Recent Poker News Dump
There were a few interesting poker news stories from the past week that are worth recapping.
Federal Poker Legislation Possibly Dead in U.S. for 2012
Many in the poker world hoped that 2012 would be the year for pro-online poker legislation on a national scale in the U.S. A tweet by Las Vegas Review-Journal columnist Howard Stutz last week suggests these hopes might be unwarranted. Said Stutz, "One Wall Street analyst opinion: Internet poker legalization not being attached to the payroll tax bill means the issue is dead for 2012."
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Stutz elaborated on the tweet in an article for the Review-Journal saying that a Wall Street analyst believes online poker's chances for legal status in 2012 are dead after legislators failed to attach it to the payroll tax cut extension bill. Senator Harry Reid, who had previously been a friend to online poker's efforts to legalize on the federal level, halted speculation that the payroll tax cut extension bill would feature a "rider" attachment for online poker. A spokesman for Reid said that opposition to online poker by Indian tribes and state lotteries was part of why the issue would not be attached to the bill.
This news heightens the likelihood that legal online poker will come to the U.S. gradually through a series of state-based legalization efforts. Nevada already has a law in place to begin granting licenses to online poker operators sometime this year. Chad Beynon, a gaming analyst for Macquarie Securities, said he believes New Jersey, Iowa, and California will follow suit this year with similar legislation.
Poker's only hope for federal legislation in 2012 is if it is attached to a "must-pass" bill following the November elections. Senator Reid attempted to do this in 2010 unsuccessfully. But with this latest news, it's hard to say if Reid is still committed to helping poker at a federal level; it could be possible that advancements to legalize poker in his home state of Nevada have altered his allegiance.
The most likely scenario over the next few years is online poker gradually reaching legal status through a series of pieces of state legislation. Then, perhaps sometime several years from now, federal legislation will be passed to provide organizational structure to the various state operations. It is unlikely to be the clean-cut and expedient process the poker world had hoped for.
Jason Somerville Becomes First Openly Gay Male Poker Pro
In a Valentine's Day blog post, poker pro Jason Somerville elaborated on his struggle to come to terms with his homosexual orientation and in doing so became the first openly gay male poker pro. Said Somerville, " I always knew I wasn't straight, but I never spoke a word of it for twenty two years, and nobody really ever knew otherwise. I dated women exclusively through my teens and early 20s, doing my best to convince myself that it wasn't something I had to pursue, that maybe I'd grow out of it, that I'd be happier with women anyway, that I just should focus on other things. After a lot of struggling and a lot of anxiety, I eventually came out to one of my close friends when I was 22."
He shared an insight on the struggle he faced to come to grips with being a homosexual poker pro, "I told myself to be afraid of the poker world finding out somehow and outing me and having some 'disaster' roll out because of it. I was worried that no matter what I ever accomplished or did, I'd be labeled 'that gay poker player' above all else, and it would be a title of shame. I feared that I'd lose friendships that meant a lot to me, that I'd ring a bell that could never be unrung and I'd be miserable, somehow. It took me a long time to mostly get over all those somewhat irrational anxieties (fingers crossed!) and to truly start being myself, regardless of what that might mean or look like to others."
Somerville joins Vanessa Selbst as the only openly gay poker professionals. He has $1.7 million in career live tournament winnings including a victory in a $1,000 buy-in no-limit event at the WSOP last summer for a score of $493,000.
Kudos to Somerville for working through his struggles and sharing himself openly with the poker community!
Norwegian Poker Pro Battling Terminal Cancer
Perhaps the most famous Norwegian poker player, Thor Hansen, is entrenched in a battle with terminal cancer. In a Google translation version of a Norwegian news article, Hansen says the cancer has spread to his lungs, liver, and lymph nodes. The sixty-four year old has been told he has no more than two years to live.
Earlier this month, Betfair Poker hosted a charity tournament to raise money for Hansen's battle with cancer. Today, PokerStars is hosting two benefit tournaments with buy-ins of $20 and $100 in which half of the prize pool will be given to the Thor Hansen Charity Fund.
Hansen's long poker career includes two WSOP bracelets, one from 1988 and another from 2002. He is considered to be the "Godfather" of poker in Norway and has made a living in the game for decades. He has written an autobiography on his life and poker career called Usensurert which has yet to be translated into English.
According to a post on TwoPlusTwo by Norwegian pro Andreas Hoivold, Hansen is trying to decide whether to remain in his California home or return to Norway and also whether to possibly be a "guinea pig" for some experimental treatments.