Thursday, February 12, 2004

Royal and Soaring Eagle

I got an email from Royal today, asking about getting together for a home game. It'd be cool, but we're a bit far apart. Likely when Soaring Eagle reopens their room (the link says Feb 18), we'll meet up there -- it's about a 90-105 minute drive for me, and 30-45 minutes for him. (Of course, I have to drive right past my parents' house to get there, so I have additionally to deal with the psychological guilt of not stopping in.)

There's a rumour that their new rake structure will be obscene (10% with no cap), so if that turns out to be true, I'll probably only go to Soaring Eagle to do things like meet up with Royal. Cardrooms should just plain be legal here, like in California; there's only one room within a two or three hour drive which isn't a pit of a room, or has a horrible rake, or something.

Home Games

Gil and I ordered some poker chips from PokerChips.com yesterday for our new home game. (We got 1000 chips for $500, including a case and two-day air.)

This game is billed as the next game after one Gil had at his place (before I was renting a room here), for a number of people who were in our Toastmasters group. It was about three years ago, that last game, but it was a lot of fun. Of course, none of us were truly poker players at the time. And so we called a lot of stupid games, including "Little Indian Chief" (place a card on your forehead in such a way that everybody can see it but you, and bet on high card). That one, I remember, we even played "match the pot" (if you lose, you match the pot; if three are in, both losers match the pot).

In any case, we intend to run this one tournament style, "just like on TV." That's bringing in a number of people who wouldn't ordinarily be interested, because "the most you could lose is $20." It also prevents anyone from calling "Little Indian Chief," as holdem is the game. Of course, any side games that break out can be whatever they want to be.

The best thing is the room we have. One of the current members of that Toastmasters club owns a condo in Plaza Towers (that link is actually for their apartments). The condo owners have access to a community room which could easily seat 50, or more if some other stuff were moved around. The tables aren't poker tables, but they're nice and big and round, and could easily sit 8 if not 10.

The biggest advantage is also the biggest disadvangtage: There's a doorman for the condo entrance (the north entrance, facing toward the Amway Grand, for those (BG etc) who are planning on comming), and the door is kept locked.

This hasn't ever been a problem when I've been there for other things before; the doorman has always been there, or if not, I've been able to ring up to Hal's apartment (there's a phone in the entryway) and he or his wife could buzz me in. But it might confuse some people. (BG, particularly, I'll get you Hal's name in case you need to buzz him. Royal, let me know if you're coming (long drive) so I can get you the same.)

The advantage of this is that even if we get 50 people (I hope not; we only ordered 1000 chips), we won't attract attention; the parking lot there is usually full for one reason or another (you'll probably have to pay), so no wondering by any officers of the law if we're doing anything illegal. We aren't, of course, we won't be taking a rake, but the questions could become annoying. (Never in my 33 years have I had an experience with the police that was actually positive.)

My current hope is to make this a monthly thing, but a lot of that depends on Hal; the room is arranged through him. Even more often would be better, weekly maybe, but again that's up to Hal. Of course, ideal would be a room that ran 24/7, even if it took a rake, but that's something that I wouldn't have the confidence to arrange.


Michigan has something like fifteen casinos, mostly Indian casinos but a couple specifically for Detroit. However, even for Indian tribes, starting a new casino isn't a slam-dunk. There's actually a good bit of information at this tribe's site (under "Development") about their attempt to open a casino about 20-30 minutes south of Grand Rapids, Michigan (map), which has been frustrated for something like three or four years.

My question is this: If gambling is going to be effectively legal, why create monopoly conditions? It doesn't take an economic genius to see that monopolies are bad for the consumer in every industry. It also doesn't take a genius to see that the more entities that the state has available to tax, the more tax it will collect. So, why would the state limit consumers' choices, and limit the revenue it can collect?

I didn't vote for Governor Granholm, and in fact I'm a little embarrassed that she got elected. (It's the Republicans' fault; their candidate was very weak in 2002.) But she's on record as saying she didn't oppose new casinos (even if she didn't actively support the idea). West Michigan (meaning the Grand Rapids area and surrounding counties) is more religious than a lot of areas, and generally opposes gambling initiatives, but Granholm has most Detroiters' disdain for, and total lack of understanding of, any area outside metro Detroit. (I know, I used to live there.) This might help with the Gun Lake situation, because her disdain might help overcome locals' attitudes.

My thought is that gambling should just be legalized, similarly to the way Nevada is set up. Set up some licensing board that guarantees ability to pay winners, fairness of the games, and so on, and then if you can meet these (not very stringent) rules, you can open a casino (or "gaming operation", since a lot of places will just want to, say, add like two slot machines to their checkout line).

Alternatively, legalize cardrooms, somewhat like California has done. This isn't as attractive as legalizing casinos but it's enough for my purposes, namely, I want to play cards without moving to Vegas. I don't know enough about how California's rooms are set up legally to suggest this to legislators, though.

Which presents a problem. The state has unleashed a genie from his bottle by setting up these monopoly conditions, namely, any effort to monkey with the status quo would encounter fierce opposition from the established interests, those who have the current (monopoly) casinos. No Republican would sponsor such a bill, because he'd face opposition from both the casinos and the religious right, the latter of whom have the machinery in place to put up a candidate who toes to their line. The Democrats don't have that particular chain around their necks, but they don't have any power in West Michigan, so I can't easily approach them with a legislative suggestion.

I usually vote Libertarian, or barring a Libertarian candidate, Republican. But a Democrat who supported this issue and worked to make it happen can have my vote.

Instant poll: Whatever party you support, would you vote for another party if their candidate supported more poker rooms in your state?