Friday, February 28, 2014

Smörgåsbord Morality

For those of you unfamiliar with the term “Smörgåsbord,” it’s what my folks called a buffet (it’s a Scandinavian term, though we’re German-Irish.  Go figure).  And this isn’t about how to behave at a buffet (though some folks could use a primer).  It’s what I call the type of morality, or ethics, that most people have.  Even me.

It’s a “pick and choose” morality, as one selects the ethical items they want and discards and ignores others.  It’s not limited to morality, either, as rules and laws can also be selected as if at a buffet line.  And like the buffet, you can take an item on the first go around, then not take it the next time.  Lack of consistency is another key to this type of morality.

Like I said earlier, most people live their lives this way.  Some only dabble in the buffet line, while others feast.  A good many people have standards, and keep them, only diverging a little from time to time.  Upstanding, decent folks, they perhaps only cheat at tax time and maybe they steal a few office pens from time to time.  Maybe they speed on the interstate or toss litter from the car.  Some folks are a bit less ethical, as cheating comes as natural to them as walking.  They cheat their kids, their spouse, their boss, the government…pretty much everyone they come in contact with.

Then there are those who are just confused about their morality.  They think they are the untainted ones, the ones who are closest to perfection, and it’s everyone else who needs to get it line.  They know they are pure in heart and deed, and have the strictest moral code there can be.  Except they just don’t follow it.  Smörgåsbord morality.

Smörgåsbord morality was on full display this week in Arizona.  The now-vetoed SB 1062, a bill passed by the legislature previously that would have allowed private businesses to cite religious beliefs as a defense against lawsuits over discriminatory treatment (author’s note – I copied this line directly from The Economist), was flawed from the start.  No, not because it discriminated, and let’s stop there for a moment and discuss this word – discrimination – as few understand it.

You WANT to be able to discriminate.  That is, you want to have the ability to tell one thing apart from another, to recognize a distinction.  You want to pick a good beer from a bad one, a stylish shirt from a unstylish one, a good haircut from a bad one, a good woman…go get the idea.  Discrimination is a talent, and in a poker game you want the ability to discriminate a good starting hand from a lousy one.

What you DON’T want to do is mass discrimination, which in reality isn’t very discriminate at all.  If you lump in all people of one type (gays, Latinos, women, Evangelicals, short guys with bad shirts and lousy haircuts), you aren’t discriminating – you’re classifying.  Piss-poorly, I might add.  You’re basing your “discrimination” on a bias that only differentiates the other class from you on one factor.   Color.  Nationality.  Heritage.  Sexual preference.  Etc.

So back to SB 1062 – to me, here’s the key portion of the bill (under Provisions):  This bill…

Stipulates that a person that asserts a violation of this Act must establish the following:
Ø The person’s action or refusal to act is motivated by a religious belief;
Ø The person’s religious belief is sincerely held; and
Ø The state action substantially burdens the exercise of the person’s religious beliefs.  

Got that?  Action (or inaction) motivated by a sincerely held religious belief.   And this is where the bill fails for me. If a baker wants to refuse to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple, because of a sincerely held religious belief (and here I am assuming we’re talking Christian, because the next few examples all come from the same “book” of ethics where the anti-gay thingy comes from), then he should also not bake a cake for:
  • A couple where one (or both) have tattoos
  • A couple wearing clothing from two different fabrics
  • A couple who have committed adultery (good luck with that one)
  • A couple who have pork or shellfish on the catering list
  • And, of course, if the couple is clean and pure, he can’t bake the cake on Sunday.
Of course, most of this comes from Leviticus, but if I wasn’t so lazy I could find some other stuff in the New Testament (I remember Paul admonished long hair, so my wedding cake would’ve had to have been baked elsewhere, too).  Many Christians don’t MEAN to pick and choose their Biblical morality, but…they do.  We all do.

