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Poker Coach Bob Ciaffone Now a Democratic Delegate

It's One of the Many Hats This Card Player Columnist Wears


Bob Ciaffone is now a Democratic delegateBob Ciaffone is a name familiar to anyone who has tried to better their poker game, but the longtime professional poker player is so much more than the “Poker Coach” that Card Player readers know him as. That title only describes one part of Ciaffone’s life. Others that could be easily interchanged with it are arbitrator, advisor, publisher, and delegate.

Democratic delegate is the latest of the many hats Ciaffone now wears. Last Saturday, he was elected as one of the five delegates who will represent the fourth district of Michigan at August’s Democratic Nation Convention.

Since Hillary Clinton was the only Democratic Presidential candidate listed on the ballot (Michigan was punished by the Democrat Party because it moved its primary’s date up, and candidates pledged not to campaign there. Clinton’s name was the only one listed for the Democrats), three of those delegates are required to cast for Clinton. Ciaffone, who was nominated as a delegate by a Michigan Barack Obama grassroots organization, made a pledge to cast for Obama, and he will.

Ciaffone moved back home to Saginaw, Michigan from Las Vegas in 1995 to help take care of his aging parents. After spending his adult life registered as an independent, he got involved with politics at a local level after switching his affiliation to Democrat only three years ago.

By volunteering his time and taking on small tasks, he said people quickly saw that he’s a guy who does what he says. He also joined the Saginaw area Democrat club, where he now serves as the vice president. He currently sits on the party’s county executive committee, where he chairs the endorsement committee.

His quick ascent is not only a testament to Ciaffone’s character, but also shows how anyone can get involved with politics at a local level and make an impact in a relatively short period of time. Ciaffone encourages poker players to get involved politically, if not as intensively as he has, at least as letter-writers to legislators to make their voices heard.

The advisor and writer side of him extends all the way from giving advice on how to play poker (four of his poker books are currently in print, and he has been a Card Player columnist for more than a decade) to something that Ciaffone is very passionate about: protecting the rights of U.S. poker players.

Ciaffone keeps a close watch on the legal climate of poker in America, particularly at state levels, where he says about half the state laws in the U.S. are antiquated and used to bust poker games arbitrarily. He’s currently advising the five men who are seeking a trail after being charged under a 206-year-old law in South Carolina. Ciaffone has prepared an Amicus brief for the court for the defendants and has been dispensing his thoughts almost from the day the game was raided in 2006.

Social Gambling

Ciaffone became an authority on state poker laws in 1987, when he volunteered to present a paper at the London International Gaming Conference. The paper was called “A Comparative Study of State Laws on Social Gambling” and was the first of its kind. It was then reprinted in a book called “Gambling and Public Policy.” Since then, and through his Fair Laws on Poker organization (FLOP — a non-profit organization run solely by Ciaffone dedicated to improving state poker laws), Ciaffone has been dispensing advice to players who may have been swept up in a poker raid.

The reason he took on such a large project for the convention is simple, really: “I could see the huge injustice that poker players are treated to, plus the big variance from state to state concerning the law.”

This is something that boils his blood. Ciaffone believes in the letter of the law and is a staunch defender of the Constitution (He even has about 20 volumes of books about the Supreme Court in his home and remembers the name of the Constitutional law professor he had at Michigan State University in 1963). The many unclear state poker laws, which, like in South Carolina, allow authorities to break down doors of homes and seize property where they believe card games are taking place, need to be revised to allow what Ciaffone calls social gambling.

All the states that allow home poker games prevent the house from collecting a rake, a law that Ciaffone calls fair. The old laws on the books usually define gambling by the objects they use. For example, in South Carolina, it’s simply illegal to play any games in one home if cards or dice are used. He believes that the laws need revised to allow for social gambling.

“To me, this is the only reasonable way to do things, because when police take action against a poker game, it’s really a horrific scene,” Ciaffone said. “If you’ve seen pictures of what’s going on, you got men breaking through the door, they point guns at the people, they have them lay down on the floor, they’re wearing masks — and it terrifies people.”

Not to mention, as Ciaffone believes, it violates Constitutional law.

Rules are something that Ciaffone is also very aware of. He’s been a games player his entire life and is quick to remind people that poker isn’t his only love. He loves chess, backgammon, pinochle, and pool, to name a few. In the late 1970s, Ciaffone was asked to help write the rules that would be used to conduct a backgammon tourney in Las Vegas, and he did.

Then, in 1984, he helped assemble a team of players whose task was to write a set of poker rules from the players’ perspective, and the book Robert’s Rules of Poker was the result. Ciaffone would eventually work with the New Jersey Casino Control Commission on poker room rules there, and Robert’s Rules of Poker would be used by Florida officials as a guideline for its poker rules.

Ciaffone says he can’t believe the directions his poker life has taken him. From the smoky poker rooms of Michigan and Las Vegas to being a quoted expert on poker law and rules, he has adjusted and thrived in his role as a poker-playing American and defender of the game. Heck, he even looks a little like Ben Franklin.

Tags: poker law


over 10 years ago

bob been reading your cardplayer column for years,big fan .thanks alot for standing up for our rights .also any online poker players or any poker player for that matter, join the ppa fight for your rights to play poker!