Law School Holds Forum on Poker and the Law

Poker players and lawyers gathered around a table last night-sans cards-to discuss

The event, 'Going All In: Poker and The Law', drew together two lawyers, a lobbyist, and a professional gambler together to discuss poker and the law.

Panelists focused their discussion on an issue that has caused a bout of controversy in the legal world recently: the legality of online gambling.

Dan Walsh, a lobbyist for internet poker and casino gambling in Washington who sat on the panel, called the online poker issue a 'legally gray area' that will require time before a legal consensus can be reached.

'The vast majority of people think that internet gambling should be legal,' he said. 'Sooner or later, I think the U.S. government will need to come around on it.'

Shaun Clark, counsel to the World Poker Tour (WPT)-a high stakes poker tournament aired on television-said the difficulty in locating online gambling criminals has made current laws hard to enforce.

'The guys that are running

these internet sites are running them off-shore, which makes it extremely difficult to track,' he said.

Panelists also criticized rules that organizations and casinos are imposing on poker enthusiasts.

At one point, panelist Andy Bloch, a professional poker player and 1999 HLS graduate, presented a copy of a contract that he signed in order to participate in the WPT. He said he had crossed out areas on the document that he deemed illegal to protest the organization's constraints on participants' rights to gamble outside of the WPT.

'The contract basically says 'If you want to play in our tournaments…then you also have to give up all of these other rights,'' Bloch said, adding that professional poker players are making efforts to organize into a union of sorts.

But legal talk didn't dominate the night-the collection of expert poker players present offered their guidance to enthusiasts in the audience seeking tips.

Bloch said 'aggression' was what pushed him to the finals of major poker tournaments. 'Being the first one to take the step out is a very good strategy,' he said.

The event was moderated by Weld Professor of Law Charles R. Nesson '60. In his closing remarks, Nesson offered his own viewpoint on the poker debate.

'It's so much an American thing,' Nesson said. 'The idea that it's illegal is offensive to me.'

Nesson also said that as a student at HLS in the 1960s, one former professor recommended that playing bridge was the best way to prepare for law school.

'A lot of good learning is about strategy, especially in deal-making,' said Regan A. Smith, a second-year law student. 'Getting good at poker is a way to sharpen those tools.'

Adam M. Burrows, a second-year HLS student who organized the event, said the forum confirmed his hypothesis that there is a connection between the law profession and poker.

'I think it's interesting how a lot of the players you hear about recently are lawyers,' he said. 'Somehow I think there's a tie between poker and legal professionals.'

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