Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Celebrity Poker Crackdown

Over the weekend, 21 men were busted by the Illinois State Police for having a charity poker tournament in the clubhouse of a golf course in Cahokia. The cops confiscated $4,500 bucks, meaning each guy had put a couple hundred into the pot. My goodness, what a horrible offense. You can see why the authorities had to crackdown on this gambling ring.

Or not.

This week, in virtually every company in America, people are filling out their March Madness office pool brackets. Each week, McDonald's or some other fast food chain has peel-and-win contests where buying a cup of soda can win you supersized fries. Every state in the union has a lottery. I'm pretty sure the Pope has a weekly bingo night. In Washington, DC, there's a weekly high-stakes poker game that the Chief Justice of The US Supreme Court has played in for years.

So let's not be hypocritical about gambling. I'm not just saying this because I'm a poker player. I understand that if events like this were allowed to spread, other groups might sit down and raise money for a charity while having fun and perhaps taking home a few bucks, and we wouldn't want that, would we?

Someone suggested to me that the local casinos might be behind the crackdown, but that's unlikely. There are three "legal" poker rooms in the St. Louis area, and they all do pretty good business. The casinos that run them bring in an average of $60,000,000 a month all told. I can't see them fretting over a few thousand bucks in a home game here or there -- they surely know they'll never stamp out all the home games and friendly neighborhood tournaments. The casinos probably view those games as a farm system, with players who might eventually step onto the boats and put some real money down.

This is not the first time Illinois has cracked down on the booming poker craze -- anyone notice the big ratings for all the poker on TV? -- but it should be the last. In poker terms, that would be a good laydown.