositing can pose a challenge, but again, those clever poker sites that welcome us do offer us viable options, so this hurdle too can be jumped.

The downside is there are not as many choices for US players as there were before. Now, we can only read about a mega Freeroll tournament or dream about being able to play Double Holdem that recently debuted on Party Poker  - where registering a new account by downloading through PokerWorks will get you $50 FREE - and drool, because we can’t take part in it. This could be a case of the “grass being greener” because it does seem the sites we are banned from do offer the best promotions, but we can’t take advantage of them. Or, maybe it is a financial fact; the non-US friendly sites do offer better promotions because they need to attract players from a smaller player base, outside the USA. Whichever the case may be, we are shut out on these great deals for poker players, simply because of the UIGEA.

I do have to wonder though, why the select few poker sites that have refused to shut us out, so far at least, appear to have suffered no repercussions from allowing us to play. Makes you wonder why all the other poker sites continue to leave us out in the cold doesn’t it. Or, is there some unforeseen black cloud looming from one of the government alphabet agencies? Is there some covert plan in the works to rain fire and brimstone down on the US friendly poker sites?

In the meantime, we continue to play at the sites that still welcome us, keeping the light of hope burning for the future of poker on the internet. There are strong winds of change blowing; hopefully one of these gales will be to repeal the UIGEA.

Every person in the USA has their own agenda, the issue that is most important to them. For all of us, the economy is number one; everyone who fills their gas tank knows the economy is in big trouble. Number two is as varied as the individual voters are. The issues are important ones; healthcare, affordable housing, mortgage bail-outs, funding for state and federal programs for the needy and education. But for poker players, another issue is at hand; the future of our right to play poker on the internet.

We have to ask the basic question; what harm are we doing to anyone by playing poker on the internet? It should be a personal choice made by responsible adults. Yes, many people have a “gambling problem” but they will continue to have this problem regardless of the ability to play online. Problem gamblers will gamble; whether they hop a plane to Vegas, log in on the internet or drive to the local casino. Banning internet gaming will not stop gamblers from gambling. The government of course thinks they have to protect us from ourselves; we have no control so they must step in and control us. It is sad our government thinks we are such a bunch of degenerate gamblers that we need their protection or we will gamble away every penny we have.

The light of hope for poker players is the promise of a new administration in the White House. One of the White House hopefuls, Barack Obama, has made no bones about the fact he loves to play poker. Ok, maybe he doesn’t exactly love it, but he enjoys playing with his buddies, whenever he has the chance. Does this mean he may be our best hope of getting rid of the ridiculous UIGEA? I have no idea, but it certainly won’t hurt the Poker Players Alliance’s cause to have a poker player in the Oval Office. It is a big step in the right direction for the future of internet poker, if only the first step of many. We have to start somewhere to get rid of the UIGEA and the best place to start is at the top.

If elected, Obama won’t be the first President who enjoyed his poker game:
• Harry S Truman played poker throughout his tenure as a judge in Missouri, a state senator, Vice-President and President. Truman particularly liked to host a poker game aboard the Presidential yacht, while it cruised down the Potomac River. He also played when he vacationed at his vacation retreat in Key West, Florida. To prove it, his poker table is now on public display in Florida. Among Truman’s poker playing buddies was Texas senator Lyndon B. Johnson, himself a future President. Truman is also associated with the poker term of “passing the buck” (or dealer button) because of the plaque on his desk which read "the buck stops here.”
• Richard Nixon was introduced to the game of poker while he was serving in the Navy during World War II. It is said that he used the money he won to finance his first political campaign, which was a success, seeing him appointed as a member of the U.S. Congress.
• Warren Harding was well known for having poker games at the White House twice a week. One famous story is of him betting the expensive White House china - and losing. The game became known as “The Poker Cabinet” because so many members of the Cabinet were weekly regulars.
• John F. Kennedy was well known as an avid poker player. He regularly hosted after hours games at the White House where the regulars included Presidential press secretary Pierre Salinger and of course Vice President LBJ.
• Franklin D. Roosevelt, being confined to a wheel chair due to Polio, had three passions he enjoyed since his physical activities were severely limited. Not only was he an avid reader and birdwatcher, he liked to play poker too, often hosting games at the White House.

Poker is no stranger to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC. As poker players, we can only hope that in the future, the game will be a regular there once again and the host will do what is best for all of us; get rid of the UIGEA.

Until then we play on, where we can. Grab a chair…see you there!

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