Contemplating the effect of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Act

I have been relatively uninspired by poker of late, so I haven’t joined in the chorus of swirling resentment at this new effort to “protect” me from the twin evils of gambling and the internet.  Although, to be honest, I think a more important factor for me is that I have been disgusted by the direction my government has been headed in for so long that this just was one more indignity.  Although I’m obviously aghast that the most pressing issue facing the fine folks in Washington was internet poker, I’m really more disturbed by our continued bungling of the war in Iraq, our failure to take effective measures to protect ourselves from terrorism (which would probably start with not fueling the sense that we aim to rule the world), our abhorent stance on torture and any of dozens of other issues.

I had solved my poker malaise somewhat by playing a lot more HORSE.  Now that I’ve mostly digested the Zee High-Low book, I think my O8 and 7Stud Hi-Low games are much, much better.  I really enjoy the fact that I run into complicated poker decisions where I don’t have any pre-conceived idea how I should handle it.  Oddly, I enjoy when a hand ends and I realize I really made a bad mistake.  I haven’t been learning that much at limit hold’em because I’m pretty good at it now.  Case in point, I made an Ace high flush on 6th street in Stud and the guy who had been very aggressive stopped cold when I check-raised him.  He was showing a possible flush draw with a King exposed and I only had a Queen high flush draw showing (I actually had the Ace high flush).  On the river I bet and he raised.  I three bet him, thinking there was a good chance that I had him beat with an Ace high flush over a King high flush.  When he capped, I realized that I had made a terrible mistake.  Either he had an AK flush or a boat and his raise should have told me that.  If he had shown a pair up, I would have never made that mistake.  As it turns out he was rolled up and paired on seventh.  I lost two bets that I never should have lost.  But I was perversely happy as I realized that I still had lots to learn.

The only frustrating thing in terms of my poker education is that some of the players are very poor at some of the disciplines (especially stud 8 hi-low) and some are pretty good.  I haven’t figured out how to figure out who is who effectively enough yet.

I also cashed in the Stars million Sunday after being asked to accept a stake from the ITHers in a group pool kind of thing.  I won my seat in a FFP freeroll, so I was in good shape going in.  We had about 18 players, so we needed to get a lot of people in the money to really have a good day.  Unfortunately, we lost a lot of people relatively quickly.  As the bubble approached, I think we only had four players left alive.  We wound up with just Primitive (the ITH People’s Champion that we sent to the Main Event) and me cashing.  Prim was very short and just sneaked into the money and busted right after we got into the cash.  I was around average stack, but got caught stealing with KJs and had to fold to a push pre-flop and then had to call a shorty with a small pair in a similar situation and was in the red zone in two hands.  I forget my final hand, but it wasn’t pretty.

I was pleased to be the last ITHer in the thing, but I should have busted pre-bubble.  I was short-ish and found JJ.  I raised pre-flop and got two or three callers.  I got check-raised all-in on a raggy flop like 982 two suited.  I figured him for a flush draw or a pair and a draw and I called instantly.  He turned over QQ and I should have been dead.  Unfortunately for him, I went runner-runner straight and was suddenly among the leaders.  These tourneys have a brutal structure because I went from yellow zone to among the leaders in one hand.

I have taken a very conservative approach to the new law.  I’ve taken down my two or three banners which were only earning a pittance anyhow and I’ve cashed out of all sportsbooks and most poker rooms.  I’m having to move the money back in stages to avoid having too much money in any one place, but everyone has been processing the cashouts in a timely fashion, even the sportsbook that I was most worried about.  I was up to a very big balance in one sportsbook that wasn’t one of the highest-rated and they’ve cashed out most of it smoothly.  I’ll move the last 5k out next week and I’ll just have a small balance in Stars and WPEX to keep playing with and a few thousand in Neteller as a cushion.

With my online roll down to less than 10k after cashing out back to my bank, I’ll have to consider if I want to step down in limits or if I’m willing to risk having to redeposit.  If I play WPEX, they didn’t have a good game at 30/60 most of the time anyhow.  Although I have no idea what they will look like once Party closes shop.

PartyPoker, the 5,000 lb gorilla of the poker world, has announced that they will shut out US-based players as soon as the new law is signed.  Many other rooms have followed suit, some of which have ejected US-based players already.  Cryptologic sites and iPoker skins look to be dead for sure.  Stars has been coy about their intentions and a few sites have openly declared that they aren’t impressed by the new laws (WPEX and True Poker spring to mind).  Other sites have made carefully worded statements that suggest that they are in it for the long haul without actually saying that (FullTilt, UB and PokerRoom skins).  Given that on-line poker has always skirted the edges of what is legal I am somewhat shocked that Party rolled over so easily.  I would have figured that this law was likely to be somewhat toothless.  There is a good chance that it won’t prevent Neteller transactions and if it doesn’t block Neteller, it doesn’t do anything at all to stop the average player.  From the site’s point of view, it does provide Uncle Sam with a number of new tools to try to harass the companies and their executives.  One supposes that this is why Party has seemingly given up the ghost so quickly.  The internet is rife with rumors that they have some secret plan to re-engage in the market, but I’m not sure what I think.
My instinct is that this will change the landscape a great deal and we will probably look back on this as the high point of the intenet poker craze.  It won’t die next month, but this could change everything.  If the sites cut back on their US-based advertising, we’ll see less poker on TV.  The combination of less TV poker, less advertising and more challenging funding methods will start to dry up the new money.  As the games get tougher, more and more of the marginal players who were just keeping their heads above water will start to lose and move on to new hobbies.  Fewer online players will mean fewer entrants to the WSOP and in turn less exposure for ESPN and less incentive for MillerLite and similar firms to pony up the ad dollars.  It won’t die altogether because it is convenient to play online and millions of people demand to do it.  There are a number of countries in the world with much more realistic laws and poker can and probably will find ways to grow in Europe and Asia.  Dedicated gamblers from the US will find ways around the laws and sites will figure out where the loopholes might be.  They are very good at that, witness the barrage of .net advertising immediately after the “ban” on poker ads on TV.  I’m not bailing out yet, I love poker and I like a hobby that pays.  I might try to get to AC more often.

By Nsidestrate

I'm a hard-core limit ring game poker player who is becoming a degenerate sports bettor. I'm sure it will all make more sense if you read on.