Unite to fight for poker

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Sept. 30, 2006

On this day, our nation lost a little more of its innocence, as poker players across the country learned a valuable lesson in how easy it is for lawmakers to turn unpopular ideas into law. As legislators lined up “ayes” to the SAFE Port Act, an immensely important national security bill, almost all of them were unaware they also were saying “yes” to the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act. The language, which banned certain financial transactions involving online gaming, had been inserted into the bill at the last minute by sponsors who knew it had little hope of passage had they played by the rules of good conduct rather than the rules of Washington.

June 1, 2010

On this day, enforcement of the UIGEA finally went into effect. The fact that it took almost four years to come to pass is a testament to the doggedness of the Poker Players Alliance, a grassroots poker advocacy group that has been at the forefront of protecting and expanding the rights of poker players. (Read our Q&A with PPA executive director John Pappas) The PPA, sympathetic lawmakers and exasperated bank officials held off enforcement as long they could. Now, it’s up to them — and us — to work to repeal the law and push for legislation that regulates, not restricts, our desire to play online poker. We shouldn’t fear regulation; we should welcome it for the safety it provides. But we also should vigorously fight against regulation that lacks common sense. And the UIGEA simply lacks common sense.

All of this over a card game.

A card game favored by presidents, kings and everyday Janes and Joes like you and us. It would be funny … if it weren’t so damn frustrating. And the frustration is compounded by the poker playing community’s inability to work together for the benefit of the game.

To that end, we say there’s room under the big tent of poker for all of its terrific variations:

• Brick-and-mortar rooms allow us to soak up all of the elements of poker, right down to those facial tells that Joe Navarro helps us navigate. We should work for a loosening of nonsensical rules, such as those that limited Florida for too long, and work to open new markets, like we’re seeing this month in Pennsylvania and Delaware.

• Free poker leagues allow us to play the game without risk, creating a new generation of players that will keep the game vibrant for years to come. We should work to encourage brick-and-mortar rooms to see these training grounds as the “minor leagues of poker” and not competition.

• Home games allow us to enjoy the intense social aspects of the game and give us an opportunity to play those odd games, such as Follow The Queen and Night Baseball. We should work to ensure all of us can enjoy friendly, penny-ante games at home without the threat of being treated like criminals.

• And online rooms allow us to play the widest variety of games at the widest variety of limits, all from the comfort of our pajamas. We should work to make sure the best of these sites are free to offer their games and promotions to all Americans, not just those in particular states.

Four types of poker, all with a unique place in our poker ecosystem. And as with all ecosystems, disrupting one leg disrupts every other leg.

So let’s come together to fight for all forms of our favorite game, and unite in our efforts to fend off the true predators that present the biggest threat to our enjoyment.

We’ll see you at the tables.

Christopher Cosenza and Scott Long