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Help me Harry Reid, you're my only hope

14 October 2011

By Aaron Todd

Last week, while my wife was at one of her colleague's weddings, I stayed home with the kids. It was the classic "Dad's in charge" night; after getting our six-month-old twins down for the night I watched Return of the Jedi with our four-year old son (minus the opening sequence where Luke Skywalker defeats Jabba the Hutt's rancor beast) over pizza.

With order restored to the galaxy and the four-year-old off to bed, I was left to my own devices with three hours to kill before my wife returned.

And that was the moment I realized how much I missed online poker. Instead of jumping into a sit-and-go on PokerStars or logging some time at the Rush Poker tables on Full Tilt Poker, I completed the night with more action from a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, clearing a few levels in Lego Star Wars on the Wii. Fun? Yes. But not as fun as matching my wits against poker players from around the world.

It's been six months since my account at PokerStars became a play-money timewaster and like thousands of other former online poker players, I'm still waiting for the balance in my Full Tilt Poker account. I'm not as angry about it as many others (the double-digit balance I'm owed isn't making me miss mortgage payments); more than anything I'm sad.

I played online poker for entertainment. As a father of three who spends most of my working day reading, writing and talking about the online gambling industry, the last thing on my mind when I went home to my family was jumping into an eight-hour online poker tournament. But in those moments when I did have some free time -- when the kids were asleep and my wife had plans with friends -- playing poker online was a great diversion. Sure I wanted to win. But in all honesty, I played for such small stakes that it didn't really matter if I won or lost.

There are still options out there for my fellow Americans to play online poker. Bodog Poker still accepts U.S. players, as do many sites on the Cake Poker Network. Some sites on the Merge Gaming Network (such as Carbon Poker) have recently started allowing new registrations from U.S. players again, after a hiatus of a few months. And while those sites have seen increases in traffic since PokerStars, Full Tilt and Absolute Poker left the U.S., they've only picked up about 10 percent of what was a thriving American online poker market, according to an analysis by,.

To modify a recently popular phrase, I am the 90 percent.

Many are worried that the sites allowing U.S. play will face action from the Department of Justice and that their account balances will be frozen. While that does concern me, it's not why I don't play online.

My decision not to move to a new online poker room comes more from a lack of enthusiasm. Thinking about playing on smaller sites with fewer games to choose from, when PokerStars allowed me to jump into a Badugi cash game or an 8-game mixed sit-and-go anytime I wanted just six months ago depresses me.

I'm not giving up on online poker entirely. I'm hopeful that the efforts of Reps. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and Joe Barton (R-Texas), along with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to create and licensing and regulatory structure for online poker will bear fruit. Until then, I'll be mowing down Stormtroopers, befriending Ewoks and trying to blow up the Death Star.
Help me Harry Reid, you're my only hope is republished from
Aaron Todd

Home-game hotshot Aaron Todd has covered the gambling industry since 2006. While he is happy to play Texas Hold'em, he'd rather mix it up and play Omaha Hi/Lo, Razz, Deuce-to-Seven Triple Draw, and (his personal favorite) Badeuci.

Since graduating from St. Lawrence University, Aaron has worked as a journalist covering the gambling industry and as a communications specialist in college athletic departments.

A native of a small town in New York just south of Ottawa, Aaron lives in Needham, Mass., with his wife and three children. Write to Aaron at, and follow him on Twitter @CasinoCity_AT.