Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Australian Government to Ban Online Gambling?

There is already legislation in place to prevent online gambling in Australia. The legislation is similar to that in the US which prevents financial institutions from processing funds that are to be used for online gambling.

From the Australian Gambling article: Australian Government to Ban Online Gambling?:

The Interactive Gambling Act (IGA) 2001, is the law that is in question. Until now the rules have been relatively relaxed and have not been enforced. If recent reports are proven to be correct, then this will be enforced. This law is similar to the UIGEA in America, in that it is seeking to stop online gambling as an attempt to raise revenue.
The IGA does not make it illegal for individuals to gamble online, that would be very difficult to regulate. The law specifically targets online gambling sites and is designed to make it significantly more difficult for Australians to find places to play.

Most online poker sites are located offshore, making it unlikely that they would honour the Australian law without significant pressure (as was applied to enforce the UIGEA in the US), so Australian poker players have been able to continue playing online unmolestered.

However, the Government's proposed filtering plan, if imposed, would make it significantly easier to enforce the IGA and leaked copies of the AMCA's blacklist of blocked sites seems to confirm that thats what they intend to do.

From the No Clean Feed website:

The Australian Federal Government is pushing forward with a plan to force Internet Service Providers [ISPs] to censor the Internet for all Australians. This plan will waste tens of millions of taxpayer dollars and slow down Internet access.

Despite being almost universally condemned by the public, ISPs, State Governments, Media and censorship experts, Communications Minister Stephen Conroy is determined to force this filter into your home.

So what should you do? The IGA is already law but I suggest you join me in opposing the proposed filtering plan or 'Clean Feed.' Here's some relevant website you should check out:

No Clean Feed

Somebody Think of the Children

Monday, August 31, 2009

Is Playing Poker Legal in South Australia?

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer. Please consult your own legal professional before taking any actions or making any decisions relating to poker in South Australia and/or the content of this article.

If you don't want to read through the entire post, here is a summary:
  • For profit (where a rake or fee is taken) private and public games are, and have always been, illegal in South Australia.
  • Not-for-profit private games with or without stakes are legal.
  • Not-for-profit public games without stakes are legal.
  • Not-for-profit public games with stakes appear to be legal with the recent court ruling but this could change in the future.

This is an issue thats been up and down over the past four years ever since the APA's 3rd South Australian Poker Championships were raided by Police and the attendants and organisers charged with unlawful gaming.

The law, as I understand it, is that playing games of chance (including poker) where something of value is bet or wagered, in a public place, is illegal in South Australia except in SkyCity Adelaide Casino who have an expensive and strictly regulated license to conduct these games.

However, the recent decision in a test case relating to the charging of those from the APA suggests that poker is not included in the games of chance referred to in the law. The South Australian law uses the specific wording "wholly a game of chance" which appears to be the clincher in the decision.

From the Addisons Lawyers article: Is Poker a Game of Chance? - The Australian Position:

...the Court appeared to accept the expert evidence that, despite an element of chance existing in respect of the manner in which cards are dealt, skill was a determinant element in the outcome in the game over time.
This certainly sounds like a victory for poker players in South Australia but what does it mean specifically for those wanting to organise games outside the casino?

From the Poker Network article: APA Claims Legal Victory For Poker in Australia:

The judgment by Magistrate Koula Kossiavelos effectively gives the green light for poker players in South Australia to organise private, not for profit, poker games. According to the judgment, Texas Hold’em is not considered an illegal game under South Australian legislation. Nor is the holding or organising of poker events in which the proceeds are returned to a prize pool of some form.
This is a little less clear as it is my understanding that not-for-profit private games have always been legal. The Poker Network article also mentions Texas Hold'em specifically, but doesn't mention the case for other forms of poker.

The definition of a 'private game' seems to be somewhat uncertain. If its on private property and not open to the public then I would say its a private game. If its in a public venue and/or open and advertised to the public then it might be considered a public game.

More recently, perhaps in retalliation to the court decision, Pub Poker has come under fire from none other than SkyCity Adelaide Casino who asked the State Government to review the games as they might be illegal.

SkyCity Casino has previously had a monopoly of public poker games in Adelaide and it appears they are scared of losing that. However they do pay big money and have to put up with heavy regulatory scrutiny in exchange for their gaming license so its understandable that they'd want to protect that.

As I have argued before, I think the Pub Poker system of offering bonus chips for buying drinks and food exploits a loophole in order to run what would otherwise be an illegal poker game. They are effectively running a freeroll with rebuys where the rebuys cost money and have a rake or fee taken from them. It is my understanding that this would be considered illegal but the sneaky drink card system hides the true nature of the game.

