Only one of the last three...
WSOP World Champions was born in the U.S. (Jamie Gold). Xao ‘Jerry’ Yang was born in Laos and is now a citizen. Joe Hachem was born in Lebanon and lives in Australia.
Poker is no longer an American game. It’s become a World game. Events this week will expand on that startling new realization for the xenophobes and national chauvinists about poker in America.
To illustrate, suppose you wanted to have some guests over for a poker tournament at your house. You’re a North American (one who wasn’t born in Canada or Mexico). That is to say someone who lives in the USA. So you think poker is YOUR national game by divine right.
Poker may have evolved from card games played in Europe, but the rules for No Limit Hold’em – the game that is sweeping the world - were codified in Texas.
You have two tables set up on your enclosed patio. But you only have enough chairs for 22 players, including yourself. You’ll have to start the two tables eleven handed. No problem.
Here’s the catch, American. If you have a rule to invite players proportionally by national residence…that means that NO ONE ELSE from the USA can be invited!
There are only 300 million of the over 6.6 billion people on this planet who live in the U.S. That’s approximately 1 in 22. So it’s you against the world that you’ve invited to play in YOUR game. Good luck.
What brought this tortured scenario to my cluttered mind was the announcement this week regarding the WPT in China.
For those of you not paying attention, or who are confused by the press release from Steve Lipscomb (like me), here’s what the announcement means in a nutshell.
First, the announcement has very little to do with Texas Hold'em at the moment. But it might have an enormous amount to do with Hold’em in China someday.
WPT Enterprises will pay the mainland Chinese government about $3 million for a five year agreement to broadcast a game similar to ‘bridge’ called ‘tuolaji’ (tractor).
What?!? Why would the WPT care about BRIDGE?
My guess is that they don’t much care about’ tractor’ or any other Chinese farm equipment. Proof of that might be shown by only the final championship event for ‘tractor’ being filmed by the WPT crew.
What WPT founders Lyle Berman and Steve Lipscomb got, the crown jewel of the deal, is to buy the first and last rights of refusal to any other poker-related tournament tour in China. (Example: The WPT can match any proposal by anyone else, like Harrahs, to hold a Texas Hold'em event in China.)
First, however, poker would have to be re-classified by the Chinese government from a "gambling" activity to a "recreational/leisure sports" activity.
As long as Texas Hold'em is classified as a "gambling" activity, then the Chinese government would maintain exclusive control over Texas Hold'em and no private commercial entity can be licensed to offer a poker tournament in China.
There is no guarantee that Hold’em will EVER be re-classified. But a similar situation existed in California once upon a time, only a half century ago. Then poker was determined to be a game of ‘skill’ rather than (luck) gambling. At that point the golden door was opened to the vault of riches we see now.
By the way, ironically, Texas Hold’em still isn’t legal to play in Texas. Odd isn’t it? Conceivably China might declare Hold’em a game of skill before Texas does.
Equally as most of us are painfully aware, playing poker for money online isn’t legal in America either. Some national game! It’s legal in many other countries around the world. The suggestion that individual U.S. states could approve online play got a boost when a Californian submitted a legislative request to have a bill discussed. It could be California, again, that re-opens the door to online play. Many states would be sure to follow.
Meanwhile, it might take another 50 years for Hold’em to be approved in China as well…but I wouldn’t bet on it. That would be gambling. In fact I’d say that the $3 million the WPT paid for the right to be first in line for poker in China is a sure thing. The fortune that the government will see pouring into the new casinos in Macao will change their mind pretty quickly, I predict.
When poker comes to China, half the guests you’ll have to invite - on a proportional basis by national residence – to your home poker tournament, will live in mainland China. Most of the rest will have to get to your house from India.
Again, good luck.
On America’s other flank the WSOP Europe will soon begin in London. Three clubs will share the launch with limited schedules (pronounced SHEDules). What do they know about speaking English! And the WPT Europe will have an event as well. Be sure to leave time to go to the tournament in Goa, India. You globe-trotting poker pro, you.
How do you leave off Paul Evans??(From the favorites list)
$450k in winnings at this year’s WSOP and a better player (when he has time to play) than most of that list…oh wait, I’m starting to sound like Phil.
Just a reminder, though.
Mike: Because you didn’t win? (Event #3)
I'm kidding you. What a tough spot between Jacobs with a mountain and a guy who was dreaming cards. Second was outstanding.
I’ll add you to my list of friends and family who keep reminding me of that.
My good friend Paul Westley will vouch for me…not sure for what, but he will.
On a serious note, you are a great writer and those of us who can appreciate that fact, do, in fact, appreciate that fact…
Thanks for the kind words. ‘Great writer’ is a personal favorite.
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