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Raymer still fighting the good fight
Ask any poker player which tournament he most wants to win, and chances are he'll name the WSOP Main Event as his No. 1 goal. But once you've won that, where do you go?
Last year the word on the street was that 2004 WSOP champ Greg Raymer might take his game to the world of politics to make a run for the Libertarian Party's vice-presidential nomination. The Raymer candidacy, had it seen the light of day, would have helped to give poker's most burning issues a higher profile in the campaign.
Such a candidacy wouldn't have been a big stretch for "Fossilman," given his background in the law and his familiarity with the various political issues surrounding online poker. But in the end, Raymer decided against the move.
"I already spend so much time away from my family," Raymer said from Monte Carlo during a recent telephone interview with PokerListings.com. "I couldn't justify adding a thousand hours of extra time and effort between now and November to my already-full schedule."
If he had decided to take on the arduous schedule of a vice-presidential candidate, Raymer says he would have had no problems coming up with a stump speech.
"Basically, the talk would've been that the [Libertarian Party] is looking out for everyone's interests," said Raymer.
"The basic tenet of the LP is that there's an extremely limited government that just does a handful of absolutely necessary things that can't be achieved by individuals. With that, you can pretty much do what you want as long as you're not directly hurting someone else. So obviously the Libertarian Party isn't going to stop you from… doing things like playing poker."
Getting players involved
"Poker players tend to be very independent people, very creative, very not-of-the-mold," said the former WSOP champ and PokerStars Team pro. "The Libertarian Party is all for that kind of stuff."
But that very iconoclasm can sometimes make it difficult to convince poker players to do things that would help them, such as writing letters to their representatives or supporting candidates who want to change laws like UIGEA. So how do you go about getting those most obstinate players on board?
"You have to convince them that [being involved] is in their best interest - and it clearly is," Raymer said. "If you're a professional poker player you need… the online games to be available so you can make a living. And even if you're not a professional, if you're a poker player you're someone who wants to engage in these activities.
"So if you want the continued right to [play poker], you're going to have to put in a little effort," he continued. "Maybe [it takes] a little money to try to protect your rights, to reverse some of the things that are going on now and create new laws and a new environment that's going to maintain your rights and privileges as you enjoy them today."
Convincing the public
Of course, getting poker players on board is only part of the struggle. The rest of the public has to be willing to go along with changes the poker community wants. Raymer says that the general population has a lot in common with the plight of poker players.
"The same people that are trying to stop online poker - basically the conservative Christians and people who think their moral point of view is what should be enforced as part of the law of the land - are targeting lots of other activities they consider to be immoral. As far as I'm concerned morality has nothing to do with politics, because a lot of morality is based upon things like religious beliefs and those are personal and private matters.
"So, you know, if you don't want your liberties and freedoms taken away from you, then even if you're not a poker player you should support what the PPA is doing and what poker players are doing to protect their freedoms.
"It's the idea of, 'who's next?'" Raymer said, echoing the famous words of Pastor Martin Niemöller. "You're being left alone today, but once they've removed poker those same people are going to come after the things you enjoy."
"I'm pretty confident"
Even though he won't be on the campaign trail, Raymer still has an interest in the politics of poker - and he says he feels good about Washington starting to "get it" that there's nothing wrong with the great American game.
"I've met a pretty good number of congressmen, and all [of them] seemed personally very convinced that poker is a game of skill and therefore shouldn't be treated as if it were a pure form of gambling such as roulette."
That's a pretty big departure from the days of 2006, when the only people on Capitol Hill who cared about issues that affected online poker players were the social conservatives who masterminded UIGEA. Raymer thinks that shift in attitude is going to be good for the poker community.
"I'm pretty confident that by the time we get back from the election, in December and beyond, that we can repeal UIGEA," said Raymer. "Or [we could] get a new law passed that clearly and specifically legalizes online poker, maybe something like the Barney Frank bill."
Raymer thinks that the grassroots efforts organized by groups like the Poker Players Alliance have been helpful. Even more important, though, are fundraisers held for poker-friendly candidates around the country.
"We do fundraisers for them with poker players. Players show up and make some contributions to the campaign. I think that's sent a message to the congressmen," said Raymer. "At a practical level, that's the sort of stuff that gets things done in Washington. Sure, pretty much all of us wish it didn't work that way, but that is how it tends to happen."