In the smorgasbord of life, there is much to enjoy and much to choose from.  When we discriminate unfairly, we ruin the meal for everyone.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Supremes say STOP, Everyone Else says GO

I was just going to write a quick post on the news that the Supreme Court declined to hear the DiCristina v. United States case, which many hoped would finally decide, perhaps once and for all, whether poker is a contest of skill or luck. I didn’t imagine they’d “step into the gambling/poker morass” - although I have to admit a 5-4 or 6-3 decision either way might have been appropriate. No matter - there are many more events in the news that tend to overshadow the Supremes decision, and my Monday pessimism departed in a hurry. In just twenty-four hours news that Full Tilt repayments are on the way and the announcement of the first interstate online poker partnership.(Nevada and Delaware) made my heart skip a beat, and I don’t even have money coming from FT. Add to this that both Illinois and California are expected to take a hard look at jumping into the online poker world, and…my nipples are hard.
I am a trained optimist, and it’s caused me more pain than I care to think about. Immediately after Black Friday I remained hopeful that the shutdown of PokerStars and Full Tilt were temporary, and that we’d regain our senses in DC and let play resume. Three years later and I can’t believe I was that stupid. I also believed in Joe Barton and his Internet Poker Freedom Act, and still murmur, “yeah, yeah”when he says that Federal legislation might be possible once more populous states launch their own markets. Joe says, “I can't say when…but I can say it will occur and that it won't be 20 years from now. It will be, if not next year, the year after or soon after that.”
Like so many things, the Feds dawdle, and the states take action.
There is a part of me that cannot believe we are even dicking with all of this. We have an energy crisis, an environmental crisis, lax rules for bankers and Wall Street and a huge divide between the 1% and everyone else, including the impoverished who keep voting for the assholes that do nothing to alleviate impoverishment. We want clean water, safe streets, a decent wage and a chance to enjoy life as best we can, and what is Congress doing today? Not much.
Do we really expect them to step into the gambling/poker morass? C’mon, get real. The states have led the way in all forms of gambling -lottery, casinos, card rooms, horse racing - you name it. With state budgets hurting, every dollar counts, and while still relatively tiny, online poker has the capacity to be huge - that’s why so many are fighting about it. Three states are already up and running, others have approved the idea, and now two more biggies are taking up the issue (and New York, Texas, and Iowa might not be that far behind).
The Supremes had a hit called “There's No Stopping Us Now.” They sang about love. We love poker. I can’t take any lyrics from that song and make a good closing, but it I take the lyrics from “You've Really Got A Hold On Me” (originally sung by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles) and just switch around two letters (e and m) I can do it just fine:
…and all I want to do...
Is just hold em, hold em, hold em, hold em….

Sunday, February 16, 2014

The Main Stream Media Gets Sheldon
It's Sunday and I have taxes to do, so no "real" post from me, but...It's nice to see that most in the MSM are getting the point of Sheldon Adelson's Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling. 

There have been several articles and columns this past week taking a good, long, hard look at Sheldon's group, but certainly Howard Stutz at the LVRJ sees the forest from the trees.

Money quote (literally): "This is not a money issue with me,”Adelson told pundit Jon Ralston in an interview that appeared in Politico last week. “This is a moral issue. When I started to imagine what would happen with legalized Internet gaming, it scared the heck out of me … because of what’s it’s going to do to our society.”  (emphases mine).

Remember - online poker has been a "thing" for almost 15 years,  And he just now "started to imagine...?"  Or, maybe, there's another reason?  Like, maybe you're not getting the action?  And who elected Adelson (a multi-billionaire with profits from...uh...gambling) to be a morals leader?

But read the whole thing here.  And click here for the cartoon, too - it's also spot on.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Separated at Birth?

Both of them seem dangerous, and have been recently seen hanging around with a bunch of nuts, too. 

Actually, I like one of these guys. Just askin' is all.  

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Using Fear is Morally Repulsive – and Effective

Much has been made of late regarding the latest salvo from Sheldon Adelson’s Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling.  After a couple of FAILS using what passes for “facts and logic” (Congressional hearings and newspaper Op-Ed), the group put together a n over-the-top video (to be used as an ad?) that Poker Players Alliance VP of Player Relations Rich Muny called “going full Reefer Madness.”

