Home is where the game is

July 29, 2007

The recent bill that is crippling internet poker for sites like PokerStars.net and  FullTiltPoker.net got me thinking. Not necessarily about the bill itself, or about the political motivations behind said bill, but more about what it would mean to me as a poker player.

What would it mean for me? Or more to the point, what would it mean for the poker-playing public. Not the regulars, but the casual frequenters to the gambling sites, that when it comes down to it, really won’t care one way or another if Internet gambling in the U.S. takes a cue from the nation’s Prohibition era.

And at the root of the issue, I think it will end up being a positive. A positive for serious poker enthusiasts, as well as the casual poker fan.

Who will be hurt the worst? Aside from these sites themselves, my guess is ESPN. Without Internet gambling, I predict that the gradual fading of the “fresh romance” the public has had with poker recently will be greatly accelerated. Without an “at your fingertips” outlet to enjoy the game, I can’t see as many people still following poker on television.

That’s just me. I know free poker sites will still exist, but I’ve always thought that if you’re not playing for money, is playing poker just for fun….fun?

So, how is this a positive? Well, for me it’s a positive because I can’t stand how poker became mainstream. And I also can’t stand how I’ll flip the channels and land on Kathy Griffin and the guy from Monk dueling head-to-head on Celebrity Poker. Not only do they butcher the game, but they’re always C-list celebrities. If you’re going to throw annoying personalities out there who (for the most part) don’t know the game and are just there to “be seen,” and least have us “see” someone hot.

One random note, those shows always make me think of the old computer game called Celebrity Poker with Jonathan Frakes from Star Trek: The Next Generation and two others I can’t recall. They had the same 2 or 3 programmed responses for every hand, and yet it still was more entertaining than Celebrity Poker.

I know this show per se isn’t on ESPN, but some other crappy cable channel, but you get the point.

So, if shows like that, and the 300 souvenier poker chip sets at the endcap of every Target and Wal-Mart, disappear…I’ll take that as a positive.

Now, why is it a positive for the casual poker fan?

Easy. It’ll force those who do love the game to get together and form more home games. And the home poker game is a great thing. And here’s why:

1.) The feel: Even if you’re not adept at reading people, having others phyically there in front of you makes the game that much more intense, especially if it’s a serious money game, and not just a weekend social event. I want to stare someone in the eyes for 10 seconds while I make them think I’m going to bluff (and instead slow play my straight). I want to see how they breathe, and I want to see if their hands sweat. I don’t like how the Internet takes that away from me.

2.) The company: And for those who are just there for the social atmosphere, a home game is slightly more entertaining than a computer screen for sharing a few beers and listening to music in the background. I prefer a nice cigar or two, as well. (Well, they don’t really have to be nice, just clean) And the computer doesn’t seem to get as annoyed as the idiot who’s been blind calling all night when I blow smoke in it’s face.

3.) The honesty: It’s a hell of a lot easier to catch someone cheating when you’re sitting 2 feet away from them than when you don’t even know what country the Web site you’re on is hosted in. I’m not accusing any particular Web site of being crooked, but I will say one of my friends called to complain about something once, and the Web site said “Keep playing, you’ll ‘have luck’ for the next hour.” Damn, I’d hate to be the other people at the table while she was “having luck.”

4.) The banker: Any time I can inject one of the characteristics of monopoly into real life, it’s a good thing.

So there’s my two cents on the whole Internet gambling bill. Yeah, I’m stretching a little here and going out on a limb a little there, but I think most of what I said may happen has some merit. Or I could just be using this as another reason to hope for the end of Celebrity Poker Showdown.