Wednesday, July 12, 2006

You Gotta Fight...For Your Right....

As one of my online poker pro friends put it, "read this, and then go here."

So today, thanks to a BusinessWeek.Com article quoting none other than "Mr. Dynamite," I generated a record number of hits. Alas, it's somewhat unfortunate that I was unprepared for this deluge, which swamped even the referrals from WickedChops after the stellar Blogfiles interview. I would have loved to have had a quality post up, like Wesson Girl, or Six Sigma Sunday.

In fact, the issue at hand is immensely important. The US House has passed the bill prohibiting internet gambling. Of course there are the perfectly hypocritical carveouts for horse racing, where the politicians have political and financial interests. If these doucheballs had any fucking clue how much money they could make by taxing online poker ($4.3 BILLION annually, according to the PokerPlayersAlliance), there'd be no excuse for them to pass such a contradictory bill - there's no excuse as it is! From what I hear, the bill will have significant problems being signed into law by the Senate, whose constituents tend to actually think about what the fuck they are doing when they debate such bills.

I am clearly in favor of legalizing online poker, but I am against online casino gambling: online slots, online blackjack, online roulette, etc. These games of chance are pure negative EV, and a guarantee that all participants will lose in the long run. So am I against casinos? Of course not - the difference is that with online gambling the "access = addiction" argument comes into play. I do not believe we should facilitate a way for users to be able to be guaranteed to lose their money online, and for problem gamblers to feed their addiction.

On the other hand, how can I be in favor of online poker? It's a game of skill - but does the "access = addiction" argument still apply? I don't think I'm being hypocritical when I say "no." When I read a 10 page New York Times online article about a college kid who blows his tuition on online poker, and then ends up robbing a bank to pay back his debts, I don't think it's the same as if the kid were playing blackjack. Poker is a game of skill. The fish can take the time to learn and study the game. That's a fact. It's not easy, and there won't always be a point in time where anyone can become a winning player, but the fact is, if you're blowing through all the money you can get your hands on playing poker online, YOU have some responsibility that goes BEYOND addiction. You can't just say, "Hey, they gave me access - they fed my addiction." With online poker, I don't buy that excuse. I guess the most important point is that you can be addicted to online poker and still be a winning player in the long run - that's not true in blackjack and the other casino games. The problem in poker isn't the addiction - the problem is improper play, or maybe false illusions of poker playing ability.

Look, I know firsthand how easy it is to donk off all of your chips online. There's a disconnect with reality - you're not pushing money, you're not even pushing chips - you're pushing buttons. Clicking a mouse. Watching digital animations float across the screen. It's like a video game, and It's very easy to lose track of the reality of "I just called a pot sized river bet with ace high, and I know I'm losing" Perhaps the most important skill in online poker is the ability to keep your composure and not go on TILT. My friends who make their living online say this, and I'd guess that top pro (and noted online addict) Mike "The Mouth" Matusow would say the same thing. Mouth is a great example - he's acknowledged publicly that he's addicted to online poker, and has a problem with it. That doesn't mean it should be banned - it means he needs to work on his problem and address it - which he's doing. Mike Matusow does not play his best poker game online, and that's why he loses. When he's playing his best poker game, be it online or in a card room, he's a winner. Online poker is not the problem.

So, fight for your right to play poker online, or I won't be able to maintain the high standard of living to which Oscar has become accustomed...

Until next time,


Anonymous said...

Chops here.

Nice getting some ink there! Well played.

The Bracelet said...

What, no link in you post to Bobby Bracelet?

I think he's an integral part of this discussion. I won't explain why as it should be common knowledge.

Way to get quoted, my man.

The Bracelet said...


Was that post about being a losing blackjack player?

No? Oh, scratch that first comment.

Anonymous said...

The fact that someone can become addicted to something is a stupid reason to ban it. If someone donks off all their money buying cabbage patch dolls because they think they are the greatest thing ever... well, ok, they are stupid. Do you now outlaw cabbage patch dolls? It makes no sense.

It's right there in the constitution...

"we hold these truths to be self-evident... all men... are endowed with certain unalienable rights; among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

Clearly many people consider online gambling to be a pursuit of happiness. For congress to pass a law banning this action, they'd have to show that online gambling, a profession for many people, necessarily conflicts with another, more important right of others.

Murder? Necessarily conflicts with someone else's right to life. Right to life is more important than right to pursue happiness. Makes sense.

Online gambling? I guess the House thinks it conflicts with someone's right not-to-have-access-to-something-they-are-addicted-to. Well, in my opinion, this is a pretty lame right, and right to happiness, one of only THREE our forefathers felt they needed to mention, supercedes it. And it's not close.