It’s one thing for us in the poker community to mock and roll our eyes at the Coalition’s scare tactics.  It’s another to forget how effective fear is when trying to motivate individuals.

Depending on your age, you can recall several scary political ads that were short on facts and long on terror - The Daisy ad (LBJ vs. Goldwater) and the Willie Horton ad (Bush Sr. vs. Dukakis) are two of the best known.  There are plenty of others.  In fact, it becomes the de facto way to go once the campaign runs dry of good news and facts.  Which is to say, pretty damn early in the campaign.

There is a lot of psychological evidence to show that fear is a potent motivator.  And while we’re talking about actual politicians here, not voters, it makes sense to me that the fear aspect might work even better here.

First, politicians have a lot on their plate, and internet gambling is not high on the list of “must do” items.  Second, the idea of prohibiting an activity is more the speed of the current government, and in line with traditional action on vice – rarely does the Fed step in to allow an activity, especially vices like gambling.  Third, because the two top memes of politicians nowadays (as it related to their overall agenda – being re-elected) is terrorism and jobs, the Coalition’s scare tactics dovetail nicely.  Unfortunately.

So how does one combat a fear campaign?  One does not fight it – one overcomes it – with knowledge.

For fear is usually being afraid of something we don’t know, or don’t understand.  Fear of the unknown is irrational since if we don’t know what can hurt us it makes little sense to invent or imagine something in order to scare us…but that’s exactly what we do.  And if there’s a friendly source fanning the flames of our imagination – presto – FEAR!

Take the current marriage situation.  Of course, it’s not like the state of marriage is anything anyone has tried to legislate (irk irk).  Times past were filled will fearful images of marriages that bent from “normal,” and politicians and others played on those fears.  Of course in our enlightened 21st Century those laws are gone, and a couple can be of any…race.  And yeah, the atmosphere is changing for same-gender marriage, too.  Slowly, but surely.  Yet, there’s plenty of fear being spread here, too.

Education.  Exposure (since the push to ban online gambling comes from those who make their money in the gambling business).  And the constant communication to let those that might be swayed by the fearful drumbeat that there is nothing to fear.

Especially when there really is no bogey-man except the man telling you about the bogey-man.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Half Rave, Half Rant

Rarely does one get a chance to finish a great book and then apply the lessons learned in a real-life situation.  So my one-time came in.  Well, sort of.  The book was, “Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error” by Kathryn Schulz, a great book on behavioral psychology; more specifically about…being wrong.  Doesn’t behavioral psych and poker go great together?  Of course they do.  Publishers Weekly said it was,” a fresh and irreverent eye upon the profound meanings behind our most ordinary behaviors…how we make mistakes, how we behave when we find we have been wrong, and how our errors change us.

One thing I remember from the book was her description of what I call the “three phases of correctness.” 
In the first, we know the answer, and we act firmly and decisively. 
  • What’s 2 plus 7?  NINE, we shout. 
The second is the direct opposite – we know we don’t know, and we’re not afraid to say so.
  • Who is the current prime minister of Denmark?  I have no clue, really.  (OK, looked it up, and it’s Helle Thorning-Schmidt).
It’s the third/middle area – where we think we might know – that’s dangerous.  We rarely come out and say we don’t know for sure.  We rarely say, “Wait, we’ll go ask so-and-so.” 

Instead, we make shit up.

About a week after I finished the book, I saw a video online from one of the late-night shows.  They asked people in the street about the President’s State of the Union speech.  Problem was, the speech hadn’t occurred yet – it was set for later THE SAME DAY THEY ASKED PEOPLE ABOUT IT.  In other words, when asked, “What did you think about the State of the Union speech last night?” the “correct” response could have been “Hey, that’s tonight” or “I didn’t see it” or “do you mean last year, because this year’s speech hasn’t happened.”  Not:
  • “I thought it was pretty good.”
  • “Well, I only saw part of it.  My wife watched most of it.  It was what I expected from Obama.”
  • “I don’t think it changed my mind, I mean, I know he wants to…uh, y’know.  He’s got that insurance thing, and other ideas.”
Even when the interviewer asked most specific questions about Biden’s tie or why Obama started out with a joke or did you see Boehner fall asleep, people went right along, flinging bullshit left and right:
  • “I didn’t like it.”
  • “Yeah, I don’t know about that.  It was pretty funny, though.”
  • “I can’t believe he did that.”
Obviously, not everyone did this.  Just the ones they choose to show.  People are pretty dumb.  But this isn’t the rant. 

