Any poker player over the age of 25 (and some younger) remembers poker’s Black Friday.
On April 15, 2011 the lights went out on online poker as we knew and loved it. Some of us lost not only our in-home access to 24/7 poker, we also lost whatever money we had earned or invested in our chosen online provider (that’s $52 I’ll never see again!).
Most devotees of online poker assumed that the blackout was a temporary setback. We figured that the federal government would get their arms around the potential tax benefits and how to regulate the game. In no time we would all be typing “donkey” in chat boxes once again.
And still we wait.
In the years since, many have fought to regain access to the online game. Some pros moved offshore in order to maintain this important revenue stream. Others testified before legislatures, arguing that poker, a game relying on skill, should not be classified as gambling.
However, in the years since 2011 there has been no widespread movement toward a resumption of the online game at a national level. Fortunately, there has been some headway at a state level. Among the notable events:
- Delaware was the first state to legalize online poker in 2012 (for those in the state only), but has designated a sole provider (888 Poker) and offers limited options for accessing the game.
- In 2013 New Jersey and Nevada both legalized online poker, so as is the case in Delaware, those playing within state boundaries can access online vendors approved by that state.
- In March 2016 PokerStars even reopened for business in New Jersey (but not Nevada or Delaware).
But what about the rest of us? When will we get to flop on the couch and sign in to a .01/.02 No Limit game again?
Sadly, don’t hold your breath.
While PokerNews predicts that two more states will see a resumption of internet poker in 2017, overall the picture remains grim. Our soon-to-be Vice President, Mike Pence is resolutely against gambling, and the current congress seems unlikely to push to change the status quo.And still we wait. Click To Tweet
The two states which seemed headed in the direction of legalization in 2016, Pennsylvania and California, have both taken a decided turn in the other direction. In a painful twist, New York legalized fantasy sports last year, but not online poker. New York seems to believe that fantasy sports require skill, while poker is a mere game of chance, a decision which makes us here at APT turn various shades of purple.
As long as state and federal legislatures continue to view poker as a game of chance, the barriers to internet poker will remain high. For most of the country, the opportunity to play online poker again is no closer than it was on April 16, 2011.
Thus the seemingly infinite intermission before online poker’s next act continues.
“New York seems to believe that fantasy sports require skill, while poker is a mere game of chance, a decision which makes us here at APT turn various shades of purple”
That hit the nail on the head.
As i’ve trained on this site, studied numerous poker books, and taken what i’ve learned to live table games, it is a billion times more frustrating for me to know that online poker is illegal in most places because non poker playing guys in congress thinks its strictly “gambling”. I know this frustration is shared for most guys, especially pros, that have an understanding of the poetic game of poker.
This makes me wish we could put these lawmakers in the mind of a poker player at a table of fish. Hellmuth vs regulars at the 1/2 game. Lebron James vs a bunch early 20’s rec league ballers. For both Basketball and poker, that comparison is no different from each other; there is a clear Night and day between the difference in skill set, between a trained player and a newb/casual player.
So lawmakers are INCAPABLE of realizing this because they don’t know how to play the games themselves. By definition, they are literally delusional and it almost gives me a “welp, can’t blame them” line of thought. It’s frustrating but what can you do. THey’re on the outside looking in and they can only create judgement based off what they know, vs what is actually the truth.
Even that quote i put at the top of this post is indicative of what it’s like for lawmakers being on the outside looking in:
Yes it is pretty sickening to think that DFS gets more approval as a game of skill than poker, while we all know that poker is just as much as a game of skill, if not a greater game of skill than DFS.
However, as a relatively causal DFS player ( i don’t play 1000’s of bucks worth of lineups; i focus on my poker bankroll and play DFS more for fun) that’s done research on how to win, i’ve consistently created lineups that finish in the top 1 percentile in 100k plus entry tournaments on a nightly basis.
So just as the writer of this article was quick to sound dismissive of DFS being comparable to Poker as a game of skill from presumably an outside looking in perspective on DFS (idk if the author of this article is familiar at the depth of skillful DFS, but to be clear i do think DFS is more of a game of luck than poker, but still requires a systematic approach for consistent winning), this is how lawmakers approach the poker.
That’s just to say, we know how that attitude feels. We can expect congress to ever acknowledge poker as a game of skill until they do their own research.. OR some very powerful people within the poker industry levy whatever power they have with the right people.
