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  • Making Poker a Game of Skill...
    2.24.2005


    The originator of the FPT made the news again. Dave B. ,a gentlemen I play with on occasion as a SCOPEr, is testifying for Senator Kleis's bill that will consider Poker a game of skill in Minnesota as compared to bridge, cribbage and euchre. Great job Dave!!! This article was taken from the NY Times.

    Bars Test Laws on Gambling With Moneyless Poker Games
    ST. CLOUD, Minn., Feb. 19 - Not 20 minutes into a No Limit Texas Hold'em poker tournament at the Granite Bowl bar and grill here, State Senator Mike McGinn pushed his entire pile of chips into the pot. State Senator Dave Kleis hardly hesitated before following suit, and State Representative Tom Hackbarth quickly joined the "all in" chorus. "No wonder we've got budget problems at the state," cracked their colleague, State Senator Brian LeClair, who had folded his own cards long
    before.

    "Well, it's other people's money," Mr. McGinn said of the taxes that fill
    state coffers. "It's kind of the same thing."

    Actually, the eight lawmakers gathered around the green felt here on
    Saturday afternoon, all but one Republicans, were not playing for money at
    all, but for T-shirts proclaiming, "Poker is Not a Crime" - and to make a
    point. Betting with chips that had been seized last summer in a police
    raid on the Granite Bowl's free weekly poker tournaments, they came to
    support a bill sponsored by Mr. Kleis, who represents St. Cloud, that
    would explicitly legalize Texas Hold'em (but not other forms of poker) so
    long as prizes do not top $200.

    As televised tournaments make Hold'em ever more popular and mainstream,
    Minnesota is one of at least half a dozen states grappling with a new
    phenomenon: poker games with little more than bragging rights at stake.
    Law enforcement agencies and liquor commissions in states with lotteries,
    racetracks and even casinos have arrested bar owners and players in recent
    months, threatening fines or jail time under statutes that proponents of
    poker see as anachronistic.

    On Wednesday, even as Mr. Kleis's bill adding Texas Hold'em to the state's
    list of legal card games - cribbage, skat, sheephead, bridge, euchre,
    pinochle, gin, 500, smear and whist - is considered by a Senate committee
    in St. Paul, two bars in Louisiana face administrative hearings where they
    could lose their liquor licenses for betting that poker would bring them a
    full house.

    In Illinois, the liquor commission has issued $500 citations to at least
    four bars, two of which advertised tournaments but never held them. In
    California, the Department of Justice has declared that even tournaments
    in which no money is bet require a gaming license - and there is a
    moratorium on new licenses.

    In Texas, a lawyer for the state prosecutors' association contends that
    playing for any prize - even points to be redeemed later for T-shirts or
    trips - is illegal, and the attorney general is expected to issue an
    opinion on the matter in May.

    The larger question in each case is what, exactly, constitutes gambling,
    and whether poker will remain ensconced in backrooms or become as
    ubiquitous as bingo.

    "We target people who want to have fun in life, not the people who want to
    risk millions of dollars," said Shawn Riley, president of the Amateur
    Poker League, which runs 500 free tournaments a week across eight states.
    "To gamble you have to be risking something of value. If they outlaw this,
    they should be outlawing dominoes and Monopoly."

    But while Mr. Riley's organization bans entry fees or even drink minimums,
    and will prohibit prizes altogether if local officials object, its 44,000
    members do amass points that lead them to regional and national
    tournaments where they can win a seat at the World Series of Poker, which
    otherwise costs $10,000 to enter. That makes it illegal, said Brian
    DeJean, a lawyer for the Louisiana Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control.
    He says any game operated as a business - people being paid to deal, for
    example, or bars increasing revenues from players buying drinks - is
    verboten.

    "We're not seeing friendly games where five people show up and sit around
    the table, what we're seeing is games where somebody is making some
    money," Mr. DeJean said. "We would not be having the same conversation if
    every Tuesday was prostitution night in these bars."

    Poker, which combines the luck of the draw with strategy based on
    mathematical probability and more than a little bluffing, dates back more
    than 1,000 years, to China, and spread across the United States by
    steamboat and wagon train in the early 19th century.