This is – I got my 1099s from Amazon for my eBooks.  When I took a quick look, I noticed that the dollar amount was off a bit.  Nothing large, but it was an even amount and since I had had a couple of other issues with them previously, I sent off an email prior to re-reviewing my records, asking them to look into problem.  I got a response back the next day, and in it, the support person said that the error was…well, let me paraphrase it:  The error was because of a payment of more than twice the amount of the difference that I didn’t take into consideration for 2013 because it occurred in January, 2014.

I wrote back, informing the service rep that while the sales occurred in November 2013, I was not paid until THIS YEAR.  Accruals don’t count – the 1099 only considers payments.  Plus, the amount of the payment was more than double the difference.  Try again.

They responded, and doubled down.

First, they hauled out the old “We are meeting the IRS requirements, unadjusted gross sales” shtick. Then came a lot of boilerplate stuff about how to generate sales reports.  Then they got specific and told me how to look up payments (and described a procedure incorrectly and got dates wrong to boot).  I especially loved the “Reports can take up to 1 hour to generate. If you do not see your report in the list yet, check again later” part.  An HOUR for a report?  On a 300 baud modem, maybe.

I confess that after receiving the first email, I went through all of my records and found the error (I had one Canadian sale that I did not account for, having tagged it with the other foreign sales from UK, France, and Germany).  My bad.  Still, I wanted to make certain that whoever this rep was, that they NEVER dealt with 1099 questions again because they obviously had NO IDEA how the damn things work.  I forwarded a copy of the whole conversation to another (more specific 1099 issue) email address, along with four separate reasons why the second response was a total piece of shit (including the fact that there were other accruals that occurred in December that I have YET to be paid for that, if accruals count, are NOT part of the total, even though I was told to add the November accrual in) and hopefully, the issue can be resolved. 

Not my error – I dealt with that.  I mean the error of letting that service rep deal with these types of issues in the future.

Thank goodness they only wanted to be a service rep, and not a doctor, or firefighter, or some other position of responsibility.  Someone might wind up dead.

So endeth the rant.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

The Answer to Underage Gambling

Full disclosure:  I am not a parent; I have never had children. On the other hand, I have taught (in the past) and employ (currently) minors in the demographic (ages 14-20) that this post deals with for almost 30 years.  So yeah, I think I'm qualified to speak on this.

The issue of minors having access to online poker/gambling is back in the news again, partly because of Sheldon Adelson’s Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling.  It’s one leg of his three-legged stool argument, the others being “terrorism” and “jobs” (I should point out that when I think of Adelson and the word “stool,” a 3-legged device for sitting is NOT the first thing that comes to mind).  The latter two arguments are horse-crap in my opinion, and I assume this opinion is shared by many in the “I play poker” world.

But minors and gambling might not be seen in such a slam-dunk manner.  After all, we have many vices that we try to shield our young people from in their formative years – alcohol, tobacco, and voting – just to name three others.  The basic argument is that because they haven’t experienced enough or haven’t developed a keen awareness or some other similar rationale, they should not be able to enjoy/participate in these adult-only experiences.

This is like saying kids do dumb shit, but adults don’t.  Of course kids do dumb shit.  And so do adults, sometimes even more dumber and shittier.

So is the issue that we don’t want kids to waste their money?  Uh…ring-tones, tattoos, junk food, Justin Bieber tickets…from my perspective, a waste of money.  I’m sure you can think of others if you don’t like those.  I know of adults who are up to their eyeballs in debt because they also wasted money on “stuff” – my most memorable example here is a couple who used to work with my wife who both took second jobs to pay off credit card debt.  When they got their first paychecks (they both found work at the same place for the summer), they spent them on…window-tinting for his truck and a mani-pedi for her.  Zero on the cards.  Dumb, if you ask me.

