Monday, March 24, 2014


I normally sit and gloat about all the wonderful things we have here in New York that those of you who live outside the Empire State do not have but today I feel like playing poker and I can't so I'm not doing any gloating.

I do not live in upstate NY near the Turning Stone casino which has a more than adequate poker room. Anything else in NY is even further away than that - Turning Stone is a four hour drive from the NYC area and Niagara Falls is a seven hour drive.

The Connecticut casinos, Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun, are about two hours away and Atlantic City is three hours away. The closest Pennsylvania casinos are somewhere in between. Getting to these venues is not normally a big deal; driving home after a bad day gets to be depressing though.

New York tends to be a very paternal state although I do not think that we have that reputation elsewhere. We allow same-sex marriage; we allow women to choose to have a baby or not; we are on the brink of approving regulations to allow for medical marijuana; and, we allow gambling! Certain kinds of gambling, that is.

New York is the home of many successful, world renowned race tracks and harness tracks, Belmont and Saratoga topping that list. We participate in the two largest USA lotteries, Mega Millions and Power Ball. You can play Bingo at just about any church hall upstate or downstate any day of the week. And, you can dump money into an electronic slot machine all over the state including the Empire City Casino, a racino attached to Yonkers Raceway, which is a mere five minute drive from my house. But, you cannot legally play poker anywhere near here.

When it was easy enough, I played poker online like so many other people did. There was an element of "sinister" to that since no one was really sure if it was legal or not. That all stopped on Black Friday. Now that online poker is again legal in some areas you have to be lucky enough to find yourself in Nevada, Delaware, or New Jersey to take advantage. Otherwise you are just an on-looker or you risk being cheated or scammed out of your money by unscrupulous off-shore poker sites that are totally unregulated in this country.

What so many people fail to realize is that for the vast majority of players, poker is entertainment. The percentage of players who call themselves professionals is small, very small. The percentage of pros who are making a decent living at it and it alone is minuscule. The rest of us just enjoy playing. If we take a $100 or two to a small stakes limit table and blow it all in a few hours, that's the price of enjoyment. If we win a few bucks, even better. I am not denying that some people are going to gamble habitually and to the detriment of themselves and their families but most of us will not. Most of us just want a simple, no hassle way to play a little poker every once in a while. That's all.

So, what I'm really thinking while I'm sitting here in New York without a convenient, legal way to play poker is that I want the government to stop deciding what I can do and what I can't do. I have an inalienable right to "pursue happiness" and I don't need or want a bunch of legislators telling me how I can pursue it.

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