Until then, keep honing your chops, don’t expect to rely on online poker to do any fishing you want to do… and focus on crushing your local live game. Or, um, find the online poker sites that actually function in the states. Not naming any names and i don’t understand how they still operate, but they do exist.
See you guys at the tables
I have to plead guilty as charged to being fairly ignorant of DFS. My knowledge does not go much beyond what I hear from its enthusiasts around the poker table. I will trust your assessment that there is a modicum of skill involved in the game. Nonetheless, I believe that any state which approves Fantasy Sports while continuing to deny online poker is deluding itself.
Heather i completely agree with your last statement. As I said DFS does require a great amount of skill (which really just means having the knowledge of what to research while also having the discipline to actually do the research in order to create consistent winning lineups and proper bankroll management). But this requires skill is not in the same league as poker, as there is way more variance in DFS than poker. Because you can do all the research you want but once the lineups are created and the slates start, the rest of the night is out of your control. This does not compare to poker were you are involved in the decision making process until until the match is over.
So yea, the approval of DFS over Poker is still just as frustrating, despite the modicum of knowledge it takes to play DFS. Because I don’t think they are in the same league.
Cash-Game James, I am thinking about getting into the world of DFS and would love some rudimentary advice from someone playing there already!
Just google “DFS courses” for the sports you are interterested in studying
Australia may soon ban online poker as a byproduct of new legislation to control problem gambling.
Not a good situation.
Crossing Australia off my list of places to move.
It’s tough to argue with that legislation. Because yes we all know that poker is a game of skill. But I know there are a ton of players that treat poker like a game of blackjack, thinking, wishing and hoping they get dealt the luckiest cards in order to win big pots. These same guys are the ones that replinish there 100 dollar minimum buy in like the fish they are, because they don’t know any better. This is exhilarating for me because it gets me paid on a day to day basis, and enabled me to move up to 2/5 stakes in about no time (all thanks to this site and a few books). But at the same time I feel incredibly bad for these players because at the poker table they are problem gamblers. They don’t know when to stop buying in and they come to the table thinking, today will be the big day. And they are actually the majority in the local poker rooms. This makes me want to teach these players because my dad was a problem gambler at the black jack table and I have experienced how that can debilitate a families livihood. But at the same time I cant jack my own money up at the low limit tables.
All in all, I think banning online poker is going to save true problem gamblers more money than it will restrict online pros from making money. All the pros are gonna do and should do is focus on their live game. That’s the only aspect of the poker world that I can’t imagine changing for the worse. If anything it’s growing at a very rapid pace, especially on the east coast (lucky me !). So I don’t see the point on choosing to focus your time and money on online poker with such an uncertain future. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Stick to live games. And obviously, keep training here !!
James, you are absolutely right about problem gamblers. I most commonly play in a local cardroom, and I often wonder how some of the folks that I am playing are able to come back from week to week and lay another $100 down on the table (and another, and another). I feel bad for them, but not bad enough to stop taking the money that they are laying down. I console myself with the fact that someone is getting that money. Might as well be me. It is definitely an ethical dilemma that I ponder not infrequently. Fortunately, I do not believe that those folks are in the majority, but they are definitely out there.
The problem with the fight being leg by Poker Alliance is they don’t listen. Now it’s two late. Until midterm elections and then who knows.
We are not telling our legislatures what they need to do to get what they want, tax revenue and protect problem gamblers.
I sent a proposal to PA , it was ignored.
each state will have poker player registration.
can only buy-in through the states registry or appointed delegate which will take it’s fee (tax) on each buy in.
MAX buy in for one year will be limited to 10% of cross income for anyone making less that 50k per year.
20% for those make 50 to 150k
and 35% for everyone making more than 150k per year.
people with no income would be limited to $50 per month, ie entertainment value.
The states can lease out any part of the plan they want. or form larger collisions of states for economy of scale..
A federal protection agency would keep players from double dipping in multiple states.
all PROs would have an avatar indicating they are a pro ( make over half their income form poker, playing and indorsements). If players want to challenge them they can, but they better know something about bankroll management.
They also need to play the age and debility card. I am too freaking old to set in a casino for hours on end. But I can play from my recliner at home. I’m also a VET and earned for my freedom to spend my money the way I choose. This is really tics me off.
Those are some excellent suggestions. A study by UMass just came out which would agree with a number of these, if you are interested. You can find it at http://www.onlinepokerreport.com/23805/problem-gambling-data-online-legalization-massachusetts/