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IT Confidential: Poker Is A Skill--Like Politics Or Taxes

Cigar smoke sits like a low-hanging cloud above the round table, fed by several of the card players, who suck noisily and hard on thick, expensive stogies like newborns at mealtime. The conversation is mostly low, monotone, single-syllable exclamations, until one player offers this comment.
Cigar smoke sits like a low-hanging cloud above the round table, fed by several of the card players, who suck noisily and hard on thick, expensive stogies like newborns at mealtime. The conversation is mostly low, monotone, single-syllable exclamations, until one player offers this comment.

"You guys hear Congress is pushing another online gambling law?1 When will those jokers give it up? The Internet was made for gambling. Online gambling adds up to something like $10 billion a year--more. And it's growing."

Each of the five players has two cards face down in front of him. There are three communal cards on the table, face up: ace of hearts, five of clubs, seven of diamonds.

"Yeah, my kid is a whiz at online poker. Plays it for hours in his dorm room. Came home with more than $2,500 last time he visited. Buys all his own books and stuff. I taught him everything he knows."

Player One bets $50, represented by one blue chip, which he places in the pot in the center of the table. Player Two folds. Player Three matches the $50 bet and raises another $50. Player Four folds. Player Five sees the $100 bet. Player One adds another $50.

"Most online-gambling revenue goes right out the door, to offshore sites in England and those little island nations. American casinos are dying to get a crack at that cash. And the states drool over the potential tax revenue."

The dealer, Player Two, buries the top card in the deck, then turns over another to lay face up with the three already on the table: jack of clubs.

"I thought online gambling was already illegal. Isn't it connected to organized crime? Sounds like an excellent way to launder money."

Player One bets $100. Player Three raises the bet $200. Player Five hesitates, then puts $300 worth of chips in the pot. Player One adds another $200.

The dealer burns the next card in the deck, then turns over the last card in the hand, which he places at the end of the row of face-up cards: three of hearts.

"Congress has been trying to pass this law for years, but it keeps getting submarined. Last time, Jack Abramoff2 personally scuttled it. I guess they figure with Abramoff out of the way, they have a better chance."

Player One bets $100. Player Three sees $100, raises $500--the limit. Player Five folds. Player One sees $500, raises another $500. Player Three considers.

"It won't pass. Gambling is a part of American life. Look at sports betting."

Player Three sees $500. Player One turns over his cards: four and six of clubs. In frustration, Player Three throws over his cards: ace of spades, jack of diamonds.

"Some people argue poker isn't even gambling--it's a skill."

Snorts of laughter, nods of agreement; one sulks.

1The Internet Gambling Prohibition Act was introduced on Feb. 16 by Reps. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., and Rick Boucher, D-Va., with more than 100 congressmen as cosponsors. 2Jack Abramoff, the now-infamous Republican lobbyist who represented several Native American tribes, has pled guilty to criminal charges in a bribery probe. I'll bet double or nothing you're holding an industry tip; send it to [email protected] or phone 516-562-5326.

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