Shuffle Up and Deal

This is a Problem Solution Paper I wrote back in College in 2004. Feel free to comment on it below, Thanks.

23 November 2004

Shuffle up and deal

Three knocks on a door, a look through a peephole and permission is granted to the secret back room. It is not a drug deal or a house of burlesque; it is a poker room in Texas. Poker is an American game that has been played since the frontier days of the Wild West but today, under most circumstances, it is illegal in Texas. Poker rooms are all over Texas, but one can not find one in the yellow pages. These underground poker rooms are usually at someone’s house or a social club and are run like a small business. Like any other business they are supplying a service for a cost in order to make a profit. These poker businesses are suppliers of a service that is in high demand at the moment. Due to the media blitz of poker on television, a viewer can usually find a game televised any time of day. If ESPN does not have the World Series of Poker on, then the Travel Channel will have the World Poker Tour on, or Bravo will be airing the Celebrity Poker Showdown. Also a movie called Rounders came out, which is a movie mainly about a poker player and his love of the game.

This constant barrage of poker with its large cash prizes causes people to want to play. But where do they play? While playing poker is popular right now, the only places to join an organized game are the illegal card rooms. These card rooms are illegal because the house, the people running the game, takes a percentage of the money in play. This money is called a cut, or the rake. This cut, or rake, causes the house to make money on every hand without the house risking anything. The higher the limits and more money in play means more money to the house. Since the demand is high and the suppliers are underground, the house can take as much of a rake that they want and no one is there to monitor them. People are going to have to play there because it is the only game in town. Since gambling is illegal, the highest risk is getting raided, but the penalty is a monetary fine, which can be remitted without trouble. According to District Attorney Sowder, “Organizers of public card tournaments potentially face charges of gambling promotion, keeping a gambling place and possession of gambling paraphernalia. All are Class A misdemeanors punishable by up to one year in jail and a $4,000 fine, an amount that can easily be made in one night by the poker room owner.”(Grinois) Participants could be charged with Class C gambling, which carries a maximum fine of $500.

This low risk, high tax-free return is the main reason for these poker rooms. The income received is substantial and tax-free, so it is money the state will never see. Also the bigger poker rooms will lend out money, like a bank with a much higher interest rate, and the state will never earn tax money from that either. “The law states poker games are considered gambling unless the chances of winning are the same for all participants as in a drawing, the games are held in a private place, or the house takes no cut of the winnings.”(Wallisch) Since poker is a game of luck and skill, players are always trying to improve their game, and the only way to do that is by playing.

“Serious poker players like to distinguish the game they play from the average weekly home game. Although these things tend to be relative (a10-20 Hold’em game might not seem so serious to someone used to playing 150-300), some particular features common to home games tend to make the game less serious. Most irksome to the serious player is probably a proliferation of zany, poorly thought-out games, often involving wild cards, and sometimes having little in common with other poker games. While some serious players like the challenge of having to develop a strategy on-line for a game that was just invented, many feel it just increases the luck factor. Less serious games also tend to involve very low stakes, because they are played for fun and not out of either a deep interest in poker or in making money at it.”(Kimberg)

Poker is a card game that has to be played for money or prizes; otherwise, the game is not played realistically and is no fun.

Poker is a game played with two or more players and consists of betting and bluffing, or acting like you have the best hand. Poker is not just one card game, it is many card games. While no definition is going to satisfy everyone, the majority of poker games do share some common features, especially betting in rounds and the ranking of hands. Currently, the popular poker game is Texas Hold’em. Texas Hold’em is a game where each player is dealt two cards face down; only they can see them, and then everyone bets. Then three cards are dealt face up on the table; this is called the flop, these are community cards that are shared by all players. Following the flop is a round of betting. Next, another community card is dealt face up; this is called the turn, and another round of betting occurs. Finally, the last community card is dealt face up, and the hands are flipped up to see who the winner is. The strength of a player’s hand is the best hand that can be made with these seven cards. The betting can be limit; there is a fixed limit on how much you canbet or raise in any round, Pot limit; the maximum bet or raise is the size of the pot. , or no limit; there is no limit on the sizes of bets and raises. In poker, the player always has three options call, raise or fold.

There are hundreds of books published that can teach a person how to be a better player and win more often. These books also teach readers how to spot tells, “A mannerism that gives away your holdings. Smiling when you have a big, very powerful, hand is an obvious tell. More subtle tells include iris dilation, a throbbing pulse, or acting in a certain manner in a given situation.”(Caro) These small indications from the player give away the strength of a player’s hand, and improve the opponents chances of winning. These resources for improving the player added to table experience can reduce the risk to the player and make playing the game less of a gamble and more of an investment. An old Chinese proverb says, Luck favors the prepared mind. The prospect of a huge payday and the fun of the game keeps these rooms filled at all hours, day and night.

