Gambling legislation has been in the news a lot this week. Next year a new gambling act, will make it legal for pubs in England and Wales to host poker games. Landlords currently have to ask a local magistrate for special permission to allow "games of chance" such as bingo, bridge and poker to be played on their premises.
It's unlikely these events will be able to compete with casinos and poker rooms however, as the new rules state that the games must be for low stakes. The suggested cap for these pub games is £10 and landlords will not be allowed to profit from the game. Casino games such as roulette and blackjack will remain banned.
Some are worried at the prospect of mixing alcohol with gambling but the Department of Culture, Media and Sport says: "To ban poker from pubs would risk encouraging unlawful games which would be difficult to control." Emm, How exactly?
How has it been difficult in the past to control poker in pubs? It's either illegal or it isn't! That seems very black and white to me but this new piece of flaky legislation will only make it even more difficult to control. The reason illegal games have existed in the past is because the legality of certain games has always been very much a grey area. This law isn't going to change that. Will the poker police really be prosecuting landlords for running events above the £10 cap, or for making a small profit from a poker tournament? Also since slot machines and video poker have no limit on how much you can dump into them and landlords certainly make a profit from touch-betting, why then is poker being viewed differently? Do the government think poker is more hardcore? Some slots have a very high intake with very low payout percentages, and what's worse is the punter never wins in the long run. That is the very definition of hardcore gambling, and without a doubt the most addictive, yet culture secretary, Theresa Jowell, actually wants to remove limits on slot machines. What's next? Will the health minister put limits on how much cannabis you can smoke but let you snort as much cocaine as you want? Cool!
It could be worse; you could live in France where if you play poker you are now officially labelled a "delinquent" by the government. France is considering adoption of 2 amendments containing anti-gambling legislation to France's "delinquency prevention" measures, which were originally introduced by the Minister of the Interior, Nicholas Sarkozy, following France's 2005 riots.
Amendment 254 is similar to the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) in the USA. It targets banks and financial institutions and aims to prevent them from funding gambling sites, but protects state-run gambling, betting and lotteries. The French amendment however goes much farther by aiming to prevent banks from transferring funds to and from known gambling individuals. The purpose of the second amendment, Amendment 255, is to cut down the effectiveness of promoting gambling sites on the Internet. French legislators vote on the amendments later this week.
Will poker ever be recognised as a sport or game of skill by the government? In my opinion, it isn't likely, at least not any time soon, but Randy Peterson; a former detective with the Canadian Mountain Police claims to have come up with the answer. Duplicate poker is a game similar to Texas Holdem, which he says takes the luck element out of the game completely and is based purely on skill. At first I was appalled by the idea. How on earth am I going to crack someone's aces with nine-four off-suit in this game? Then I took the tutorial and realised I still can, which means Mr Peterson seems to have overlooked something. If I can play badly and still win how has the luck element been taken out of the game? Hmmm… maybe I like this game after all.
You can download and play Duplicate Texas Holdem at www.e-pokerusa.com. The game is still essentially played the same as regular Texas Holdem. The difference is the players you play against have the exact same hole cards on a mirror table, and will see the same board cards At the start of each hand your stack is reset to an equal amount of chips. Your goal is to complete the hand with more chips than your opponents by playing the hand better than them. Herein lies the problem. Lets say I know I shouldn't call a re-raise with a small pair if I don't have the right pot odds, but my opponent does call, flops a set and wins a nice pot. He scores higher than I do in this hand. I don't see how the luck element has been taken out of this game but I will reserve my final judgement for when I'm actually bored enough to download the software and try it out which isn't likely to be any time soon. I mean where's the fun in Texas Holdem if I can't frighten the life out of my opponents? "Oh look, ten-three on the button and it's suited. Now how much should I re-raise that fish here..."
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