At least the ports are secure, though.

We debuted a new author here at Joboo yesterday, he’s going to be checking in weekly with some takes on poker. Maybe advice, I’m not really sure. Just watch out for this cat if you ever run into him playing in a game for no money. Cutthroat as hell. His debut column was about the new Port Security Bill, that included some legislation that extended 1961s wire act to the current days of the Internet.

In a statement released by fulltiltpoker.com, the internet gaming giant (as seen on ESPN’s WSOP coverage) attempted to convince users that, at worst, they wouldn’t lose any earnings they currently possess. At best, they’re going to fight this thing and hope to avoid shutting down. Including in the statement:

“As poker is a game of skill rather than pure chance, we hope that it will not be affected by this new bill.”

This is precisely why I favor the new bill. A bit of a tale and then some analysis below the fold.

Since Spencer treated folks to a story at the outset of his column, I’m going to do the same, but hopefully manage to tailor a brief version of this classic.

There once upon a time a poor widow, her son, who was a fellow named Jack, and their cow, Milky White. The family was poor, but hardworking. They put in their time and every day Jack took the milk from the cow to sell at the market. One day, a man named Big Slick approached Jack. He offered him something he referred to as “the Internet” and poker websites. He showed Jack how he won hand after hand. He was making dollars and the excitement? Oh the excitement. He told Jack that he could take part in this excitement. For a small fee of his cow milk money, he could get aboar this internet and on this poker. Jack, however, turned him down.

One day later that month, however, Jack succombed. Milky White was no longer producing milk for the market and Jack and his mother were struggling to make ends meet. Jack went to Big Slick and handed him his last $50. Big Slick gave him the poker and internet devices and off Jack went. He went home, saw his mother, who was furious that Jack would spend the money in this manner. She took the laptop computer and quickly deleted the poker account. Later that night, however, Jack pulled a Chloe from 24 and recovered the hell out of them data file operatives. He locked in mega quadrants with hell of sockets and was ready to roll on that poker.

Jack played for a bit, but then found a magical button labelled…ALL IN. The button appeared magical to him. All big, capital letters. He said it out loud to himself a few times “ALL IN, ALL IN”. Another player in the room, named The Champ, explained this button to Jack. “Jack, my friend, that button is the key to this game. You either hit that one, or you hit FOLD. One of the two, but it’s hard to find a proper in between, lad.” A few other folks at the table said The Champ was nuts. Jack thought it over and at one point Jack decide to press this button. He had a K Q and the board showed Ace and Jack. Jack longed for that 10. On the turn, his opponent, a surly fellow, went all in. Jack called. They flipped over their cards. Jack on his straight draw, his opponent with pocket Aces for the trips. The river came down a 10 and Jack walked away with the money. Happy days and an Ogre of an opponent ticked off yelling things like “you risked your entire stack on a straight DRAW?!?!?”

Jack left happy that night and showed all his newfound riches to his mother. She still wasn’t sure about this internet stuff and poker, but allowed Jack to continue at it, since she did enjoy money. Jack’s second time out, he found himself calling the ALL IN button with a pocket pair of 2s going up against his opponent’s AK. It was the same fellow that pushed him all in previously and Jack could see the rage in this man’s eye’s as he flipped over the low pocket pair.” No AK hit the board and once again, Jack was raining down dollars. “No respect, no respect,” his opponent said to him. This time, Jack took the money, gave some of the riches to his mother, then bought himself some hookers.

Jack was enjoying his ability making money hand over fist on the Internet. He even got one of those Full Tilt Poker hats that he saw so often on the television. He bought Phil Hellmuth’s book. Jack started playing the game again and with all his riches, he was playing for more and more money. He went up once again to the same opponent and when he caught himself a pair of Kings, with a King on the board after the flop, he pushed the ALL IN button. This time, his opponent flipped over two pair. Jack began to see the chips coming towards his little sailor icon as the player with the Mike Tyson icon began to curse him. Then, it happened. Tyson caught the full boat on the river and Jack was slapped back.

Jack lost a ton of monay on the hand. So, he wanted to make up for it quickly. He had $100 left and saw a flashing logo for BLACKJACK!!! and instantly knew that he had to click on it. He went to a blackjack table. He laid the $100 down. Needless to say, he lost that money. He was flat broke. As he closed down the program, the online casino told him if put in $50 more, he could get $15 free from the casino. Hell of nice folks there!

Jack went home. His mother was clearly upset. Unlike the Beanstalk, this Jack doesn’t find a fairy tale ending. Jack began to whore himself out to middle aged businessmen in the subway just to get a couple hands in. When a black man named Reggie pulled Jack into his home to get away from this life, Jack yelled “REGGIEEEEE!!!” a lot and eventually shunned the help. He returned home to his mother, she closed the door on him, he was in shambles. He slunk down against the door and cursed her. Jack’s life was torn apart, no longer able to go forward.

Now, I’m not exactly sure if I’ve got any readers left at this point, but enough of the story, which I admit is not indicative of every online gambler, nor would I say it is even close to a majority. However, let me pull you back to that Full Tilt quote that I started this with:

“As poker is a game of skill rather than pure chance, we hope that it will not be affected by this new bill.”

As the bard, or Clive Owen in THIS AIN’T NO BANK ROBBERY, would say, “therein lies the rub.”

See, poker players have this false notion that they can’t lose. That somehow, they’re managing to just kick the luck to the curb entirely. I don’t doubt that some poker players can do this and win more often and not. I realize it happens. But, gone are the days where Mike McDermott’s poker world revolved around the premise of, “Why do you think the same five guys make it to the final table of the World Series of Poker EVERY YEAR? What, are they the luckiest guys in Las Vegas?”

