Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Join the Poker Players Alliance

The Poker Players Alliance is the largest group looking out for the interests of poker players and defending the rights of all adults to play games with other adults, something that should none of the government’s business. They have now begun to offer free memberships, which should help them boost membership immensely. That, in turn, will help their lobbyists when they’re meeting with legislators to get taken seriously. When they meet with a Congressman, the more members they have in that person’s district, the more likely they are to listen. So please, I urge all of my readers to join, even if you don’t play poker. If you just support the idea that consenting adults should be able to play poker, in a brick and mortar casino or over the internet – and frankly, if you’re reading my blog and you don’t believe that, you’re in the wrong place – then we need your voice to help protect the liberty of all Americans. Please click here and add your voice to ours.


  1. #1 FishyFred
    January 29, 2007

    Just joined. Thanks for the link Ed.

  2. #2 John
    January 29, 2007

    Just joined. And I don’t even know how to play the game.

  3. #3 Jeff Chamberlain
    January 29, 2007


  4. #4 SteveF
    January 29, 2007

    Ed, is poker gambling? The only reason I ask is the following interesting case, which you might not have heard of:

    “A man has been found guilty of running unlicensed poker games.

    Derek Kelly, 46, argued poker is a game of skill so he did not need a licence under the 1968 Gaming Act, as the law requires it only for games of chance.

    But the jury at Snaresbrook Crown Court disagreed and took less than two hours to find him guilty of organising games at his Gutshot Club in central London.”


  5. #5 Robert P.
    January 29, 2007

    I’m in, all in.

  6. #6 Ed Brayton
    January 29, 2007


    That was a British case that has no authority in the US. That particular argument has never been tested in the US courts that I know of, but the Poker Players Alliance is making that argument to lawmakers around the country. As I’ve written before, there is no Federal law in the US that says gambling is illegal; the Wire Act applies only to sports gambling, not to all “games of chance.” The Bush administration ignores that law, as they ignore most laws.

    As for the question of whether poker is a game of skill or a game of chance, the answer is both. In the short term, luck is a sizable factor; in the long term, luck evens out and better players win while worse players lose.

  7. #7 Jason I.
    January 29, 2007

    I know poker isn’t gambling when I play it. It’s more like cutting my wallet open and watching it hemorrhage money.

    And I’ll join when I get home. Work doesn’t allow us to access anything fun (present company excepted, of course).

  8. #8 Kevin
    January 29, 2007

    I’d gladly sign, but as a Canadian, I don’t think a congressman would much care about my opinion on the stupidity of their anti-fun laws.

  9. #9 Dave S.
    January 29, 2007

    As for the question of whether poker is a game of skill or a game of chance, the answer is both. In the short term, luck is a sizable factor; in the long term, luck evens out and better players win while worse players lose.

    I would agree that poker, like bridge or backgammon, is a game of both chance and skill. Over the long haul, skill will win out – although the luck component may appear victorious in the short term. The question I have is, how important is skill in determining the winner? We can imagine a sliding scale where Bingo for example is a game of pure luck (S=0) and chess is a game of pure skill (S=100). Where would poker fall on this scale?

  10. #10 Kevin
    January 29, 2007

    Hard to judge with poker on that scale. It has a lot to do with the type of game. A large tournament seems to favour luck (see:2006 WSOP). Smaller settings allow for the skilled to really clean someone out (see:Ed’s stories about that millionaire who had a series of games against pros. He won a few, but the skilled pro’s eventually took him to the cleaners).

  11. #11 Chris F.
    January 29, 2007

    I would argue that a larger tournament (in length as well as in number of participants) favors luck far less than a smaller one. The fact that a no-name has won the last 5 WSOP main events doesn’t mean that this format favors luck. (Perhaps Raymer and Hachem were not no-names, but they were not considered among the elite at the time they won.) It’s more that there are so many non-pros in the field, and this skews the result in favor of the mass of little-known folks.

    Also, I’d say the Andy Beal vs. the Corporation numbers are less than telling… when you’re playing games with a big blind of 100K, a swing of a couple ten million either way isn’t unexpected, especially heads-up when you can’t wait for textbook premium hands. Also, the sample size is still relatively low, since they only played for what, 10 days or so total? I’m unfamiliar with the history of this game after the middle of 2006 though, so I might have missed something.

