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Hold 'Em Up

Jodi Wilgoren, evidently off the national politics beat, reports on law enforcement crack downs on low stakes Texas Hold 'Em games being played at Minnesota bars (that's what makes it illegal, a low stakes game in a non-business establishment like your house is legal) and a movement afoot to make a Hold 'Em exception to the anti-gambling laws. I'm of mixed minds on the gambling issue in general, but given the stakes involved this seems like a reasonable compromise. Insofar as there's a serious poker-related gambling problem in this country, I'm fairly certain it's going to involve online poker, which lets you lose money at a much more rapid clip and which doesn't seem particularly amenable to regulatory fixes of any sort.

February 22, 2005 | Permalink

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Comments

What are you saying? Online poker should be banned or regulated? Or if it becomes clear there IS a gambling problem in the country we should hit online gambling first?

Posted by: xorfl | Feb 22, 2005 6:31:06 PM

Or if it becomes clear there IS a gambling problem in the country we should hit online gambling first?

How are you going to hit online gambling? Most of it takes place on non-U.S. servers. Barring importing for ourselves some of the tech we sell to China to censor the net and forcing ISP's to use it (and assuming that they have figured out some way to keep you from shelling out and around it like I know people used to do in China) there is little to be done about it.

Posted by: Ed Marshall | Feb 22, 2005 6:37:37 PM

As far as I can tell, the bars use the tournaments as a way of selling more beer and there are little (or no stakes) involved. Its the opposite of Vegas where they give away beer and make money off poker. Therefore, I say layoff the poker players and catch the real criminals.

Posted by: Ugh | Feb 22, 2005 6:40:17 PM

What I want to know is, are they serious about legalizing low-stakes Hold 'Em but not low-stakes 7-card-stud? Seriously, because celebrities play it on TV?

Posted by: pickabone | Feb 22, 2005 6:52:23 PM

I'm of mixed minds on the gambling issue in general, but given the stakes involved this seems like a reasonable compromise.

Unless this whole post is a joke, it ties in nicely with the last post on the philosophical gap. What's the basis of why this is right or wrong? Or should we not think about such deep issues and just sit back and accept whatever conclusions you reach?

Posted by: Peter | Feb 22, 2005 7:04:03 PM

Is this why I get all that trackback spam?

Posted by: praktike | Feb 22, 2005 7:12:21 PM

I don't play cards, but Texas Hold 'Em is becoming noticeably popular where I live. It seems to me that a lot of the attraction is social. It's a fun way for people to hang out and drink beer without blowing tons of money (and for restaurants to sell beer and crappy food).

I think politicians are playing with fire if they let crackdowns on this go very far, since a lot of people see it the same way as bowling, and a LOT of people are starting to play.

Posted by: Stygius | Feb 22, 2005 7:15:49 PM

Minnesota is so overun with Tribal Casinos that I'm shocked that anyone noticed a few card games. Which leads me to wonder, has an interested party been narking on bars?

To be honest, gambling is can create real problems, but the libertarian in me says that people should be free to piss away their quarters if they so choose.

In some places in Minnesota, there isn't a whole helluva lot else to do for 6 months of the year.

Posted by: def | Feb 22, 2005 7:15:50 PM

Come around you rovin' gamblers and a story I will tell
About the greatest gambler, you all should know him well.
His name was Will O' Conley and he gambled all his life,
He had twenty-seven children, yet he never had a wife.
And it's ride, Willie, ride,
Roll, Willie, roll,
Wherever you are a-gamblin' now, nobody really knows.

He gambled in the White House and in the railroad yards,
Wherever there was people, there was Willie and his cards.
He had a reputation as the gamblin'est man around,
Wives would keep their husbands home when Willie came to town.
And it's ride, Willie, ride,
Roll, Willie, roll,
Wherever you are a-gamblin' now, nobody really knows.