People hold onto that vision, though. Despite more and more players entering the fold. I’m not saying that poker is entirely a game of luck. Good players can do what they do. But sometimes, you’re left with the not so gentle reality of Teddy KGBs, “It hurts doesn’t it? Your hopes dashed, your dreams down the toilet. And your fate is sitting right besides you.” Don’t say it doesn’t happen. Maybe if you’re a good player, maybe if you’re a responsible player, it doesn’t matter. Maybe you can even get back up from the break down.

But, as this game gets easier and easier for the average person to sign up and play…As exposure of poker goes through the roof…As people purchase books about poker thinking they can win just off of that…What follows? Inevitably, there are people that can not play a lick of poker, that lose their shirts playing the game. I bring up the negative because the downsides of gambling have been a harsh reality in this country for a long time. Not every player that sits down at the table is going to know what they are doing and could potential sink their lives into not just gambling on poker, but other forms of online gaming, as well as sports betting.

The reality is that even if you are reading this and are the type of gambler that usually comes out on top, you’re in the minority, because people are losing tons of money every year. While poker is different from other games in that the companies are only taking your money in the form of fees to use their service (per game and what not), people are still out there losing money in poker. Hell, you probably actively prey on these people if you are a winning gambler.

On this end, the legal history of gambling has been long rooted as a state’s rights issue. The concerns of the citizens in New Jersey do not always mirror those in California. The state’s police power has been the longstanding principal behind gambling in this country. New Jersey tried redevelopment through casino’s, it didn’t work out too well. Other states have found some measures of success with gambling theories and regulations. Iowa did OK with riverboats and others mimmicked it.

The point of state’s regulating gambling is that state’s are better suited than the federal government to not only know what sort of gaming they should allow in their communities, but to know where those funds should be directed. A state may believe that personal freedom should allow anyone to gamble in any manner, so they want to direct funds from gambling venues to go towards helping problem gamblers or show folks the choices that they can make with regards to gambling. Other states may want to use gambling to raise money for education or other purposes.

The state police power is deeply rooted in the history of this country. It is very significant in this argument.

It is easy to say that people who lose at gambling do so at their own risk. But, this is why we have always allowed state’s to decide this matter. With the internet, someone in Pennsylvania can lose a ton of money and Pennsylvania has less say in how to help that person get over that loss or to take a benefit for the entire population from that loss.

There is no doubt that there is a ton of money waiting to be made in regulating internet gambling. Bringing in money alone doesn’t solve all of your problems. If Michigan gamblers are losing tons of money per year on gambling on the internet and Michigan wants to do something about it in the form of dollars to programs to help people with problems, well, they can’t do that if the money just goes into the federal pile.

The reason why this bill wasn’t debated night and day in the legislature is that it has essentially been this way for 45 years. This bill wasn’t new legislation, it simply expanded The Wire Act of 1961…not necessarily in scope, but in extending it to cover new technology. We’ve always considered that these problems are for states to decide, why change that now?

To make internet gambling work, you would need to track where money is coming from. To decipher differences in losses in Utah and New York.

And even if you were able to pull that off, which would not be easy, you have state problems that arise. For instance, the federal government takes in the internet gambling money and gives Pennsylvania their share of the money. What if Pennsylvania has decided that while this sum of money can do a lot of good things, does not outweigh the burden on the state from the gambling losses? Believe me, a lot of folks in New Jersey will tell you that the income generated from those casino’s doesn’t outweigh the burdens attached. You handcuff state’s on an issue that has always been considered a state’s right issue.

Conceivably, a state could allow online gambling, even with foreigners and folks in other states. They’d likely have to pay money to the state, collect money from the state, having the state act as a bank, but I would imagine it’s possible. Also, states will now have the potential to re-address poker rooms and the potential benefits to the states. As well as any number of gambling issues. Hell, states could set up online poker rooms similar to off track betting sites.

This article was certainly not a comprehensive look at the pros and cons of gambling, but from this legislation, we’re going to have states take a deeper look at the issues. The main reason being that a new generation of people have been exposed to easy gambling. Maybe college students develop issues with bookies that delve into darker problems now that they can’t easily gamble on the internet? This is an issue that states may now have to address.

A lot of people are saying that this legislation was flawed because there wasn’t enough open debate on it. The problem with that is that this legislation runs deep. Since 1961, at the very least. Those making that argument are actually the ones that need to open the debate. To convince the legislation that with the advancement of new technology, gambling should not simply be a state’s rights issue. For now, though, it always has been.

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2 comments
  1. savepoker said:

    Your argument would be correct if it was true. The legislation attacks banks and financial institutions that facilitate transactions with internet gambling sites (horse racing excluded, of course). This is a marked divergence from the Wire Act which simply made it illegal to place bets over a telephone line.
    The burden in this legislation will fall on banks and financial institutions to monitor their customers and report them if they get out of line. This passed with little to no debate on the senate floor. The stated purpose of the internet gambling prohibitions mentioned nothing about little Jack or the inherent problems with internet gambling other than that financial institutions are having a hard time recouping money they lose when people bounce internet checks and get into debt problems. Poor Jack.

  2. Not exactly. It updated the Wire Act, but found a way to not hold individuals criminally liable. It is not a marked divergence from the Wire Act. It’s realizing that you need to go after this in a certain way to have any sort of success in regulating this.

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