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Revised Mass. Gambling Bill Won't Criminalize Online Poker 104

travdaddy writes "As reported on Slashdot only about a week ago, a passage of a gambling bill in Massachusetts would have criminalized online poker. That passage has been stricken due to the help of a grass-roots organization called the Poker Players Alliance. It 'quickly got the message to all of its Massachusetts members — around 25,000 people — and over 1,000,000 nationwide to make their voices heard; apparently lawmakers were listening since the language making online poker illegal — and online gaming in general — was taken out of the legislation.' Another Massachusetts bill may even 'take [poker] completely out of the gambling genre' and make it legislated as a game of skill."
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Revised Mass. Gambling Bill Won't Criminalize Online Poker

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  • by MarcoAtWork ( 28889 ) on Thursday April 15, 2010 @06:45PM (#31865006)

    I mean, seriously, a game of skill is a game where if your skill is superior to your opponent's you win, period. In poker if the deck keeps spitting out cards that favor your opponent you can have all the skill in the world, and you will lose...

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      Not if you stare them down and play aggressively. Even if you're short stacked, a well timed, aggressive play will win pots by pressuring another player with more chips/money.

      • And then the BB turns over QQ and you're out. Or, given how Titan seems to treat my friends and I, turns over complete rubbish and rivers you....

        • Yes, there is luck involved. There is also skill involved. That's a way to tell the good players from the lucky players. Over a long period of time, the good players win repeatedly. The lucky players win once in a while. The chance involved makes it more entertaining.

    • by retchdog ( 1319261 ) on Thursday April 15, 2010 @06:59PM (#31865160) Journal

      Yet strangely grandmaster chess games are often like 3-2, and not always 5-0. I guess chess isn't a game of skill then. Hmm.

      obligatory: I'm not saying that the apparent chance element of chess is in any meaningful way the "same" as the intrinsic chance element of poker, but it does seem hard to define legislatively. Certainly your definition would exclude (almost?) all interesting games.

      I mean, there are even people who manage to gain statistical edge in rock-paper-scissors tournaments. Apparently anytime there are 2+ people in symmetric situation, who both want something, a skill pops up.

      • I mean, there are even people who manage to gain statistical edge in rock-paper-scissors tournaments.

        They are skilled at cheating, and turning those papers into rocks after the opponents scissors is revealed.

        • That might be part of it, but even so, if it convinces the spectators and judges (these are serious tournaments!), then that's good enough for me.

    • by cosm ( 1072588 ) <> on Thursday April 15, 2010 @06:59PM (#31865162)

      if the deck keeps spitting out cards that favor your opponent

      Too much personification is misleading, and by grammar nazi rule, nicht erlaubt.

      Yes, there exist a probability that your opponent will receive repeated winning hands, but that is just probability. In a general sense, games of pure probability are not games of skill. The skill in poker lies in the ability to read people's playing tactics over a period of time, recognize biological cues and behavioral patterns to 'read' their hand, 'read' their non-verbal signals, and manipulate the table with a high degree of personal physiological control.

      Poker is a social game, and theirin lies the root of the skill. The probability involved in poker is just the medium for influencing the social dynamics that constitute the 'skill' portion of the game.

      • by nedlohs ( 1335013 ) on Thursday April 15, 2010 @09:03PM (#31866462)

        There's more to poker than "reading", it has multiple levels of skills.

        If two people are playing and neither of them knows how to play at all it'll be pure chance, whomever gets the best cards will win.

        If one of them know some pretty simple probability (either book knowledge or just from experience of seeing what happens), they'll have an edge.

        If one knows basic probability, and the other knows conditional probability they'll have an edge.

        If one knows conditional probability but the other also knows game theory, they'll have an edge.

        Then there's the reading you mention, which operated in parallel. Though I would argue that simple things like observing (and remembering) betting patterns are significantly more useful than observing biological cues.

        • by cosm ( 1072588 )
          Not being an avid poker player, those views are very insightful to the uninformed. But what you have stated enforces the point that poker cannot always be reduced to pure probability, as many anti-pokerites would have us believe.