Sailin' down the Mississippi to a town called New Orleans,
They're still talkin' about their card game on that Jackson River Queen.
"I've come to win some money," Gamblin' Willie says,
When the game finally ended up, the whole damn boat was his.
And it's ride, Willie, ride,
Roll, Willie, roll,
Wherever you are a-gamblin' now, nobody really knows.

Up in the Rocky Mountains in a town called Cripple Creek,
There was an all-night poker game, lasted about a week.
Nine hundred miners had laid their money down,
When Willie finally left the room, he owned the whole damn town.
And it's ride, Willie, ride,
Roll, Willie, roll,
Wherever you are a-gamblin' now, nobody really knows.

But Willie had a heart of gold and this I know is true,
He supported all his children, and all their mothers too.
He wore no rings or fancy things, like other gamblers wore,
He spread his money far and wide, to help the sick and the poor.
And it's ride, Willie, ride,
Roll, Willie, roll,
Wherever you are a-gamblin' now, nobody really knows.

When you played your cards with Willie, you never really knew
Whether he was bluffin' or whether he was true.
He won a fortune from a man who folded in his chair.
The man, he left a diamond flush, Willie didn't even have a pair.
And it's ride, Willie, ride,
Roll, Willie, roll,
Wherever you are a-gamblin' now, nobody really knows.

It was late one evenin' during a poker game,
A man lost all his money, he said Willie was to blame.
He shot poor Willie through the head, which was a tragic fate,
When Willie's cards fell on the floor, they were aces backed with eights.
And it's ride, Willie, ride,
Roll, Willie, roll,
Wherever you are a-gamblin' now, nobody really knows.

So all you rovin' gamblers, wherever you might be,
The moral of this story is very plain to see.
Make your money while you can, before you have to stop,
For when you pull that dead man's hand, your gamblin' days are up.
And it's ride, Willie, ride,
Roll, Willie, roll,
Wherever you are a-gamblin' now, nobody really knows.

Posted by: Pokerman | Feb 22, 2005 7:17:06 PM

Online poker is like video crack... please dont take it away from me.

It wouldnt be as hard as you think to at least substantially crack down on. First, you could formally outlaw it (for a large majority of the people, that's a big enough disincentive). Second, you ban banks and credit card companies from processing their transactions. Third, the FCC knocks their TV adds off the air (promotion of illegal activity, see #1).

Not saying they should, or that it would end online poker... but it would substantially reduce it. Frankly, I think they should either ban it (bad) or legalize it for American companies, so that we're at least seeing the tax revenue.

Posted by: Doug | Feb 22, 2005 7:34:22 PM

What compelling interest does the state have in banning any gambling? There's enough legalized gambling strewn about the landscape - in Indian casinos, in Nevada, in state-sponsored lotteries - that it seems pointlessly arbitrary to start drawing the line at online poker.

Legalize the whole nine yards. Gambling's self-destructive, sure, but so is alcohol and tobacco. There's only so much state nannying that makes sense.

Posted by: cmas | Feb 22, 2005 7:53:28 PM

On line gambling could be easily & quickly crippled by making it illegel for credit card companies to transfer funds for such uses

Posted by: EvS | Feb 22, 2005 8:29:15 PM

In the land of the free we should only be allowed to do what someone else deems right - God Bless America and it's fools!

Posted by: Jerry Falwell | Feb 22, 2005 8:56:21 PM

So Will you aren't a real conservative. Why don't you admit you're a America hating lefty just like Matt and his parents are?

Posted by: Al | Feb 22, 2005 9:39:27 PM

Here in New York state, the Pataki administration is backing plans for 5 new casinos in the Catskills. The irony is that there are a number of environmental groups (i.e., White People) rising up to defend nature by raising concerns about the impacts, while the Native Americans wants to go full speed ahead with the developments.

Posted by: old grizzly | Feb 22, 2005 10:02:31 PM

So Will you aren't a real conservative. Why don't you admit you're a America hating lefty just like Matt and his parents are?

F - U, Zizka.

