By Randall Kasper
All of us in the poker world cherish the rich history of our game. Doyle Brunson and Amarillo Slim’s adventures illustrate our fables and folklore and allow us to dream. The triumphs and tragedies of Stu Ungar relay the extremes in the intense human struggle professional players attempt to conquer, be it for bracelets or groceries.
We have our royalty in First Lady Linda Johnson and First Family Binion to guide us in what we ought to do while the world’s eyes are upon us, because they conducted themselves that way while NO ONE WAS WATCHING.
We have our model citizens, such as the late Chip Reese, illustrating civility and humanitarianism, how we ought to act. The list goes on but makes clear — for each value we cherish, our history is instructive on how we should conduct ourselves. As we move forward, it’s critical we stay true to the precedent of our rich past.
All industries go through phases analogous to the history of our country. If the invention of poker was our “Columbus” moment and the formation of the World Series of Poker was our “Louisiana Purchase,” then the Moneymaker victory was our “Eureka/Gold Rush” and since then we have been in the “Wild West.” From all corners people and companies have staked their claims and, therefore, it’s time to make sure the “Intercontinental Railroad” is built so the “Industrial Revolution” can take place correctly. Simply put, the poker industry is at a critical point in its development and everyone is important in this next phase of growth, lest outlaws may prevail.
All decent members of our community, from the behemoth corporations to the micro-stakes grinders, want to see the poker industry mature and at the macro level that means regulation. We all need to know the laws of the universe to function. For the players this strikes to the core desire as a poker consumer, to have the freedom to play a game you love in an honest environment utilizing brands you like and trust. Yet players feel powerless and that’s simply not the case. But first you must understand the major roadblock to a workable civilized society for poker: protectionism.
Poker as an industry has seemed to move past the “poker is evil” argument and is much closer to where it should’ve been all along: Poker is a skill game. Nevada recently recognized it as such. Its recently proposed online poker legislation was akin to big brother stepping in to show little brothers (read California, Florida, Iowa, New Jersey) to “quit fooling around, Kid; let us show you how it’s done.” This development is likely to propel similar federal legislation to regulate online poker the way we want it: the freedom to play a game you love in an honest environment utilizing brands you like and trust.
The online poker debate is the most visible example of why we need to stick together as a community, but is by no means the only one. Annie Duke and Jeffrey Pollack of the Federated League are attempting to address myriad issues all sports must address to ensure honest maximum growth and credibility, including sponsor-supplied prize pools, labor rights, revenue sharing and ethical codes for players, companies and agents. This type of activity is occurring in every nook and cranny of our industry at this moment. Whether they’re miscible will have a synergistic or deleterious effect on our industry.
The protectionist mind-set poses threats to our community on two levels. First, protectionism divides the gaming community and risks defeat to the non-gaming community. Fortunately, we seem to be moving past that. The second risk is more pervasive as it goes far beyond the monetary considerations of the first and directly affects the quality of the system. The power players in the industry will not get it right without a constant reminder of who they ultimately answer to — YOU.
It’s time for a final push, time to re-double your efforts or to simply get involved if you are not. It’s not time to get lazy, or to give up because you feel powerless. It’s not time to be lulled asleep as the pendulum shifts in our favor on big-picture issues. The devil is in the details, which will only be filled in to your liking if you persist.
So support the Poker Players Alliance (theppa.org), continue to speak up in the forums, write your legislators and allow me to lend you my microphone. If you send me your comments about where our industry should head, I will do my best to amplify your voice. The great citizens of our community’s past give us guidance. Let’s not let them down.
— Randall S. Kasper, Esq. is co-founder of Poker Players International, the world’s largest poker agency (ppipoker.com). You can email him at randy@pokerplayersinternationa l.com.