In Summary:
  • For profit (where a rake or fee is taken) private and public games are, and have always been, illegal in South Australia.
  • Not-for-profit private games with or without stakes are legal.
  • Not-for-profit public games without stakes are legal.
  • Not-for-profit public games with stakes appear to be legal with the recent court ruling but this could change in the future.
Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer. Please consult your own legal professional before taking any actions or making any decisions relating to poker in South Australia and/or the content of this article.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Cool Hand Poker

I was bombarded with Ads for this new online site 'Cool Hand Poker' as I watched lateish-night TV the other night. You may or may not have seen the ads or heard of the site but their slogan is "NO PROS! NO HUSTLERS! NO SHARKS!" which made me cringe as I heard it again and again and again.

The website address is http://www.coolhandpoker.net and its a free, play money site. Advertising on TV isn't cheap so my guess is they'll try and lure you over to their real money site: http://www.coolhandpoker.com. How they plan to do that remains to be seen as I couldn't find any direct links from the '.net' website to the '.com.' I couldn't be bothered signing up and downloading the software so the answer probably lies somewhere within.

The marketing of the site is very new-user friendly so you'll probably find the real money games a bit softer than those on other sites which is a good thing for those in the know.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Poker Warning For Pubs

From the ABC Adelaide website article: Poker warning for pubs:

The Australian Hotels Association (AHA) says pub owners need to be aware of the legalities of running poker games.

AHA general manager Ian Horne says the Adelaide Casino has raised the issue from a commercial perspective, questioning if the games are legal.

Mr Horne says he understands free games run in pubs are legal, but venues should be careful of offering games involving cash.

"We're simply saying don't take the advice of the promoters, because if there is a prosecution, the promoter doesn't get prosecuted, the venue gets prosecuted," he said.

"So hotels and clubs that are going to have this buy-in poker, which is where cash is involved, they really need to take their own independent legal advice to assure themselves that they're not breaching any laws."

Clubs SA says it is not aware of any of its members running the cash buy-in games.

Clubs SA deputy president Bill Cochrane says poker games are run purely as free entertainment, not as a money-making operation.

"We would be very disappointed if there was any club participating in this type of game," he said.

"As an association we've reminded all our membership of their responsibility in regards to compliance to their operations with this type of tournament, we've stressed that there shouldn't be any buy-in games operating in any club in this state."

Update: Another article on this issue from OnlineCasinos.com: Poker in Pubs Under Fire In South Australia, with some additional information.

Beware of the Cardinal

I was invited to a home game a few months ago by some basketball mates where I was introduced to a hold'em variant that I hadn't come across before, they called it 'Cardinal.' Cardinal is a form of wild card poker where the two advertising cards and the two jokers are left in and are wild, to be used as any card you like.

The addition of these wild cards or "Cardinals" turned the semi-respectable home game into absolute rubbish and that's not just because I came last in both of the $5 tournies we played. The presence of wild cards totally messes up the odds of the game, raising the level of luck to that of any number of games of pure chance. The fact that there was a whopping four wildcards, and around 6 players, meant that barely a hand went by where they didn't spew their influence on the game.

Bottom line: stay away from wildcard poker and be especially aware of the Cardinal. If you're looking for a way to spice up the game consider starting up your own league with points awarded each week and a final at the end of the season. You can offer a bounty, cash prizes or extra points, for claiming the scalp of the previous game's winner or this week's host.

History of Poker in Adelaide

February 2009: The inaugural PokerStars ANZPT - Australia New Zealand Poker Tour - kicks off in the delightful capital of the Australian state of South Australia, Adelaide.

From the ANZPT Website:

For the first event of Season 1 the PokerStars.net Australia and New Zealand Poker Tour comes to Adelaide. Adelaide is the perfect place for discovering vineyards and unspoilt bushland.

Other useful links:

ANZPT Adelaide: Train stations, churches and red wine

ANZPT Adelaide: Online qualifier triumphant

July 2008: APA Adelaide Organisers and Players Found NOT GUILTY in test cases

From the PokerNetwork Forum thread: APA Adelaide Organisers and Players NOT GUILTY:

Decision handed down by Magistrate Kossiasvelos 15th July 2008. Both organisers and players not guilty, here decision is 49 pages. Both defendants are now seeking full costs from the police and this has been adjourned until early September. Police have 21 days to appeal decision. APA is now seeking to get its members property back.