Personally, I think Congress has gone too far with lots of laws like this, and they need to rethink their whole philosophy with this concept in mind. The fact that this bill is championed by a Republican, the party of "less government is better", is the icing on the cake. Too many of today's lawmakers are fundamentally out of touch with their reason-d'etre.

Dear congressman... you aren't elected to ban everything that could harm anyone. Your job is simply to ban the things that will harm everyone.

Can you play poker without hurting anyone? Unequivocally, yes. Therefore, it should not be illegal. It's as simple as that.

Can you murder someone without hurting anyone? No. Ban it. Can you steal without hurting anyone? No. Ban it. Can you fail to buckle your seatbelt without hurting anyone? Yes. Don't ban it. Can you smoke pot without hurting anyone? Yes. Don't ban it.

It's a pretty simple argument that draws a very logical line in the sand between what is and isn't legal. Maybe those founding fathers were on to something after all.


Kid Dynamite said...

oooh Eric.. you were on a role there... then you got into drugs... it's very easy to write 5,000 words about how there is no such thing as a victimless crims, so you have to be very careful saying these things "don't hurt anyone."

can u do cocaine without hurting anyone? is that a "victimless crime"? depends.. how do you get the money to buy your drugs - you'll eventually go to any length to get it - so I'd certainly say "NO - it's not victimless"... how addictive is pot? maybe it's less so... I don't want to get into semantics.

after all, the liberals would argue, "when that college kid lost all his money playing poker, he turned to ROBBERY," which even YOU admit hurts people.

Of course, none of us think it's acceptible to commit crime to payback online gambling debts, and certainly doesn't justify the crime, but America has deviated away from personal responsibility - that's the bottom line: Americans need to be protected FROM OURSELVES - otherwise we do stupid things, like spill hot coffee on ourselves (and sue McDonalds because it's too hot) - or lose all our money gambling...

the bottom line, and most disturbing fact, is that despite all the seemingly obvious facts and arguments you present, the United States House of Representatives passed this bill by a HUGE majority... So guys like you, who make your living playing poker online, should be aware, and actively fighting for your rights.


Anonymous said...

Quote: it's very easy to write 5,000 words about how there is no such thing as a victimless crims, so you have to be very careful saying these things "don't hurt anyone."

Since this argument, which I will call "Statement X", is the crux of the argument behind so many laws these days, I'm going to carefully knock it down.

Argument 1: Statement X, if accepted, can be used to declare anything illegal.

Statement X proposes that anything which can lead to someone, eventually, commiting a real crime should be illegal. Well, obviously then all addicitive substances should be illegal. Alcohol, cigarettes... these plainly lead to directly to crime. What about caffeine? That's addicitive too, after all. Remember, Prop X doesn't require that everyone get hooked, or even that it be at all likely. No. If someone somewhere might be prevented from commiting a crime by making Starbucks double lattes illegal, we should ban it. Does that make any sense? I don't think so.

What about, say, watching action movies? It's easy to argue that some people get ideas from these violent movies, and go out and commit crimes they might not have if action movies were illegal. Should adults be prevented from seeing action movies? Violent video games? How about hockey games? Sports in general sometimes lead to flareups and fights. Once in a while, someone even gets killed. Should all contact sports be illegal? Tonya Harding hired a hitman... I guess ice skating should get you 6-12 months in the slammer.

You can see how absurd this line of logic can get.

Now that we see that Prop X is logically silly, let's explain why it is also unecessary. Specifically, let's use the cocaine example. Highly addictive. People start in, lose control, spend all their money, and then go murder people to get more. Prop X says we should ban it because it can eventually lead to crime.

Argument 2. Prop X is not necessary to prevent the usage --> crime problem.

I argued earlier that if a thing doesn't necessarily lead to harming someone else, it should be legal. Is it possible to do cocaine and not hurt anyone? If so, then legalize it.

How would you go about preventing addicts from murdering ordinary citizens then? No problem. Make it illegal to sell cocaine to anyone who can't afford it. Create a medial definition of addiction and make it illegal to sell to someone who is addicted. Done.

You might argue that these laws are difficult to enforce, and I'd agree. "Difficulty of enforcement" though is not a reason to avoid doing things the right way. We shouldn't give up on the right laws just because they are hard. This country was founded on the principle that pursuit of happiness is an unalienable right. Not "alienable-if-it's-too-hard-to-do-it-the-other-way". Unalienable right.

In my opinion, the language in the constitution is dead on. The rights are even in the right order. Life. Liberty. The pursuit of happiness. And that's it.

So congress, ask yourself... isn't there a better way to stop a few gamblig addicts from getting online than forcing our whole society to give up a game we love? I'm sure that with a little thought you can write a law that helps addicts while still respecting the constitution.


Ignatious said...

excellent screed.