So I really don’t know exactly what the issue is about minors and gambling, but I know it’s not a new issue, and I know that minors have gambled, and done so online.  One of the kids that worked for me a few years back was on PokerStars (when it was “legal” here in the US) and I know he played for money because we played in a couple of tournaments together.  He said he did pretty good for a while, but I know he tried to move up to higher levels and…well, I have no idea how many deposits he made.  Good kid, too; graduated from local high school, served his country overseas for three years, and is now off to college.

Oh, my point – there is an answer to minors and gambling, and I learned of it almost twenty years ago in an article I wrote for LottoWorld magazine.  It was about the expansion of ITVMs (Instant Ticket Vending Machines).  First introduced in 1991, by the time the article was written they were 24 states either with machines or with plans to add them.  Of course now these dispensing units are ubiquitous across the land, but back then there was still worry and concern that the little darlings would treat the machines like a candy dispenser and shove in money as fast as they could.

While some lottery officials spoke of diligence in watching who approached the machine and the use of cameras and the like, it was Joe Fogarty, then Management Technician and "Ticket Vendor Guy" for the Pennsylvania State Lottery who put it best:

"If a kid bought a ticket and won, he'd have to cash it in.  Then the clerk would check for ID.  We strongly encourage this.  It doesn't take long to realize that if you can't cash it, it makes no sense to play it."

My former employee, who won tournaments on PokerStars…well, I don’t believe he ever cashed out.  I don’t know if it was because he ran out of money or some other issue, but that’s the answer.  Play all you want, kids, but kiss your dough goodbye as soon as you make that deposit.  Just like ring-tones, tattoos, junk food, and Justin Bieber tickets.


But that’s what I think – what about you?  Leave a comment or a complaint:

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Laws, Damn Laws, and Exceptions

This is a post about online gaming, poker specifically.  Really.  It’s just gonna take me some time to get there.  Enjoy the ride.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the current state of affairs as it relates to online poker.  On the one hand we see three states that have websites up and running where online poker is legal and available; a far cry from Black Friday almost three years ago.  On the other hand most of the players in the US still can’t play.  And there are rumblings from the “Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling” to put a kibosh on what’s already been re-established now and for the future, and they just picked up some support from Steve Wynn, casino magnate who, not incidentally was for Internet gaming not that long ago (as in he just got approved to offer it in New Jersey). 

Wait, what?

OK, here’s where I wander a bit.  The fact is, we’ve been weird about rules and laws and the like ever since…well, since forever.  We find it hard to follow the Golden Rule to the letter, we can’t manage to keep the 10 Commandments, the 600+ laws of Leviticus is a circus of pick-and-choose (my favorite is the anti-gay guy who tattooed Leviticus 18:22 on his arm, ignoring Leviticus 19:28), there are 25,000+ pages of tax code, etc.

The very founding document of our country states, “All men are created equal,” yet for 80+ years some men were only 3/5ths of other men, and women weren’t even in the equation.  And many of the laws and rules we have on the books are not really new laws, but “exceptions” and “clarifications (read: exceptions)” and “modifications (read: exceptions).  So the rule is the rule, except…however…unless.  And so some rules apply to some people sometimes, but not others at other times.

So it’s no surprise that the current situation regarding legislation of online gaming/poker is such a hit-and-miss event.  Bi-polar?  Schizoid?  What term to even use here?

The main gist is the infamous “Federal Wire Act” (actually called the Interstate Wire Act of 1961) which prohibited…well, read the act (here’s part a):

(a) Whoever being engaged in the business of betting or wagering knowingly uses a wire communication facility for the transmission in interstate or foreign commerce of bets or wagers or information assisting in the placing of bets or wagers on any sporting event or contest, or for the transmission of a wire communication which entitles the recipient to receive money or credit as a result of bets or wagers, or for information assisting in the placing of bets or wagers, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.