Posted by: Al | Feb 22, 2005 10:40:14 PM

The main problem with online poker is that the lack of regulation of the money involved. In theory, it could be used to transfer large sums of money by groups like, say, Al-Qaeda.

Determining the ins and outs of internet commerce, especially that which crosses international boundaries, is one of those problems that no one has really countenanced except in popular meaningless bills like anti-spam legislation.

Now, I prefer dealing with topics such as casinos by establishing zones of tolerance, like Vegas or Indian casinos. Let each state have x locations per however many millions of population where casino gambling is legal and regulated, then keep it out of every where else. (It'd be the same as tolerating a red light district where prostitution is legal and regulated, while cracking down on it everywhere else, a situation which I would accept.) But I don't want to see slot machines in the local gas station like I see in Vegas. And I'd rather be too strict, with illegal back room games happening, rather than too permissive and have vices overrunning the country like 19th century China on opium.

(P.S. No American credit company will transfer funds to an online casino already. Part of Ashcroft's legacy that got a lot of mention in poker groups.)

Posted by: Anthony | Feb 22, 2005 10:41:09 PM

Online gambling could be easily & quickly crippled by making it illegel for credit card companies to transfer funds for such uses.

Almost no credit card companies allow transfer of funds to the online gambling sites. I played online poker for a few months last year, and I had a hell of a time getting funds transferred to my account on the websites because there is simply no direct way to do it. Visa, Mastercard...nothing worked. I believe that AMEX is the only major card that allows it, and that might not be the case any more; I don't have an AMEX myself so I wouldn't know.

Like all other government-imposed methods at curbing human behavior that has been around forever and most likely will be, when the credit card companies banned their use for online gambling, it only gave rise to middle men who transfer the funds for you and exist for no other reason than because people want to gamble. See neteller.com or firepay.com. So instead of spending my money how I want, someone takes their fee and then I gamble.

You know, it was Prohibition that gave rise to organized crime. The more universal a banned or illegalized activity, the more organized (and lucrative) the means people will come up with to give the people what they want.

Posted by: Mitch Schindler | Feb 22, 2005 10:44:24 PM

There is an alcohol problem in this country.
There is a automobile death problem in this country.
There is a cigarette addiction problem in this country.
There is a dangerous hypocrisy problem in this country.

Posted by: epistemology | Feb 23, 2005 2:05:14 AM

The more universal a banned or illegalized activity, the more organized (and lucrative) the means people will come up with to give the people what they want.

Wow, murder must be the most organized and lucrative activity known to man.

Posted by: Anthony | Feb 23, 2005 6:08:02 AM

Wow, murder must be the most organized and lucrative activity known to man.

DOD's got what, a $500B/yr budget...

Posted by: Troy | Feb 23, 2005 11:12:46 AM

Govenor Pawlenty of MN got himself into a bind with his "no tax increases" pledge, so he tried to put the squeeze on the Indian Casinos.

The problem is that the casinos have an ironclad agreement to pay NO Fees to the state FOREVER. Yeah, that was a really dumb idea by the State, but the State agreed to it.

His tactic was to threaten the casinos with expanded legalized gambling elsewhere, but the people of MN don't really want to see gambling expanded. Currently you can bet at the racetrack and play Bingo and pull tabs for charity, but that is it. No slots, blackjack, or any other casino-style games are allowed.

So the Indians have not caved in to the Governor. I doubt they are the ones narcing on the bars. I don't think they need to. My guess is that it is other 'well-meaning' citizens.

Posted by: Tripp | Feb 23, 2005 11:45:46 AM

Given that this is a Jodi Wilgoren story you're discussing, I'd like to see some independent confirmation that there is in fact low-stakes poker being played in any of the places mentioned, that regulation has ever been or is being thought of at all (and if it is, that each of the specifics are as stated in her article), and that law enforcement officers have been, are, or will ever be involved.

Consider the source, in other words.

Posted by: Daniel Okrent | Feb 23, 2005 11:24:44 PM

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