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Online Poker News Archives - October 8, 2004

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Copyright 2004 North Jersey Media Group Inc.,
All Rights Reserved
Herald News (Passaic County, NJ)

October 8, 2004 Friday
All Editions

HEADLINE: Illegality and backroom dealing are part of online poker's allure

BYLINE: By ED BEESON, Herald News, North Jersey Media Group

   In the six years since online poker was launched, more than 2 million people have played it, according to data collected by the largest site, About 70,000 are online simultaneously.

   More than 100 Web sites host online poker, but the top ones - like, and - offer the most features to the highest volume of players. While the strongest lure of online poker is gambling, most sites also offer freeplay, or games played with fake money.

   Legally, the fun stops at freeplay.

   According to the state constitution, Article 4, Section 7, Paragraph 2, Internet gambling is both unregulated and unauthorized, and therefore illegal.

   Even sites that claim to be legal are illegal, according to the state Division of Gaming Enforcement Web site, (

   Federal and state prosecutors have gone after gambling site operators.

   According to the Department of Justice, it is illegal for Web sites to accept bets from U.S. residents. (Section 18 of USC, subsection 1084, 1952 and 1955).
This spring, the department mailed letters to the media stating that any group that accepts advertising could be aiding and abetting an illegal service.

   Both Google and Yahoo ceased advertising gambling sites. Major credit card providers and financial services like PayPal do not allow direct transactions to or from these gambling sites. Players must rely on third-party "electronic wallets" like NETeller to make bets.

   Some smaller sites, like Big Bet Poker, have shut down their gambling operations and now only offer freeplay.

   Despite online poker's tarnished name, poker pros say it serves a purpose. World Poker Tour color commentator and spokesman Mike Sexton says it can teach a budding player the mechanics of poker in little time, thanks to online poker's accelerated pace.

   "These young guys eat, breathe and sleep poker. They're gonna breeze by the older players," he says.

   But poker players themselves warn of the dangers of online gambling. The faster pace lends itself to more reckless gambling. Even seasoned players can succumb to "tilt," or impulsive bets made to end a losing streak.

   Poker sites also are trawled by card sharks hunting for inexperienced players to swindle.

   Like all Internet gambling, poker sites are run offshore. This severely limits consumer protections, leading to potential fraud and hijacked personal information.

   Minors are also susceptible to Internet gambling sites.

   But for many poker fans, online play cannot match play with friends. Online is great for practice, or "reps," says Kevin Herget, 30, of Elmwood Park, but, "Hands down, I prefer a live game."

   As for "live games," or home poker tournaments, there is little chance the police will kick down your door. Tournaments are considered "social games" and are, therefore, permissible, so long as the house does not take a cut of the winnings or charge a fee for access to the premises or for game-related supplies, like cards or chips.

   - Ed Beeson

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