    That said, there are definitely elements of both luck and skill in poker, and in cash games that difference is much more pronounced than in tournaments.

  12. #12 Gary Carson
    January 29, 2007

    Where do they get their money? They won’t say. It’s not from poker players. In 2005 they gave $220,000 to the Federalist Group, a major republican lobby. Where did they get that money? How many members did they have then? Did Bill Frist get any of that money?

    There is no evidence that I can find that they’ve done anything for poker players other than give away t-shirts.

    I have more comments about PPA here.

    Here’s a letter I sent them 5 days ago.

  13. #13 divalent
    January 29, 2007

    “if you’re reading my blog and you don’t believe that, you’re in the wrong place”

    Hmmm. You mean I gotta subscribe to the whole deal, or I should go read someone else?

    Sorry. In the grand scheme of things, I can’t see the “right” to engage in internet gambling as anything worth getting worked up about.

    (but I’ll keep reading anyway. It’s a great place.)

  14. #14 Ed Brayton
    January 29, 2007


    I don’t find this criticism in your post very compelling. You say:

    What struck me at the time was that the UIGEA really had nothing to say about poker, and the PPA said their objective was to keep poker legal. But the question of whether poker is legal is a state-by-state issue, not a federal issue, and their fundraising was piggy-backing on objections to a a federal law. They didn’t really have any clear lobbying plans, but what plans they did have appeared to be on a federal level. That’s pointless if the goal is what they said, to keep poker legal.

    This is wrong. While it’s technically true that the UIGEA had nothing to say about poker, it’s also clear that it is having major fallout for online poker, just as many of us said it would even before it was passed. Legally, there is no Federal law against online poker, but that isn’t stopping the DOJ from using the law to try and bring hte industry down. Only an explicit exemption for poker from those laws, or a court case striking down enforcement of its provisions against online poker sites, is going to bring that to an end. My understanding is that the PPA is pursuing the former option through lobbying efforts, and as near as I can tell they’re the only group doing so. Poker players absolutely need to have a lobbying presence at the Federal level.

    Now, the statements in Mason’s post are much more substantial and more disturbing, and I urge my readers to follow the link for themselves. This is definitely worth some time to do more digging on. Any non-profit group should have all of its IRS paperwork in order and available to the public.

  15. #15 Gary Carson
    January 29, 2007

    The fallout for poker has been sites such as Party Poker which offer non-poker gambling and funding sources.

    A carveout for poker would not stop that fallout one bit.

    The funding sources are all in trouble because they fund sports betting, not because they fund poker. They’d have legal problems even with the desired poker carve out.

    And politically, getting a poker carve out would be akin to an admission that online poker is illegal. So far courts are on the side that it’s not illegal. I see no rational reason to give up that fight.

    Maybe you should do some more homework before you reccomend these clowns.

  16. #16 Chris F.
    January 29, 2007

    I remember that in the early days (maybe a year ago?) of the PPA, PartyPoker was funneling people into a web page that offered something like a $25 bonus if you paid $20 to join the PPA. Later on, membership became free and PartyPoker still offered a small bonus for joining. I’m not sure how many people might have paid 20 bucks to join PPA, but that might have been a decent source for them.

  17. #17 Ed Brayton
    January 29, 2007

    Yes, I know that Poker Stars has been a big supporter of the PPA.

  18. #18 James
    January 30, 2007

    I won’t join since I’m not a US citizen, but this non-gambler wishes you all the best.

    divalent – I beleive in a right to gamble in as much as I beleive in the right to do anything unless there is a compelling reason to make it illegal (generally involving causing harm to others). That’s one of (if not the) primary tenet of classical liberalism. I think that’s why Ed considers it a big issue (aside from personal interest).

  19. #19 Karen
    January 30, 2007

    Just joined, gave ’em the 20 bucks for a full membership, and I don’t (yet) play poker online. (Haven’t found an available time slot when I’m not too tired.) But I do understand that money bellows in D. C., and I despise people who would legislate away my option to do something that harms no one, except possibly myself. That should be MY decision.

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