Of course, the main impetus for the Wire Act back then was to prohibit “transmission” to the illegal bookmakers who were mostly involved with taking bets on…horse racing.  And when the equally infamous UIGEA was passed in 2006, it attempted to prohibit, “…knowingly accepting payments in connection with the participation of another person in a bet or wager that involves the use of the Internet…” There were two exceptions made – and one was for horse racing!  (The other was for Fantasy Leagues, which just proves the old adage that watching laws being made is like watching the making of sausages, except here you have NFL officials wearing a few aprons, I guess.)

But I digress from my main point, which is this – Federal laws have normally been of the “you can’t do that” mode when it relates to gambling, except that they left the “loophole” of letting states decide for themselves whether or not to allow certain functions within their own boundaries.  This might have been fine and good back in the horse and buggy era, but nowadays it doesn’t work well at all.  Not even considering the Internet, think about how well an anti-gaming stance works in keeping the good citizens of Utah away from the dangers of the Lottery:  the most popular Idaho Lottery outlet can be found in the small town of Malad…yup, right on the Utah-Idaho border.  Actually, the top FIVE outlets are all on the Utah-Idaho border.

So given the universality of the Internet (and pretty much life in general), it’s high time that the Feds decided once and for all to either bet or get out of the pot.  Sheldon Adelson’s Coalition says it wants to “…restore the federal ban on Internet gambling” but one might be tempted to ask – would this include horse racing?  Do you think the Attorneys General from Arizona, Florida, and Michigan – all states with major horse racing action – would sign on to the Coalition’s letter calling for a national ban on online gaming unless there was some “clarification” that the new law would NOT apply to horse racing?  Don’t bet on it.

Unfortunately, I also would not bet that the gummit gets its collective shit together and decides, once and for all, whether we can sit down at the electronic felt and spend our dollars as we choose.  For whatever reason, government by the people for the people seems to want to worry about other more pressing issues, like jobs.


It was really difficult to type that last sentence without laughing.

Monday, February 3, 2014

NEW! Blogroll and Twitter

After 100+ posts (and more than 25 months) I finally dipped my toe into the land of Twitter.  I was afraid to get involved partly because I can’t limit myself to 140 words let alone 140 characters.  But I did it - I have a Twitter account at @MikeExinger (how original).  So go follow.

Also, I am developing a “BlogRoll” for this site, and you’re suggestions are welcome.  The only requirements:
  • They must wrote about poker and/or gambling,
  • They should write about other things as well, and it helps if their world-view runs similar to mine (left sided, mostly),
  • They must be “mature individuals” like me (I’d say “old guys” but they can be women, too),
  • They must be entirely readable - boring blog need not apply, and
  • They must know Andy Hughes.
Actually, that last one is not a requirement, but I found it funny that the first two blogs I wanted to add had actually met that requirement (and I know Andy from CC&GTCC, so if it works…don’t fix it).  Both of these guys are always worthy of a read, especially when the subject is poker or gambling.

So, when you’re tired of looking at your friends’ new selfies or posts about kittens and Bill Murray, go read these guys instead:

I shouldn’t have to tell you why.  Read and know.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Sheldon! Stop Scaring People Needlessly!

No, not THAT Sheldon.  I mean “Casino magnate and GOP super-donor Sheldon Adelson.”  The money and power behind the new Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling.  He’s trying to scare people.  Again.

It’s a common ploy in politics, especially when it comes to gambling.  We’ve seen it before, from others – an expansion for gambling is proposed – new Native American casino, more games for existing casinos, etc.  Opposition drags out the old, tired, and disproved tactics – mob money, crime, ruined families, compulsive gambling, and now, in the 21st century, TERRORISM! 

What’s ironic is that the opposition is usually funded by those who actually get their incomes from the same type of activity they’re so vehemently opposed to, as long as it’s happening somewhere else.  When tribes in California wanted casinos, the opposition was mostly existing casinos…in Nevada. Here in my home state there have been a couple of (losing) voter propositions to add metro Portland casinos, and the money mostly comes from existing Native American casinos here.  Many other similar examples can be found.