          Using your logic, a fair amount of games could be reduced to almost pure probability with the condition that the player(s) have no skill whatsoever, and not deterministic cognitive abilities.
        • I agree. Biological cues are the things people like to point to in movies. When a player is sitting there staring down another player he is going over every hand that other player has played. Being able to take lots of imprecise information and do pattern recognition is one place where the skilled human brain is still often better than a computer.

        • I think a lot of people who think Poker is a game of skill are confused because they view Poker in terms of "winning" or "losing."

          In most games of skill, there's a winner or a loser. In solo events, you either achieve the feat or fail to achieve the feat.

          Poker doesn't really work that way. There's no one event which means you "won," so saying it's a game of skill is not a falsifiable, testable statement.

          I guess you could say that folding when you technically could have one a hand is "losing," but I'd hav

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by nedlohs ( 1335013 )

            He who wins the most money is the winner. It has a really simple score keeping system, with clear winners and losers

            Of course the most skilled player doesn't always win - there is a large element of chance. So determining who won is not the same as determining who is most skilled. However, because there's a large amount of luck (and it is a large amount, I'm certainly not claiming the best player always wins) doesn't mean there is no skill at all.

            And folding when you would have won is "losing" that hand (fo

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by bmk67 ( 971394 )

      A skilled player doesn't need "good cards" to win.

      Over a decent-sized sample of hands played, I guarantee that a skilled player will absolutely crush an unskilled one.

      • by Rary ( 566291 )

        A skilled player doesn't need "good cards" to win.

        Case in point: at the club that I used to play at, there was a player who showed up somewhat frequently who tended to clean up every table he sat at, even though he rarely even bothered to look to see what cards he had been dealt.

        He was adept at quickly identifying the skill level of every player at the table, and playing to their weaknesses. Only if a skilled player was betting against him, or the betting started to get fierce enough that it became obvious that the cards were becoming a factor, would he ac

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by protest_boy ( 305632 )
      In any game or sport there are elements of luck. Take Scrabble for example. I doubt many would deny that Scrabble is a game skill. Yet there's a huge amount of luck involved in which letters you choose, and when you get them.

      Granted, luck plays a large factor in a single hand of poker. However, poker is not a game of individual hands. The better players will be distinguished from the less skillful in the long run; hundreds of thousands of hands.
    • by Rary ( 566291 ) on Thursday April 15, 2010 @07:09PM (#31865302)

      I mean, seriously, a game of skill is a game where if your skill is superior to your opponent's you win, period. In poker if the deck keeps spitting out cards that favor your opponent you can have all the skill in the world, and you will lose...

      You're thinking short term. Skill pays off in the long run.

      It's statistically impossible for the cards to always favour your opponent. Eventually, you will be dealt a better hand than your opponent's hand.

      A simple way to look at it is this. In an infinite number of hands dealt randomly to two players, Player A will be dealt the better hand 50% of the time, and Player B will be dealt the better hand 50% of the time. If A is "perfectly" skilled and B is "perfectly" unskilled, then A will ensure that he wins the maximum amount of money on the hands that he wins, and loses the least amount of money on the hands that he loses. Additionally, when both players have "iffy" hands, A will play in such a way as to convince B that B's hand is inferior, even when it's not, so that B will fold and give the pot to A.

      Over the long run, A will make more money, even though he isn't dealt more winning hands, and even though there will be periods of time when B is being dealt a sequence of winning hands.

      Of course, this only really applies to cash play, as tournaments have a designated end, and therefore they are much more influenced by luck.

      • To anyone browsing this thread who believes that poker is at its core a game of chance, Rary has just provided a very nice complete & concise explanation of how skill enters the game of poker. Read it as many times as you need to, and ignore any other posts on that topic. Does anyone know if there's a visual aid describing this anywhere on the 'net? That's the one thing that could enhance this post.
        • The trick is identifying who is skilled and who is lucky. No one has enough time to play an infinite amount of times. As a result, skill has to be identified over a limited amount of hands.

          Also, Rary merely provided an explanation that poker has an element of skill - but not how much of a person's winnings is attributable to skill, and how much is to luck. That's the crux of the problem.

          • The trick is identifying who is skilled and who is lucky.

