I want to preface this article by saying that as one of the first people to join the Poker Players Alliance (PPA) when the group was founded back in 2005, I feel they have done a terrific job on a number of fronts for the poker community, perhaps the most important of which was the simple matter of getting poker talked about in the legislative arena. Other areas where the PPA deserves credit has been there involvement in many of the court cases around the country supplying expert witnesses, and in providing resources and information to their members.
Alright, with the pats on the back out of the way let me get down to business and list my grievances with the PPA, and why I feel they have let the poker community down when it comes to moving the conversation about legalizing and regulating online poker forward.
One of my biggest complaints with the PPA is in the way they argue for the legalization of poker. The PPA continues to make the logical argument that poker is a game of skill, and therefore not gambling –more on par with Golf or Chess than Roulette or Keno—but we all know how well politicians do with logic.
Obviously any serious poker player will agree with the PPA’s chosen line, but the majority of US citizens are not poker players, and of the alleged 50 million US citizens that partake in the game the vast majority are far from serious players; which makes this argument fall on deaf ears.
First of all, there are the people that find poker morally wrong, and regardless of what you say or what evidence and mathematical computations they are presented with, they will never feel that a card game –where you can win or lose everything on the turn of a single card– is anything other than gambling.
Secondly, there are the people that comprehend the skill factor in poker, but since this only applies to the top 5-10% of players, the other 90-95% of poker players are considered gamblers! For these players, poker is no different than Roulette, Slots, or Blackjack, and depending on their disadvantage in the game they are probably right. If you don’t know the general concepts and theories of the game, or take the time to read books, study, and work on your poker game than you are in fact simply gambling when you play poker –I’ve played with many a person who would have held on to their money longer if they were at a Blackjack table or playing Caribbean Stud.
Instead, I would love for the PPA to move away from focusing on the skill involved in poker and move more towards the “prohibition is not working argument”, or even focusing on the tax revenue and job creation possible through a legalized and regulated online poker industry in the US: These are things that virtually every US citizen can understand, regardless of their skill level in poker, or their thoughts on the morality of gambling.
The PPA; Perpetually on Defense
Any good lobbying group in Washington DC does two things very well:
1. They have a ton of connections and influence
2. They do a good job of predicting and warning against upcoming legislation –and possibly averting the legislation if they are really good at 1
Unfortunately, the PPA is fairly inept at both of these tasks.
With only a handful of Congressmen, Congresswomen and Senators that can be counted on as poker advocates, the PPA’s sphere of influence is nowhere near that of its main opposition’s, The Religious Right. Think of it this way, there are plenty of people running for office who would lose if they were deemed pro-gambling, and I would be willing to bet there is not a single elected official in Washington DC who was sent there to legalize online poker! So we are dealing with a hot-button issue on only one side.
As for point 2, unlike good prognosticators, the PPA suffers from postdiction. Postdiction is just what you think it is, you look at what happened and then claim this is either a change you brought about, or could do nothing to stop –think Monday Morning Quarterbacking: “If I was coaching the Jets I would have gone for it on 4th down in the game last night”.
Even worse, the PPA is a completely reactionary organization; they push forward very little legislation, with absolutely no specifics as to what they want, and simply react to what is put on the table. When something bad happens –UIGEA, Black Friday—they call on their members to write letters and send E-Mails: When any –and I mean ANY—online poker legislation is proposed they do the same.
The best example of this is the dreadful online poker legislation proposed by Harry Reid (D-NV) last December. Despite an 18-month blackout period, and virtually every existing online poker room being blackballed, the PPA got right in line with this bill, and were willing to back it all the way –basically they have a “no bill is a bad bill” mentality, and are ready to take credit for legislation they had absolutely no hand in shaping.
Could you imagine the E-Mail that would have been sent had that legislation passed! The PPA board of directors would have been patting themselves on the back and claiming victory for their 1+ million members had the Reid bill passed; a bill they were completely blindsided by!
The Real Problem
The real problem I see with the PPA is that the group has no real direction, no specific goals and end-game they are looking to promote. The PPA is nothing but a mission statement: Instead of “we want X, Y, and Z” the PPA states its goal as:
“The PPA’s mission is to establish favorable laws that provide poker players with a secure, safe and regulated place to play. Through education and awareness the PPA will keep this game of skill, one of America’s oldest recreational activities, free from egregious government intervention and misguided laws.”
Wonderful, now what does that mean?