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Full Tilt Poker pulls out of Washington State 2010-Nov-16 at 14:56 PST

Posted by Scott Arbeit in Blog.
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As I thought in September they might, Full Tilt Poker has ceased allowing real money poker in Washington State.  It’s absolutely disgusting that a game of skill like poker has such an awful legal environment around it in Washington State that this has come about.

For the record, I’m not mad at Full Tilt for pulling out… they’re just doing what they have to do.  I’m mad at our Legislature for not making the legal environment as clear as possible.

Poker, like skateboarding, is not a crime.


PokerStars pulls out of Washington state 2010-Sep-30 at 13:25 PDT

Posted by Scott Arbeit in Blog.
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Obviously, this sucks.  Fortunately, I play on Full Tilt.  I can’t help but wonder if they’ll follow suit.

From PokerStars No Longer Accepting Washington Cash Play On Site, by Earl Burton, 30-Sep-2010:

After a decision from the state’s Supreme Court regarding the legality of a law set in place four years ago, the top online site in the poker industry, PokerStars, has made the move to no longer accept cash players from the state of Washington.

In an e-mail message sent to residents of the state of Washington, PokerStars spells out the unfortunate news. “To date, PokerStars has operated in Washington on the basis of legal opinions where the central advice was that the state could not constitutionally regulate Internet poker, or at least could not discriminate in favor of local card rooms and against online sites. Last week, however, the Washington Supreme Court for the first time rejected that position and upheld the state’s Internet gaming prohibition.”

The e-mail continued, “In light of this decision, following extensive consultation with our legal advisors, we believe that the right course of action is to now block real money play by Washington residents on the PokerStars.com site.” PokerStars emphasized that the company always has legal issues in mind when offering their wares, stating, “In all of the jurisdictions where we operate, we are committed to making responsible decisions that are based on a full and considered understanding of the most up-to-date legal advice.”

Poker is not gambling.  It is a game of skill.  Tens of millions of Americans play poker regularly, and the haphazard legal environment around poker – particularly when it’s lumped together with other games like Blackjack and Roulette and Slot Machines – makes it difficult for the large online poker sites to operate.

How can you tell the difference between gambling and a game of skill?  To me it’s easy… am I playing against the house?  If I’m playing against the house, I’m gambling, because they don’t set up games that they lose money at.  If I’m playing against other players… it’s probably about skill.

I know most of you don’t care about this issue, but I do.  Ever since the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act was tacked on to a Port Security bill in 2006 by Senate Majority leader Bill Frist, who was attempting to mollify social conservatives in the Republican party, the national legal structures for poker have been problematic.  Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) has been shepherding a bill through Congress to address internet gaming in general, and although that bill has 70 co-sponsors, it doesn’t look like it’ll get through Congress in this session.  Let’s hope that reason prevails soon.

I hope Snoqualmie and Tulalip Casinos expand their poker rooms soon… I think we’re going to need it.

Poker and Zen 2010-Jul-09 at 13:14 PDT

Posted by Scott Arbeit in Blog.
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I occasionally get the question about how I could be trying to make my living playing poker while having an Integral understanding of spirituality, and the ultimate fallacy of competition, from an absolute perspective.  What am I trying to achieve through this (other than, you know, paying the rent and eating)?

A long excerpt from Poker and Zen, by Howard Lederer:

Tournament poker can be very exciting, but like many exciting things in life, it can also be terrifying. There is nothing quite like the thrill of playing at a big money final table. I am often asked how I handle the pressure of playing for such big money. I could give the standard answer of "You have to forget the money and just think about the chips as units." This is certainly true. But, those units are worth a lot of money and forgetting about the money and prestige that comes with winning is easier said than done.

I always had trouble doing this at the critical moments of poker tournaments even as recently as a few years ago. I then started to read some books on Zen Buddhism. Zen has always been associated with the fine arts of flower arranging, calligraphy, and tea making. But there is also quite a tradition of Zen in swordsmanship and archery. Through reading these books and in particular "Zen in the Art of Archery," I have a greater understanding of the process one goes through to master an art form.

Staying in the moment is the path to poker mastery. And it is poker tournaments that present the greatest challenge to this goal. How is it possible to think only about the current hand when you have made bad plays and taken bad beats only minutes before? How is it possible to stay mindful of only the current hand when if you could win this tournament it might change your life? These are questions that can only be answered by each individual player. But, I believe that the study of the Zen arts can lead you down that path.

I realized that the more I could stay focused on the present hand and forget about bad beats and bad plays from my recent past, the better I would play. I also concluded that even more damaging to my focus on the present hand might be the nervousness brought on by thoughts of winning the tournament. Staying in the moment at the poker table is not an easy task. But, when I read "Zen in the Art of Archery," there was a concept that stayed with me. The master archer hits the target without having aimed. This meant that the more I tried to focus on the moment, the more I would not succeed. I could only find that focus from within myself. I decided that I would sit at the table and relax. For two years now, I have been practicing my own form of poker meditation. Instead of trying hard to focus, I allow it to happen through relaxation.

I couldn’t have said it better myself.  Poker is not other than the path… it is the path, as much as any other is.  Beyond the money is the ability to stay centered at all times, through wrenching bad beats and occasional bad decisions.

Just like life.  It’s all on the path.

P.S. For the record, even last night I lost that center from a bad beat for a few minutes, so I’m still working on it, still walking the path.