November 2007: Teenager Daniel Booth Wins $96,000 Adelaide Holdem Championship Poker Tournament

His win made news in the Advertiser and a number of online publications both national and international. From the Associated Content article: Teenager Daniel Booth Wins $96,000 Adelaide Holdem Championship Poker Tournament:

A teenage college student from Australia won the Adelaide Holdem Championship poker tournament. Amazingly, after cashing in a $96,000 first place win, the youth went back to work at his job stocking shelves at the local grocery store.

June 2007: Pub Poker comes to South Australia

From the CasinoCity Times Article: Poker Craze Hits South Australia:

Texas Hold 'Em – the poker phenomenon that's become a TV hit – is coming to Adelaide pubs. The National Poker League will start free Texas Hold 'Em tournaments in South Australian locals from the end of this month.

August 2006: APA Adelaide Closes its Doors

From the PokerNetwork Forum thread: APA Adelaide has closed until further notice:

APA Adelaide under directions has closed its branch.APA Adelaide will be working closely with other members of the Adelaide poker fraternity to fight the current charges its members face in the Adelaide Magistrates Court in Adelaide.A sad day for poker in Adelaide!!!

May 2006: Winter Poker Tournament at SkyCity Adelaide

First major tournament since poker returned to the Casino.

July 2005: Poker Returns to Adelaide Casino

From the PokerNetwork Forum thread: Poker at the Adelaide Casino:

We're excited to be able to tell you that Texas Holdem, Omaha and Manila Poker will be at SKYCITY from Wednesday 20th July.To kick off, we're holding a Texas Holdem tournament and we're giving you the opportunity to be one of the first to play Poker at SKYCITY in 4 years.

June 2005: Adelaide Poker Championships Raided By Police

From PokerNetwork Forum thread: SA Championships raided by Police!:

The SA Championships have been raided by the police on the first night of action.All players have been questioned and all games cancelled after 25-30 police stormed the premises and halted action.

Sometime Between 1999 and 2005
: The APA South Australian Branch starts running poker games in Adelaide once more.

From the PokerNetwork article, 'Adelaide Pilgrimage – The Home of Oz Poker?':

And then there is the revival of Poker in Adelaide with the first APA Adelaide Championships. Resurrected by Judge Joe and Glen Gofor under the auspices of the Australasian Poker Association (APA).

1987- 1999: Adelaide, "the true home of Australasian Poker"

From the PokerNetwork article, 'Adelaide Pilgrimage – The Home of Oz Poker?':

For many years 1987 to 1999 it (Adelaide Casino) was the true “Home of Australasian Poker” and a Mecca for interstate players once or twice a year. Tournament Poker was in its infancy at the time and for many years “Adelaide was the only true Game in Town”.

Where to Play Poker in Adelaide

There are a number of different options for poker players in Adelaide of a range of different skill levels. Keep in mind that playing games of chance (or part chance, including poker) in a public venue for money is illegal in South Australia, although this seems to have been relaxed somewhat with the recent poker craze. However, its still a serious offence if you try and make any money from such games such as a commission or rake, this also includes private games.

Pub Poker

Great way to learn the game with friends in the familiar environment of your local pub. Not so good if you're past the learning stage and want to improve your game. Check out the Pub Poker post for more information and strategy.

Home Game

Probably the best way to hone your skills if you have a bunch of mates looking for regular games. Encourage your players to bring their friends so you get a chance to play different people. Home games have a wide range of skill levels depending on how long the players have been playing for.

In order to keep the game friendly we recommend sticking to tournaments which will limit the amount that can be lost each game. Stakes should be high enough that players aren't totally reckless but low enough that its no biggy if they lose. Read our guide to setting up your own home game for more information.

Private/ Public Game

This is usually a private game looking for more players outside their own friend circle or one or more good players trying to improve their games and possibly make some money. Usually held in someone's home or at a clubhouse or business after hours. Expect the caliber of players to be higher than those at your average home game.

These are the sorts of games that we will try and list here on the website, otherwise you can find these games by searching on Facebook, theres a number of private groups which you can request membership for to get into the game. Otherwise you might have to know someone to find/get into these games.

These are great games to take your skills to the next level. However, always remember to consider your safety first. If you don't know anyone in the game it might be a good idea to meet with the host beforehand and/or take a friend along with you. Anytime money and strangers are involved theres a possibility of friction, especially as you raise the stakes.

SkyCity Adelaide

The Adelaide Casino, owned and run by SkyCity, is now open everyday and they offer a range of different games. They provide a professional playing environment, efficient dealer and security which are all especially useful for higher stakes, but for that they take a commission or rake which will cut into your bottom line.

On Friday and Saturday nights there will be plenty of drunk people just waiting to give their money away but during the week and at other off peak times keep an eye out for the regulars, many of which have a lot of hours under their belts and have a high standard of play.

