Online poker bets by grouping poker with other skill games

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"What I do is not gambling," she said.

The world-champion player joined other poker hotshots lobbying Wednesday on Capitol Hill, hoping to persuade members of Congress that poker, like chess and mah-jongg, is a game of skill -- and not, like roulette, a casino game that leaves players' fortunes to chance. Representatives of the Poker Players Alliance, an association of professional gamers and industry leaders with more than 800,000 members nationwide, contend that current federal online-gambling regulations violate international trade rules and unfairly restrict the civil liberties of poker enthusiasts. "It's a national pastime," said Rep. Robert Wexler (D-Fla.), who opposes the current restrictions. "And the idea that we would prohibit adults from playing poker on the venue of the 21st century is illogical." Wexler has introduced a bill that would reverse restrictions on online poker bets by grouping poker with other skill games, such as backgammon and bridge. It would also allow state and federal governments to tax gaming transactions and implement safeguards to prevent play by minors and by individuals in states that ban Internet gambling. Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) is sponsoring a similar measure that would provide broader regulation over all Internet wagering in place of an outright ban.

Last year, members of the Poker Players Alliance were trumped by enactment of legislation banning banks and credit card companies from processing payments to online gaming establishments based outside the United States. Rep. Robert W. Goodlatte (R-Va.), a primary sponsor of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, said the Internet's unregulated environment magnified problems associated with gambling, such as addiction, money laundering and organized crime.

"It's like having a casino not in every neighborhood, but in every living room," Goodlatte said. Poker proponents have suggested that, for too long, social conservatives have demonized poker as a vice of compulsive gambling addicts who recklessly hedge their bets beyond advisable limits.

That's not so, said Duke, who in 2004 won $2 million after knocking out eight poker legends in the invitation-only World Series of Poker Tournament of Champions. She called poker an "incredible intellectual exercise" that, with each hand played, demanded considerable knowledge of mathematics, psychology and money management


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