If you've noticed an increase in mainstream media coverage of online poker issues lately, it's probably the result of the communications drive in Washington DC mounted by the Poker Players Alliance and top poker players last month.
Typical of the coverage that has been generated was a piece in the Washington Post this week by George F. Will, who interviewed ace player Howard ‘The Professor" Lederer during the drive.
In the article, Will looks at the historical background of the UIGEA and the self-interest of some of its proponents, mentioning in particular the numerous states that have a real interest in preventing competition for the land gambling groups which proliferate throughout most American states and contribute significant pork-barrel tax revenues. Will claims that on lotteries alone, 42 states spent $520 million promoting their interests in 2007.
The discriminatory nature of the UIGEA has not escaped Will, either – he comments scathingly on the exemptions from US anti-online gambling laws of state lotteries, fantasy sports and horseracing.
Will observes: "Having turned gambling, which once was treated as a sin, into a social policy, government looks silly criminalizing online forms of it. Granted, some people gamble excessively (although not nearly as many people as eat excessively). But never mind whether government should try to circumscribe a ubiquitous human activity that generally harms nobody.
He goes on to quote from his conversations with Lederer, remarking that Congress, Lederer thinks, should revisit the work of John von Neumann (1903-57), the Hungarian-born mathematician who, after working for the Manhattan Project on implosion design for the atomic bomb, became a defense intellectual specializing in the relevance of game theory to strategic thinking.
"Chess involves logic; roulette involves probability theory. Poker involves logic, probability and something pertinent to military and diplomatic strategy – bluffing," Will writes, quoting "Theory of Parlor Games" (1928) and, with Oskar Morgenstern, "Theory of Games and Economic Behavior" (1944) both established works in the field of game theory. Do you play Poker. Be sure to check out our Poker Bonus Page for the highest online poker bonuses around.
When you play chess, Lederer says, there is symmetry of information: Both players have all the information provided by the location of the pieces on the board, and both are equally ignorant of the opponent's intentions.
Lederer is confident that a brain scan of someone playing poker would reveal a lit-up frontal lobe, but the lobe of someone watching television would show up cool blue. A poker player – unlike someone playing roulette, a lottery or “video poker” (which Lederer says is a misnomer; it is a game of chance governed by a machine) – is trying to apply skill, acquired by experience, to increase the probability of winning each hand.
"It is a poker skill to know when to hold 'em and when to fold 'em," concludes Will. "Congress probably should fold its interference with Internet gambling, and certainly should get its 10 thumbs off Americans' freedom to exercise their poker skills online."
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