The Casino is the best place to practice playing real people at stakes that matter. Don't expect to make a living playing at the casino, although there are some that do it. Keep an eye on your bankroll, read up on strategy and practice practice practice online to make sure you're staying ahead of the competition.

Online Poker

All the suggestions so far have been for live games in Adelaide. I have listed them approximately in order of skill level required although there is plenty of overlap. Online games are in another category and have games to suit players from all the different skill levels and bankrolls.

Most poker sites have a play money option which is roughly equal to pub poker, a good place to start but don't stay there too long if you want to improve. With Online Poker you can play multiple tables at once and many more hands per hour than even the casino as all the dealing and chip handling is done automatically which also means a lower rake. If you have an edge over your opponents, your expected earnings from online play will far exceed that of live play. However, that also means if you're not up to the general skill level or if you are prone to go on tilt (which is much easier in the privacy of your own home) you can lose a lot of money very quickly.

Make sure you stick to stakes that you can afford and only move up if your bankroll allows (500 big bets is a good bench mark).

Pub Poker

Pub Poker is a good way for beginners to get to know the game, learn the rules and meet some like minded poker enthusiasts in their area.

Pub Poker is bad if you seriously want to improve your game. Don't get me wrong, any playing experience and practice that you can get will help to improve your game and if you get that experience for free, as with pub poker, then all the better. Just remember that the type of players and plays you will frequently encounter at pub poker will not be found in higher level games and you may pick up some bad habits if you play too often and/or don't keep your witts about you.

If you're ONLY looking for fun then I'd say have at it. If you're looking for more than just fun, and the fact that you're on this website suggests that you probably are, I'd play Pub Poker in moderation.

I certainly wouldn't suggest traveling any significant distance to get to a game so check out the following leagues to find a venue in your area:

APL - www.playapl.com

NPL - www.npl.com.au

NPPL - www.npplpoker.com.au

Pub Poker - www.pubpoker.net.au

PPN - www.playpokernights.com.au

UPT - www.ultimatepokertour.com.au

PokCh - www.pokerchallenge.com.au

There are a number of different Pub Poker leagues or your local might even run their own league, but the basic premise is pretty much the same. You show up at your local pub on the designated night and register for the tournament at which point you will get a "drink card" or something similar. Simply registering for the tournament gets you free entry and the starting chip bank (say $1000 worth of tourny chips) but if you buy drinks and food at the pub before the game starts and during the initial period you can get your drinks card stamped which entitles you to additional chips over and above your starting bank.

There's usually prizes for the winners which can be anything from a bottle of wine to vouchers to cash. Depending on the venue and the league they are registered for, theres likely to be some form of points table which you can track on their website. Each time you play a tournament at a venue participating in that league you will gets points with more points going to those who finish higher. At the end of the season the highest point scorers will play off in the finals touranament/s where the prizes can be quite significant.

Playing poker for money (that is risking your own money or something of value in a poker game) in a public venue, outside SkyCity Casino, is illegal in South Australia. Pub Poker provides a legal loophole to avoid this law and let establishments still profit from poker games.

Pub Poker Strategy

If you don't buy drinks and food to qualify for extra chips and most others do, you will find yourself short stacked from the get go. This is another reason why pub poker can be such a negative influence on your game. If you came looking for free practice to help improve your game, don't buy drinks. If you find that puts you at major chip stack disadvantage you'll have to make a value call as to whether pub poker is the right option for you.

In Pub Poker tournaments you will typically find the players extremely loose and often unpredictable. Most people have been drinking and since the tournament is free they have nothing to lose. In addition, the 'drink card' system means that those who are the most drunk also have the most chips, adding to the mayhem.

New players typically overvalue every hand and will happily call you down with bottom pair. Drunk players will usually take more risks which could mean more bluffing or more calling (or both) depending on the person.

A typical stratety for this type of environment would be Tight Aggressive (TA) and I do mean aggressive. With a good hand, high pair, AK, AQ your aim should be to narrow the field down to one (1) caller, if that means going all in, then go all in. You should never be calling, if your hand is good enough to call then you should raise if its not good enough to raise you need to fold.

The starting stack and blind structure does not suit playing tight as often you won't have enough time to catch a good hand before being blinded out so you'll have to open up your starting hand requirements. You're looking to build your stack up quickly so you can survive the steep blind increases and last til the final table. Its better that lose out early playing aggressively than playing passively and sitting on your chips because although you might last longer you will rarely make it past the middle of the tournament.

If you're lucky enough to be on a tight table, play your position aggressively.

Please add your own Pub Pokers results, strategy tips and info about your local venue's games and leagues in the comments below.