At the crossroads of port security and internet poker

by Brian Clarey

At the crossroads of port security and internet poker

I’ve got ace-eight, off suit. What the hell. I call the big blind, 30 bucks. A ninja calling himself The Bonaparte raises to 90. Screw you, Bonaparte. I call. The flop comes out eightten-queen. Rainbow. Bonaparte checks, and I know it’s because he’s got nothing. I lean into him for another 90. Then a player to my left, a gnome named

GnomeHead, ups it to $360. Me and Bonaparte both fold. Bonaparte is out two hands later. Which is the way it goes when you play like a dumbass. The 90-player field is down to 67 by now, just three hands in. Sometimes I play poker on the internet when everyone else in the house is asleep. I have my reasons. Poker is an excellent mental exercise, even when you’re playing with anonymous strangers online. I believe poker is allegorical, and that much can be learned from life in the pursuit of building a good hand of cards — or, at least, pretending you are. It also gives me something to do while I read The New York Times and check for fresh nonsense on Facebook. And, occasionally, write my columns. I like Texas hold ’em, though I’ll sometimes play Omaha even though I can’t really do the math for that game. Too complicated, so I generally just go with my instincts. I catch ace-two off suit and call the blind. I catch a deuce on the flop, and go all in. What the hell… I’m in last place out of 43. Some clown calling himself acuteguy29 calls me. He turns over pocket queens. Prick. But the turn reveals a four, and I’ve got a gutshot straight. Any three, or any of the remaining aces or deuces and the pot is mine. About an 18percent chance, I figure. The ace comes in on the river and I double up. Then I win the next three hands and all of a sudden I move up 20 places in the tournament. So sometimes I play poker on the internet at night, but I don’t do it nearly as much as I used to. And it’s all because of George Bush. Our outgoing man screwed up our country real good during the last eight years. And I’ve taken so many shots at him during his time in office, I almost feel bad giving him one more kick in the ass as he’s on his way out the door. But I’ll never forgive Bush for the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. And I’ll never forgive him for ruining internet poker. Seven-six, off suit. Fold. Internet poker officially died in September 2006, with the SAFE Port Act, a law that was ostensibly about the security of our ports but was used to ruin something that I loved. The Security and Accountability For Every Port Act of 2006 came about just a few months after the US government tried to contract security at six of our biggest ports to the nation of Dubai — a typical act of government overkill — and passed just after midnight before Congress adjourned for the 2006 elections and much of the Republican delegation got run out on rails. And in a neat bit of political maneuvering, the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 was tucked into the bill as Title VIII. A Trojan Horse. Because, seriously, who’s going to vote against port security, right? Jeez, this wizard calling himself peppy72 has got to be the worst. Never go all in on a draw, dummy! Just because you’ve got a suited ace doesn’t mean you’re gonna hit. Four minutes before the break I go all in with a 10-king off suit. I’m in last place with 23 players left. Michaelone, in a tuxedo and drinking a martini, makes the call with ace-jack off suit. I catch a ten on the flop and a king on the turn. Sucka. Then, the next hand, I pair up my king-queen of diamonds and double up on him again. At the break, I am in 17th place out of 20. Top nine get paid. In a manner of speaking. The SAFE Port act didn’t criminalize internet gambling; it just made it illegal to transfer funds from a financial institution to an internet gaming site, with exceptions written in for fantasy sports, horse racing and lotteries. So you can’t put real money in, and you can’t take real money out. And in that one fell swoop, the government took most of the joy out of internet poker, because it took out all the money. And though I’ve made the argument that all money is fake money, somehow I feel different when it comes to poker. With 19 left in the tourney I play it tight. Queen-seven suited, fold. Queen-eight off, fold.

I’m in 16th place, and with a little discipline I can finish in the money. Then land the big one: pocket rockets — two aces. I raise to $800. A doberman named tedster68 makes the call. I string him along until the turn, when I go all in. He’s got to call — it turns out he’s sitting on pocket queens. I double up, then flop a club flush, and the next thing you know I’m in 11th place out of 14. Time to tighten up again. After passage of the act, the stock of internet poker sites plummeted, and some went out of business altogether. The few that remained cannot legally take deposits from US financial institutions, and those that do risk federal prosecution. Meanwhile the World Trade Organization claims the US is in violation of its trade agreements by barring access to poker sites operating on Antigua. The island nation has filed for $3.4 billion in trade sanctions. But Bush cut a backroom deal to settle the case, the details of which are still classified, citing national security. And now I’ve got problems. Ace-four offsuit, last place with enough to play one more hand if I fold. What the hell — I’m all in. The doberman makes the call with jack-eight suited. He catches his eight on the turn and I got nothing. I’m out in 14th place. And I feel neither joy nor sadness as I pass over my fake chips. Damn you, George Bush.

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