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The gang at Bluefirepoker.com have laid down the gauntlet, issuing a challenge to President Obama or any member of Congress who is willing to accept.  They extended the offer to play poker with any of them for $1, and if the pros lose, they will donate $1 million to the charity of the winner’s choice.  Their reasoning is simple.  The guys at Bluefire believe, as do many other advocates of legal online poker, that poker is a game of skill and not chance. Therefore, the pros have such an edge over their opponent that they are confident that they can beat these odds.

For those not familiar with Bluefirepoker.com, it is a training site set up by Phil Galfond and features some of the world’s best online pros.  Their focus is on making players better through high quality articles and videos.  They are definite advocates of quality over quantity.

As they state in the challenge, “The legislative debate centers on whether or not poker is a game of chance or skill, and this debate determines the legality of online gambling, according to legal and legislative experts on the subject.  No one in their right mind would turn down this challenge if poker were a game based on luck, because the odds are so in their favor – putting up $1 for a chance to win $1,000,000 for the charity of their choice.”

The rules have not been officially laid out on the Bluefire site yet, but they do say that each competitor would start with an equal number of chips and the game would have to go long enough that variance would not be such a huge factor.

There have been several court cases recently that have ruled that poker is indeed a game of skill.  As such,  supporters argue that it should not be treated as some other forms of online gambling.  Although playing poker online is not illegal in most states, the Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act makes it much more difficult to move money in and out of sites and makes it illegal for financial companies to complete transactions with known gambling sites.  With that in mind, advocates of online poker believe it should be legalized and regulated by the government.  There has also been legal debate to show the monetary benefits that could come to the United States if online poker were completely legalized.  Some estimates show that the government could see as much as $52 billion in taxes and fees over the next ten years if they did legalize and regulate online poker.

Chairman of the Financial Services Committee, Barney Frank, has stated that he will again be pushing to introduce and pass legislation to repeal the UIGEA.  That would be the first step in the move toward regulating online poker.  He also notes that the UIGEA has hurt trade relations with many European countries where online poker is a legal and thriving business.  Well, at least they were thriving until they were forced to withdraw operations from the U.S.  The European Commission has recently wrapped up an investigation into the case and has concluded that the U.S. did indeed violate free trade agreements and may bring a case to the World Trade Organization for action against the United States.

However, there is hope that before that even happens the legislatures in Congress will come to some agreement and begin the process of legalizing online poker.  This would appease the companies in Europe at least somewhat and the U.S. could possibly avoid sanctions or punishment from the WTO.