Saturday, April 16, 2011

Drove my Chevy to the Levy [sic]...

I can’t remember if I cried
When I read about his widowed bride,
But something touched me deep inside
The day the music died.

So bye-bye, Miss American pie.
Drove my chevy to the levee,
But the levee was dry.
And them good old boys were drinkin’ whiskey and rye
Singin’, "this’ll be the day that I die.
"this’ll be the day that I die."
                                                  -- Don McLean, "American Pie"
It was after two CST. I'd just doubled up in a 6-max ring game on Stars (really, I did). Having done that, it was time to protect the BR and move on. I searched the lobby, found a juicy game, and clicked to sit down.

I thought it was a glitch. But after a couple more attempts, I went straight to Twitter. And that's when I finally began getting the picture. Others have outlined in better detail what's happened (see cliffs here via @Scarlet_LV and more here and here), but no one really knows yet what it means.

As I was contemplating life without on-line poker, I got really irritated. I live in Texas...the birthplace of Texas Hold 'em (I don't know if this is factual, but I'm going with it - Doyle's from Texas and he's the Godfather of Poker, so that's good enough for me)...and after today I now have to catch a plane or drive several hours to play (unless I'm willing to risk the home games). That makes absolutely no sense given that Texas is the second-largest U.S. state by both area and population, and the largest state in the Union.

I am not a gaming attorney and I do not know the UIGEA like the back of my hand, so there is nothing black letter law legal or authoritative about what I'm about to say. All I know is that after all this went down, all I could think about is liberty and the right of privacy and what the laws regarding gambling are in my state. I cannot speak to the legal issue of how the internet and social media impacts and colors the constitutionally protected right of privacy, but what I could do was a little research.

A few years ago in Texas, a big case made news. At issue was "whether petitioners were free as adults to engage in private conduct in the exercise of their liberty under the Due Process Clause" (paraphrased, whether a Texas statute making it illegal for two men to get it on in the privacy of their own home was constitutional).

Ultimately, the Court protected the right of people to be able to "engage in private conduct without government intervention," finding that the Texas statute at issue did nothing to further any "legitimate state interest which can justify its intrusion into the individual’s personal and private life." Fortunately, the Supremes  got this one right in Lawrence v. Texas.

I like that case for a lot of different reasons, but mainly because I like to think that what we do in the privacy of our own homes is protected (yes, I am assuming for the sake of argument that people are good and decent and not abusing their kids, building meth labs, etc etc).

And that lead me, immediately (obviously...Lawrence  was all about sex, people), to thinking about how I could legally sit in front of my computer, whip out my credit card, transfer some money via the airwaves, and download a bunch of pron, even if I were underage. But I can't do the same to play poker, a game of skill. I compare the two not really for legal argument but because people often think of pornography and "gambling" as vices.

Here's what the Texas Penal Code says about gambling:

Sec. 47.02.  GAMBLING. 
(a) A person commits an offense if he:
(1)  makes a bet on the partial or final result of a game or contest or on the performance of a participant in a game or contest;
(2)  makes a bet on the result of any political nomination, appointment, or election or on the degree of success of any nominee, appointee, or candidate; or
(3)  plays and bets for money or other thing of value at any game played with cards, dice, balls, or any other gambling device.
(b)  It is a defense to prosecution under this section that:
(1)  the actor engaged in gambling in a private  place;
(2)  no person received any economic benefit other  than personal winnings; and
(3)  except for the advantage of skill or luck,  the risks of losing and the chances of winning  were the same for all participants.

My, admittedly, limited understanding of the UIGEA is that it "prohibits gambling businesses from knowingly accepting payments in connection with the participation of another person in a bet or wager that involves the use of the Internet and that is unlawful under any federal or state law." I know there are a lot of loopholes here that I'm not addressing (because I don't know what they are and because I'm really tired), but if I'm playing poker in my own home or office (private places) and I'm not receiving anything but my own personal winnings (if any - ha!), and I'm playing against others who, like me, all share the same risk of losing and chance of winning and I can do that live, then I should be able to do that via the internet and the government should butt the hell out.  If they're not going to do that, then they need to get their act together and regulate it properly (and reap the benefits through taxation that will occur).

In reality, there's nothing of legal substance to any of my thoughts here. I'm just ruminating on the hypocrisy of the laws in this country and am mad, and sad, because today's actions have so badly hindered my ability to do something that I love. I can only imagine how the poor guys and gals who make their living via on-line poker (whether as players or as employees in the industry) are feeling. I feel for you.

I agree with some of the bullets Paul Harris has on his blog.  He's right - poker's not dead, but things are going to change.  Since that's the case, why not have a voice in what those changes might be? If there was ever a time for poker to band together in a grassroots fashion, it's now. If the PPA is the voice for the poker player (and if they're not, who/what is??), then they need to come out with a Call to Action and we as players need to support it in word and deed and dollar.

If nothing else, please do this - tweet your representatives and let them know something's got to be done.

Sigh.  Good luck at the tables, peeps.



  1. Powerful and very well stating a case for the need of `a wake up and shake up call` that is and for a long time has been needed in the Online poker industry with regards correct regulation/legalization. Let`s hope after recent events that we now witness some positive changes that in turn lead to a better and safer Online Poker experience for all.
    Bset of luck to you too honey, wherever you play your game. Run Good!
    Suzi x

  2. I hope you're still planning your WSOP trip. This is a random act of violence by the DoJ. Those fuckers came out of nowhere!

  3. I was unaware until last night what had happened during the day. I agree now is the time that things need to be taken care of. Lets hope we all can get back to online poker soon. At least we are all in the same boat now and us in WA state are not left out looking in at those playing when we couldn't.

  4. The day the Poker Gods died :(


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