These rooms are filled because people do not think they are breaking a fair law. Since poker and gambling is legal in some places, it is thought of as a vice crime and is played by a diverse crowd who do not think they are doing anything wrong. While people may not consider playing poker a big crime, it is still illegal, and until the state changes the laws it is a crime. While horse tracks and lotteries are legal, these gambling establishments are run and monitored by the state. Even charity poker games are illegal if there are any prizes given to the winner if any entry fee is paid. There was a charity poker tournament in Lubbock, in February 2004, which was deemed illegal due to the fact that it was at a public place and cost money to enter. “Spurred by recent attempts to hold card tournaments at Lubbock businesses, Sowder held a news conference Friday to inform owners of his stance before pursuing criminal charges. ‘Some people legitimately thought they were doing the right thing and didn’t know they were violating the law, and we didn’t want to arrest those people, even though we could.’” (Kuffner) But in order to make this charity poker tournament legal, the law must be changed.

The solution to this problem is for the state of Texas to pass a bill to change the law and make poker rooms legal. This motion would have to go through state legislation and will take some time. First you would have to make an amendment to the current law. The state officials would have to be convinced that the positives out way the negatives. The increase in tourism to the state alone would generate enough money to pay for the extra law enforcement needed to monitor it. This would also increase jobs for Texans in the form of security, dealers and managers. With any legalized gaming comes a commission whose job it is to monitor the game room for fairness and tax purposes. This commission will keep the games fair by imposing rules and punishments on the card room. This legalization will also give the poker players more of a reason to go to the legal game rooms instead of the underground rooms. In the end, it will help the state out greatly. This will cause the people who are interested in learning to play or really enjoy the game to have a legal and fair place to play.

By having these fair places to play in Texas, the state can gain revenue lost to underground poker rooms and people going out of state to gamble. The closest place to play poker for Texans is Louisiana, but with legal games in Texas, there would be no reason to leave the state. These legal rooms will also attract tourist to visit Texas, not only to gamble but to also enjoy the state’s other wonderful attractions. This would also stimulate the economy through taxes that would have to be paid by the poker rooms and the winners. Taxes that are currently avoided by the underground poker rooms, which do not report their income or their player’s winnings to the state.

Gambling is illegal because it is addictive to some and it could cause people to lose a lot of money. R Texas is located in the Bible belt; religious groups are the biggest proponents to having gambling legalized. They believe that all gambling is wrong and should not be condoned. Religious groups have backed this law from the beginning because they think that people can easily become addicted and hurt themselves and others. While gambling is addictive to some not every one will fall prey too this addiction. People can be addicted to anything they find pleasure in. That is why states with legal gambling have programs set up to help people with theses addictions. If the state limited everything that has addictive properties, Texans would not be allowed to consume caffeine, drink beer, watch television or other things that a few sick people use to excess.

Another proponent to keeping poker illegal are the underground card rooms. They have a good tax-free business going where they get to make the rules and do not have to report to anyone. Illegal poker rooms will not support the legalization of gambling because it will take business away from them and will cause their profits to drop dramatically. They will have competitor’s that will offer fair games at lower costs, and those competitors will provide no risk of being arrested by the police.

Being arrested by the police is a huge concern to the underground poker room even though the fine is minimal. Another solution to stopping these rooms is to strictly enforce the current laws with more raids and harsher punishments. A gambling offense is a Class A misdemeanor and punishable by up to one year in jail and a $4,000 fine. A fine of $4,000 seams like a high amount but to a business in such high demand at the moment this fine is like a minor traffic violation to UPS; sure it is a hassle but it is not going to put them out of business. If the punishment was raised from a misdemeanor to a felony, then less people would want to take the risk of running an illegal card room. The cost of a felony is prison time, for all that are involved, and a fine, that can be decided by the judge or jury, depending on the size of the game room. This will also take a change in legislation and huge motion by the law enforcement to regulate these rooms. The problem with this solution is that there are so many rooms and as soon as one is removed, two more will take its place. Also some rooms will make enough money to cover an enormous fine. While fines and prison time are good deterrents, this still hurts the person who really enjoys the game and wants to have fun.

The only way to allow someone to play a fair and legal game of poker in Texas is to legalize gambling. It is ironic that a game invented in Texas, called Texas Hold’em, is illegal to play in Texas. A game perfected in the old saloons of the Wild West is now illegal to play in bars, even if it is for charity. These charity events added with the increased revenue due to jobs and tourism, our only a few reasons to legalize gambling in Texas. The benefits to the player, to the economy and to the state of Texas are enough reasons to legalize gambling in Texas. Everyone should have a chance to learn and enjoy the game of poker in the state of Texas. They shouldn’t have to know the secret knock or know a guy that can get them in. Everyone should be able to play the game of poker legally even if there is a chance of losing. Nick “The Greek” Dandalos said it best, “The next best thing to gambling and winning is gambling and losing.” (Sullivan)

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