            If you can't figure out who the sucker is at the table, it's you.

            Last time I seriously played I was in Phoenix. It only took about 2-3 trips around the table to recognize the only other good player at the table and from then on we just stayed out of each others way. I made quite a bit of money that night.

          • Everyone will have hot or cold runs over thousands of hands of poker - those matter only in the short term. The point is this: a strong player will lose less money with a losing hand (generally by folding earlier and not chasing expensive draws), extract more value from a winning hand (by keeping other players in the hand), and occasionally converting a losing hand to a winning hand (bluffing). Those factors have nothing to do with luck - luck only affects the cards, not the actions a player chooses to ta
      • I agree with you conceptually.

        But the big problem is *THE RAKE*.

        I am a poker player. I do believe poker to be a skill game. But the reason why poker is not a complete skill game is because of the rake. Being consistently more skilled than your opponents at poker is not enough to make you profitable. You have to be skilled enough to also overcome the rake.

        Let's say that in an ideal world, with no rake, I am skilled enough to win 5 dollars per hour. After introducing the rake, I could potentially lose 10

    • by blair1q ( 305137 )

      So baseball is gambling, otherwise every 3-game series would come out 3-0 to the team with more skill.

      And all those teams that got beat by lower seeds in the NCAA tournament this year? They should sue the NCAA for running a casino?

      Having more skill means you have a better CHANCE of winning. Not that you will always win.

      The best games, the ones that turn spectators into fanatics and leagues into industries, include a component of randomization to go with the skill.

    • Don't know, but if you have that attitude, I can guarantee I'll beat you nine times out of ten. Poker has a lot of skill, even though the cards themselves are random.

      By the way, if you ever want to test your hypothesis that poker is not a game of skill, I invite you to join me in a few rounds of high stakes Texas Hold 'Em. It'll be really fair.
    • So only boring as shit activities count as games of skill to you then? No point doing them if one player is always going to win.

      Basketball, baseball, football, cricket, tennis, golf, darts, chess, wrestling, boxing, go, bridge, poker, backgammon, street fighter 2, modern warfare 2, counter strike, and so and so on. None of these are games of skill? After all it's uncommon for baseball series to be won 4-0, etc. Extremely unlikely for a pitcher to get a strike every pitch or a batter to get a hit every pitch

    • by e2d2 ( 115622 )

      If your car is running like crap in Formula One all the skill in the world wont help you.

      Checkout the mathematics of poker and look closely and you'll see skill is involved. Particularly games such as No-Limit Hold'Em and Pot-Limit Omaha. Those are extremely hard to solve problems. You'll see the combinatorics can be used effectively during games to assist with decision making, in what can be an extremely information sparse environment, and statistics can be used to track play over long periods with large s

    • Duke won the NCAA men's basketball championship, but they were clearly not the most talented team. Even in games of skill, there is luck involved. Does the ball bounce your way? Do you get an easy tournament draw? Heck, how do you feel that day? What about single game upsets? Those games where the favored team is clearly better and has more skill yet the other team 'got lucky.' Do those individual games suddenly become luck while the others are skill?

      To say that because there is luck in a game that i

  • Poker Player Alliance should come to Belgium.

    The government will be forcing the ISPs to block all (foreign) online gambling sites and programs.
    Only the regulated casino's will be able to offer poker games. []
  • The nature of poker is that it's impossible to create a system that can always win, at least practically. Ultimately it relies on gut feelings, or just whims. This makes me wonder what really goes through the mind of a poker player who's pondering the next move. Most of the time they are not playing a game of skill, but a game of deception, that's why they say things like "You don't play the cards, you play the players".
    • Deception is skill. Playing the player is every bit as important as playing the "cards". This is true of nearly any sport/game. Two boxers may be physically identical with the same reaction times, strength, speed, technique, etc etc. But if one guy can make the other step in the wrong place (playing the player) then that "light" jab will put them right out.
      • But in poker deception has a dominant effect. People admire players who can pretend to play in certain way regardless of the cards they have. This is psychological warfare, and nobody is counting the cards.
        • Poker is a game of incomplete information. You use the information that you do have to draw conclusions and then you make bets based on those conclusions. Good poker players tend to think about poker hands in terms of hand ranges. A hand range is every poker hand that an opponent will take a certain action with. Ideally you'd like to narrow your opponents range down to a single hand because you can then play perfectly against him (it would be very easy to play perfectly against someone who showed you th
    • Most of the time they are not playing a game of skill, but a game of deception

      Deception is a skill.