The point is simple – if you’re doing what you think someone else shouldn’t be doing, you better come up with a reason.  FEAR is not a reason; it’s an emotion, and as such it’s somewhat effective only on those who aren’t too bright.  It doesn’t matter how many “facts” you toss out there – if it doesn’t allow us to think, but rather, makes is cower, it’s not in the public’s best interest.

The two most recent shots from the Coalition are an Op-Ed in USA Today and a new website (and challenge) that portends to uncover the potential for money laundering by terrorists (the idea fronted in the Op-Ed).  I won’t do much about the Op-Ed, as it is wonderfully dissected by the folks at Online Poker Report here.  And by dissected I mean gutted and left out to wither and die.  It’s the same old scary crap.

More worrisome is the challenge from poker player Bill Byers.  He states that he has sent a letter to the Director of the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement, David Rebuck, which warns of the “vulnerabilities” of online poker.  First reported by Poker News here, this is the basic idea of the Op-Ed, that online poker carries far too many risks for such nebulous activities, and that such money laundering can go undetected (and subsequently states should not allow online poker, etc. etc.).

So I went to the website, and looked around.  I spent time looking at several of the “examples” and “explanations” and I have come to a very unscientific conclusion which I still believe is correct:  Bullshit.

Let me first state than neither individual involved in this site, Bill Byers (above) nor James Thackston, a technology professional with a background in the aerospace, manufacturing and energy industries (and co-author of the Op-Ed along with former N.Y. Gov. Pataki) are cranks.  They use very sophisticated calculations and “large numbers” to show how such a laundering system could be used.

Emphasis on could.

For despite the potential, there is no evidence that such a system has actually BEEN used.  Further, if you look at the examples on how money is moved from player to player (the “wash”), it still only shows “movement” and not actual “withdrawals.”  Money still in your account doesn’t let you buy weapons and ammunition.  Ask the many players who had money locked up at Full Tilt.  The only time “profit” is shown is when the mules (players involved in the collusion) win pots against “bystanders” (there are usually four mules at a 10-player table to make all this happen.

The one example I decided to completely take apart (and I mean this is the literal sense) is the 10-Hand Example Showing Money Transfer and Profit Making Opportunity.  Well, Jeebus.  I’m no terrorist, but I desperately want to play at this table.

The 10-seat table is a 100/200 NLHE cash game, and features four mules and 6 bystanders, and it “works like it should” in that money was successfully moved from the two designated loser mules to the two designated winners.  Except that even one of the loser mules came out ahead.  And no wonder:

1.     My assumption is that the six bystanders are supposed to be “typical” players at a 100/200 level game.  My ass.  Two are very tight (and with the cards they got, no wonder).  The others were loose, and two were damn near maniacs…sort of.  They saw 50% and 70% of the hands, but mostly called (with hands like 6-9 suited), raised but ONCE.  Hardly a maniac; more like a loose passive.  At 100/200?

2.     Almost half the “profit” came from the loser mules in two hands – one was a stone bluff against a weak player (mule missed his straight and bet like he made a flush and bystander folded); the other was when mule flopped a straight.

3.     The winning mules had powerful  hands – KK and JJ on consecutive wins, and AQ suited (Ace flops and stands up when bystander missed double barrel straight and flush draws on all-in move).

4.     Oh, most important – on the six (of 10) hands that the mules won, THE CASINO FORGOT TO TAKE THE RAKE.

Damnation, I want to play here.  I have never played at the 100/200 level, but if this is the kind of action I might find here, I’m ready to mortgage the house.

I’m sorry, but this seems like a lot of work and a lot of luck to move a bunch of money around.  And it’s doesn’t smack me of any kind of real scenario.  Is it possible to launder money this way?  Possible - yes.  Probable?  I can’t see it.

Can money be laundered by other means?  For the answer, let’s go to the actual FBI response that triggered the Op-Ed piece in the first place:

Physical casinos?  You mean, like Sheldon Adelson owns?