Christian Science Monitor under fire for anti-poker article

Posted by Steve Ruddock on Aug 23, 2012 Posted in Poker News | No Comments »

Here is my response to the recent Christian Science Monitor article on poker

Phil Hellmuth has blurted out some real doozies over the years, and one of the top lines to ever exit “The Poker Brat’s” mouth was his infamous, “You can’t even spell poker.” Well as it turns out we now have someone (a whole organization in fact) that seemingly cannot spell poker, but still wants to weigh-in intellectually on the current debate on legalizing online poker; the Christian Science Monitor.

In a recent editorial piece following the ruling by Judge Weinstein that called poker a game predominated by skill and not luck, the CSM decided to offer up their own “facts” on the ruling, and by facts I mean ignorant statements and bald-faced lies. For starters, in the photo accompanying the article it states [emphasis mine]: “Photo illustration of an online gambler visiting a Internet power website.” Yes that is supposed to read poker not power, and if you look real hard you’ll see they wrote “a Internet” instead of “an Internet”. But let’s skip the nitpicking and get into the substance of the article, or should I say lack thereof.

Here are some of the statements I want to discuss with the author of the piece:

“The decision needs to be appealed to higher courts as it is could easily be overturned. It argues against poker as a game of chance but then finds that states can still outlaw it as a form of gambling, as many do. It approves of sports betting – which often relies on skilled knowledge of players or teams – even though that is outlawed under federal law.”

Really? Could you explain to me on what legal grounds an appeal would be granted and then overturned? Could you cite some precedence? Do you have a legal expert contradicting the judge’s opinion? Or are you just stating your own narrow beliefs?

I’m also assuming the author thinks state and federal law are in lockstep with one another on everything, so saying poker is a game of skill but allowing states to pass their own laws outlawing it is a contradiction; even though liquor laws, smoking laws, brick & Mortar casinos, and hundreds of other statutes differ from state to state. Maybe the CSM needs to take a field trip to Las Vegas to see legalized prostitution to understand how the 10th Amendment works.

“Even the most successful poker players often lose – and not for lack of skill. Placing a bet will always be just that – a bet.”

Seat OPEN, my table! By the time I got to this point I started to think the author was simply a frustrated poker player who had given up on the 2+2 community, and the next paragraph would be about “the online poker being rigged”. But apparently in the eyes of the CSM the words “Good” and “Bad” cannot be placed in front of the word “Bet”. You see CSM, there are good bets and there are bad bets. Some bets will make money in the long run EVEN IF YOU LOSE 99 OUT OF 100 TIMES!

How can this be you might be saying??? Well, there are these things called odds, and when the reward is larger than the odds you are being offered the bet will show a positive return in the long-run, regardless of what happens on this individual outcome. You can talk to an upstanding stockbroker about risk-to-reward and equity if you don’t want to take a “degenerate” poker player’s word for it.

“Most of all, the ruling ignores the effects of opening the legislative floodgates for Internet gaming.”

Oh yes, the Focus on the Family argument: “Won’t anyone think about the CHILDREN!?!?!?!” Study after study has shown (and unlike the CSM I’ll even provide links to these studies) that problem gambling has not increased because of the Internet, and there is a very simple reason for this: If someone is a problem gambler they will find a way to gamble, Internet or no Internet, just like someone with an alcohol or drug problem will always be able to find their fix –even though drugs are illegal.

Study on Problem Gambling:

Another article with links to studies on problem gambling:

“Congress outlawed Internet gambling in 2006, based on evidence in other countries that it allows easier, more anonymous accessibility to wagering than do casinos or lotteries.”

The UIGEA legislation the author is citing made it illegal for banks to process online gambling transactions; it did not outlaw online poker, as millions of US residents who have played online poker since 2006 can attest to. Apparently the author read the UIGEA amendment to the Safe Ports Act of 2006 about as closely as the members of Congress who voted on it.

“With the click of the mouse, a teenager at home could become a gambling addict, despite any promised safeguards.”

And with the purchase of a can of spray paint they could be “huffing”. Should we outlaw spray paint because a small percentage of teenagers are self-destructive? Teenager purchase alcohol every day in this country and I don’t hear any calls from the CSM about bringing back prohibition.

“Instead, Congress needs to tighten up the 1970 law and reaffirm the 2006 ban rather than buckle under to the million-member-strong Poker Players Alliance.”

Yes, let’s strengthen a law to stop online poker that was written before the Internet! Yes let’s reaffirm the 2006 ban –since there is no such law I’m not quite sure what I’m reaffirming???

“Why further feed the notion that “luck” determines one’s future and that random forces guide events? Government should be affirming the value of ideas and hard work, not a belief in the roll of the dice or the shuffle of a card deck.”

Well, the simple answer is that we live in a free society where we can live our own lives so long as they don’t interfere with the lives of others. The long answer is that the author and the entire CSM board have no concept of what it takes to be a winning poker player. They may think they are fighting against the ultimate slackers of the slacker generation, but what they are really railing against are some of the sharpest minds and hardest working individuals in society.

No poker player believes in the roll of a dice, and that is why we are poker players and not broke gamblers. The vast majority of poker players abhor casino games, and the ones who do shoot-off in the pits know they are going to lose money, and laugh about it afterwards. If the CSM wants to understand the game of poker (which historically they don’t) instead of putting it in a neat little box and labeling it “gambling” maybe they should read through the 55 comments the article has received. 55 comments that have not a single person applauding their stance or backing up their views, because even the most ardent gambling opponent knows that poker is nothing like roulette and other casino games where the odds are skewed in the house’s favor.

The CSM piece is a true lesson in shoddy journalism; loose facts; and flat out lies.


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