      • Well, this is getting vague. I had the impression that great poker players were math wizards. Or maybe their skillset has changed.
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by jsvendsen ( 1668031 )

          That's largely a myth. The mathematics of playing poker usually involves making simple calculations of pot odds or making rough estimates of the probability of your hand being a winner or your opponents folding to a bet or raise. You can be an excellent poker player with no explicit awareness of the mathematics that are the basis of your actions. The key traits common to most great poker players are situational awareness and pattern recognition.

        • The math you need to know is basic probability. I would say it's more important to have a good memory. When you end up in a showdown with another player can you remember all the other players previous hands and build a mental model off that to what they may do/might have?

          You mentioned earlier that people admire players who play a certain way. Few players play that same way all the time. The most skilled players can switch styles mid game and adjust to the table. It's the switching styles that makes it

        • by Rary ( 566291 )

          Or maybe their skillset has changed.

          There are different types of players with different skill sets. If you're Chris Ferguson [], you play a mathematical game. If you're Scotty Nguyen [], you play a psychological game. If you're me [], you make lots of mistakes and hope to get lucky once in a while. :)

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by bmk67 ( 971394 )

      The nature of poker is that it's impossible to create a system that can always win, at least practically. Ultimately it relies on gut feelings, or just whims. This makes me wonder what really goes through the mind of a poker player who's pondering the next move.

      Of course it's impossible to create a system that will always win. That would be stupid - the bad players have to be able to win occasionally, or else they won't come back.

      I can't tell you want goes through anyone else's mind, but I can tell you some of the things I consider when I'm deciding what my next action will be.

      What is my opponent likely to have? (Skill: Logic, memory, and observation of prior action)

      How does my hand stand up against the weighted range of hands he is likely to have? (Skill: mathem

  • Pinball is a game of skill even when parts of it are luck.

  • I thought that was the lottery was for?

  • Remember when Greece outlawed "gaming" devices, so everybody with a built-in Tetris clone in their cellphone was automatically a criminal smuggling illegal goods? This is betting, wagering, or gambling, which is a subset of gaming in general.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I came from a chess background but I'm also a hobby poker player. The government has no right to decide what I do with my own money. I consider restrictions on online poker a huge invasion of my privacy. Moreover, it's also quite hypocritical given that states support lotteries, horseracing and other gambling operations. The only reason poker is sometimes singled out is because casinos want a monopoly on the market and states want to tax poker income and operators but have not come up with a good system yet

  • There is a luck and a skill side to poker. The luck side keeps the bad players in with their occasional wins, thinking they are good at poker or are overall winners, while the skill side wins money in the long run. The effect of having good or bad cards dealt is described as variance, if you look at a winning poker players profit/loss graph it will be a bumpy road upwards. The individual bumps are short term variance, the overall trend reflects the skill of the player.

    How can skill count ? What if you have

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by P-Nuts ( 592605 )

      Yeah, I thought online poker would appeal more to the Slashdot crowd too. The main poker site is the Two Plus Two forums [], and there's a lot of good strategy advice to be found amongst a fair amount of childish rants.

      I play micro-stakes cash games. Last night I played 1000 hands and lost six buy-ins, but I think I played reasonably well nonetheless. Statistics backs me up as I turned a small profit according to "all-in expected value" (a calculation that removes the luck factor from hands where all the ch

  • Poker should definitely not be banned online. I could never understand why they would ban something online but if you drive to the local casino you can enjoy that "illegal" activity and not get in trouble. Poker should definitely be considered a skill game because everyone can see by watching The World Series on ESPN that there is tons of skill Involved. Don't get me wrong, even the most skilled poker player can run into bad luck and the donky's will get their small wins here and there, but overall, it take

Research is what I'm doing when I don't know what I'm doing. -- Wernher von Braun