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NEWS

Underdog Hand

Federal crackdowns on online poker leave some pro players short stacked

Photo: Jason Greene, License: N/A

Jason Greene

Photo: Jason Greene, License: N/A

Jason Greene


Nichols and his stateside colleagues, meanwhile, are finding other ways to make a living. At the moment, Nichols coaches other players at PocketFives, where he charges $125 per hour helping amateurs hone their online poker skills. It could be a reliable source of money, Nichols says, if he were able to find enough students, but he lost almost all of his 15 clients as soon as the online sites shut down.

So he’s also playing in live tournaments. It’s more time-consuming and more expensive to play live, and players can never reach the same volume as they can playing online, but it’s all they have for the moment.

“The thing is, with live, you can only play so much,” Nichols says. “I have to travel to tournaments, whereas online I can play 100 tournaments in a week, and it’s like nothing. So, I can have four weeks, and that’s like 400 to 500 tournaments I’ve played, whereas four weeks live is more like four or five tournaments. So the thing is, to catch up with the variance, you’ve got to play a lot. Live, you can never really get to that number.”

Owners of online casinos have rakedin billions of dollars from U.S. poker players alone, and online poker has also been a big money-maker for experienced players, who can earn well into the six figures if they play their cards right. The only entities not making money off the online games right now are government agencies. Some legislators, including Florida state Rep. Joseph Abruzzo, D-Wellington, are now seeing an opportunity to cash in.

Last session, Abruzzo introduced HB 1441, the Internet Poker Consumer Protection and Revenue Generation Act of 2010. The bill would legalize online poker and allow the state to “regulate Internet poker sites that can ensure consumer protections and additional revenue to the state by authorizing, implementing and creating a licensing and regulatory structure and system of Internet poker.”

According to Abruzzo, about 900,000 Floridians visit online gambling sites, and he thinks the state, which faces a crushing $3 billion deficit, could generate $200 million per year if it legalized online gaming.

According to the bill, the state would charge a $500,000 fee to one or multiple Internet poker-hub operators; each of those operators would also be required to pay the state 20 percent of all monthly gross receipts.

Players would need a Florida-based IP address to play, and all winnings would be taxed. The bill would also put rules in place to punish those who try to cheat the system – exactly the sort of regulation that career players like Nichols are willing to go all in for.

Abruzzo’s bill did not pass last year, but he says it’ll be reintroduced next session.

“We hold the agreement to go back next year,” he says, adding that as the state considers building new physical gambling casinos, it ought to consider how quickly and easily it could set up online casinos as well.

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