In 2003, Chris Moneymaker, a little known non-professional with an awesome name, won the Main Event at the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas. This No-Limit Texas Holdem event is the mecca for poker players. It is the Superbowl, Wimbledon and World Series all rolled into one. The Main Event is by far the hardest tournament in the world to win (some have argued that since changed) and that fact that this layman won caught the poker world and the average view of ESPN by storm. Poker play and online poker use increased ten fold and NL Texas Holdem became a common pasttime for the average American. When Moneymaker won the tournament he competed against just under 900 people. By 2006, the total entrants had reached over 8,000 people for the Main Event. Online poker firms like Full Tilt and Poker Stars were having icnredibly lucrative businesses in both the play money (for fun) and real money poker world. People could play from home and professionals could play up to 20 tables at once to make a living outside of Vegas.
On September 30, 2006, the US Senate passed the “Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act” which disallowed anybody from playing online poker for money. Professionals and the companies that represent them have for years found ways around these laws. Using lobbyists and similar tactics to what Wall Street used against the Dodd-Frank act, these major online poker entities had fought off the lawmakers and been allowed to operate either by skirting the rules or changing their headquarters to overseas locations. The back and forth game in Washington all came to a head in 2011, when on April 15 Full Tilt, Pokerstars, and Absolute Poker, three of the largest online gaming companies in the world, were federally indicted on charges ranging from cheating scandals to money laundering.
What has become known in the poker world as “Black Friday” completely changed the outlook for online poker in the future as a real U.S. business opportunity or recreational activity. Senators Harry Reid and Barney Frank have continued to support online poker and while the climb is certainly uphill, the Poker Players Alliance has not stopped fighting for the future of their vocation.
If you can’t alreay tell, I was one of the people swept up in the Moneymaker effect in 2003. My friends and I played many a casual (and not so casual) game since early on in high school. Later on as I started to gain legitimate skills I began playing online. While it wasn’t for much money I certainly have a strong understanding of how these sites operate. For me I agree with the PPA, poker is a skill game. It is a game based on knowing your opponents abilities and taking advantage of their strengths and weaknesses. The problems with cheating and site ethics have obviously been alarming and those are now being handled and monitored. But if we put online poker in a vacumn and take it away from the beaucratic entity that is Washinton, we find a game based around skill, not luck, that offers a lot JOBS to people in our country. Thousands of poker players had to flee the coutnry, change to often less lucrative careers, or do illegal acts to continue to play the game that they love. Some of the bills that Harry Reid has endorsed are gaining steam and hopefully soon we will see online poker back again as a legal activity on the the internet. If we allow Washington to work with the companies for regulatory and financial monitoring purposes, I do not see a scenario in which online poker cannot operate succesfully in our country. If you don’t think this is skill, then I’m not sure what to tell you……(From one of my favorite movies, Rounders)