    Laws against poker date back at least 100 years, though most states allow
    it to be played for money in private homes, as long as games are not
    advertised and organizers do not take a cut of the pot.

    Texas Hold'em, a version of poker in which each player gets two cards face
    down and five common cards are dealt face up between rounds of betting,
    was originally called "Hold Me, Darling" when it made its debut in Las
    Vegas casinos in 1963. By 1970 it had become the signature event at the
    annual World Series.

    But the games truly exploded in 2003 after cable television began
    broadcasting high-stakes tournaments where viewers could see players'
    cards. Now billions are bet online and games are sprouting on every
    suburban corner.

    Playing for free, a notion that offends poker purists, is an even newer
    trend, quickly becoming as common as folding before the flop. In Peoria,
    Ill., you can find a game any weeknight - two on Wednesdays - but expect
    to go home empty-handed.

    "No buy-in, no prizes, no trip to Vegas, no trophies, no ranking systems,
    no free shirts, no hats, no pictures on the Internet - not even a free
    beer!" the Peoria Poker League warns on its Web site, wary of the Illinois
    liquor commission's crackdown.

    Dave Bischoff, owner of the Granite Bowl here in St. Cloud, a city of
    60,000 people about 70 miles northwest of Minneapolis, started the free
    games last January to increase business on slow Mondays. The 40 seats were
    filled within five minutes; 30 people were turned away. Mr. Bischoff
    quickly spent $1,000 on tables, cards and chips.

    "It turned a dead night into one of my busiest nights of the week," Mr.
    Bischoff said, noting that people come three hours early to sign up,
    eating and drinking their way to the first deal. "You'd think these people
    are playing for a million dollars. They're playing for a T-shirt, but they
    all want to win."

    Novices love the free tournaments because they can ape the pros they see
    on television without risking their nest eggs. Experienced players come to
    experiment with new strategies. Bar owners benefit from a ringing
    register, and are usually happy to pay dealers and tournament organizers
    with part of the profits.

    But as quickly as the idea spread, so have efforts to shut it down. Part
    of the problem is that while Mr. Bischoff's tournaments are for bragging
    rights only, bars like Shenanigans in Texas City, Tex., where 83 people
    were arrested on misdemeanors in a raid Dec. 5, have been accused of
    charging $20 per player and paying winners with the proceeds.

    "You want to play a game for fun? Perfectly legal," said Cliff Herberg,
    chief of white-collar crime at the Bexar County district attorney's office
    in San Antonio. "You want to start buying chips for $50 and you're playing
    for a trip to Las Vegas? That's gambling, and it's illegal. People say,
    'Well, we're doing it for charity.' Doesn't matter. You can't be a
    charitable drug dealer, and you can't be a charitable gambler."
    Lawyers for the Illinois liquor commission wrote in a recent newsletter
    that "the short answer" about Hold'em is that it "is gambling." "These are
    games of skill or chance," the article says. "Any poker tournament or
    other card game tournament may not be held at a licensed establishment."

    The Amateur Poker League is considering legal action in Illinois and
    California to challenge the citations bars have received in those states,
    and is determined to offer its free tournaments nationwide. Here in
    Minnesota, Mr. Kleis's bill, which he says simply clarifies the existing
    statute to codify free Hold'em games as legal, faces little opposition.
    "I'm not a fan of gambling," noted State Senator David Hann, who had never
    played Hold'em before Saturday but nonetheless finished second. "I think
    this is social."

    Each lawmaker was handed a stack of chips arbitrarily assigned $25, $100
    and $500 values, for a total of $2,000. There were few folds, perhaps a
    sign of the fake stakes.

    "We're fiscally conservative," State Senator Sean Nienow joked as each
    player checked rather than bet in round after round.

    Assuming the law passes, Mr. Bischoff and some friends plan to expand
    their "Free Poker Tour" with games across Minnesota. No charges were filed
    after 20 officers, guns bared, burst into the bar last July, but the
    seized chips and cards were just returned last week.

    With each player's cards preserved in plastic bags, Mr. Bischoff said he
    plans to pick up that day's tournament where it left off one Saturday next
    month. Winner gets a T-shirt.

    posted by Tiny @ 2/24/2005 11:17:00 AM  
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