Managing the Odds of Making Online Poker a Reality

There was an interesting look behind the curtain of our legislative process in today’s Las Vegas Sun. I won’t spoil it for you, but any time you see the words “finger pointing” in the headline, you can get an inkling things aren’t going well.

According to David Sklansky, author of The Theory of Poker, if you want to be a good player, you’ve got to project weakness when you’ve got a strong hand, and strength when you’ve got a weak hand. Deception is the nature of the game. Of course, the other players know that you’ll be doing this, so it becomes a recursive question—does he know that I know that he knows that he might be bluffing. It’s the kind of stuff that got
Vizzini killed

What comes across in the article is the sense that Harry Reid and his chief of staff David Krone are looking for someone to blame for their failures to muster support for a federal online poker bill. Both of them are coming across as increasingly frantic and decidedly un-statesmanlike.

So does that mean they have the votes lined up?

At a poker table, it might, but then again, it might not. The player whose hand shakes as he slides his chips into the pot might be a master strategist who’s broadcasting fear when he’s actually got the nuts. Or he might be a terrified novice who’s just bet more than he can afford to lose and is way out of his depth. If you’ve got faith in Nevada’s congressional delegation having the savvy to play a long game that, for whatever purpose, requires the Senate majority leader to run around Capitol Hill pointing fingers, well, things are going according to plan.

Of course, reading this on the surface suggests that it’s a gambit that’s been massively botched.

Putting this in perspective, this is an issue that a few feel passionate about and, I suspect, the vast majority of Americans have little strong feeling for. Making the case to those in Congress who represent that largely-indifferent constituency won’t be made easier by complaining that lobbyists haven’t been effective enough. Instead, the most mature and rational public stance might be to insist that a federal framework for online poker makes sense for both the states that want to allow it and those that don’t.

It’s not about apportioning blame (or trying to avoid it), but making the case that this, in fact, a bill that’s going to benefit more than those who want to play poker online and those who will offer them those games. Because at the end of the day, there’s no bluffing around the fact that Congressional representatives need to be held accountable for their votes, their actions, and their inactions. If it’s truly a good bill for everyone, it shouldn’t take that much gamesmanship to get people behind it; the pot should be lucrative enough that everyone wants a share of it, no matter what they think the other players’ motivations might be for voting yea.



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