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Poker Players Alliance Wants to Fight for You

People Want to Take the Game Away, and the PPA Vows Not to Let That Happen


It's no secret that all around the country people are heading to fire halls, senior citizen centers, bars, and anywhere else a table and a few chairs can fit to play the skill game of poker. Poker has attracted people from all walks of life spanning every economic class. Also, although it's impossible to know the exact figure, poker has raised bucketfuls of dollars for charity.

But the game's popularity has turned into a double-edged sword. Just do a quick Web search for "poker shut down" to see how many times police have stormed games, seized cash, and put players in handcuffs. But it doesn't stop at the local level.

Recently, Senator John Kyl (R-Ariz.) wrote a doomed bill called the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2005, which would have made it illegal for banking institutions to work with gaming sites. This wasn't the first time Kyl tried to stop Internet poker from taking place and, on his website, he vowed he'd continue trying.

On the Other End
But an organization exists that vows to fight the likes of Kyl everywhere. Only a few hundred miles away from Kyl's office, but light-years away in its stance on this issue, is the office of the Poker Players Alliance (PPA), a nonprofit organization founded earlier this year to protect and preserve the game of poker and its players in America.

"If poker can be defined as a game of skill, then just like the average cribbage player who plays every Friday night, they won't be arrested," said Sam Gorewitz, president of the organization. "It's very crucial to build and ramp this up as quickly as possible."

The PPA was founded to give poker players one loud voice that politicians will be unable to ignore. In fact, it also has an office in Washington, D.C., so it can be closer to the politicians who may ultimately decide the fate of poker in America.
Gorewitz knows a thing or two about nonprofits and the lobby industry. Before joining the PPA, he worked for a marketing firm that targeted politicians on behalf of nonprofits, including nonprofit giants the National Rifle Association and the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP).

The PPA's main goals are simple. According to PPA's marketing coordinator Jason Newburg, the organization exists to provide a unified voice for poker players from all over the country who want to promote the game, ensure its integrity, protect their right to enjoy poker as they do today, educate lawmakers, fight egregious legislation, and demand the protections necessary to guarantee our freedom to play poker and to ensure poker players have a secure, safe, and regulated place to play poker.

The PPA wants its website,, to be the place players can go to for information about the legality of poker in every state. Soon, a dropdown box for every state will be added to the site.
Poker laws vary widely from local to state levels and are often written in unspecific language that lumps poker into the same category as games of chance like craps or roulette. Basically, games of chance are illegal in most states.
But most poker players know that poker is an intricate game of skill, a fact that the PPA will continue to hammer home to the people in charge.
Get on the Bus

Like all grassroots efforts, one of which the PPA calls itself, most of its strength comes from the number of people who climb onto the proverbial bus. Gorewitz and Newburg know this is a crucial time for the PPA.

The organization is at the beginning of a membership drive. The PPA has made recruitment stops at World Series of Poker Circuit and World Poker Tour events and has advertised in several poker magazines, including this one. Soon, players will see commercials for the PPA during their favorite poker shows.

"Our biggest challenge thus far is getting the average poker player to realize that there is a real and growing threat to the game," Newburg said. "We aren't trying to scare people into becoming members; we are sharing the harsh realities and offering them an opportunity to be part of a grassroots organization that is dedicated to protecting the game they love."

The "harsh realties" include the raid and arrest of players and organizers playing in a Knights of Columbus charity tournament at a church social hall in Ohio, the shut-down in Texas of a penny-ante game that took place in a senior citizens center and populated by seniors, and the shuttering of a large poker room in New York City that resulted in 39 arrests., All of these took place this year.

Linda Johnson, Card Player columnist and WPT official, got involved with the PPA after she heard about the shutdown by authorities in Houston of a charity event organized by Phil Hellmuth that would have raised $250,000 for breast cancer research.

"I was outraged. There are real crimes that need the attention of our lawmakers and playing poker isn't one of them," Johnson said. Her anger brought her to the PPA, where she now sits on its board of directors.

She hopes that poker players everywhere will take the threat to their game seriously and join the PPA.

"It is a nonprofit organization that needs large membership numbers in order to sway Congress to vote for rights of players, not against our rights. Large numbers carry big weight in Congress," she said. "It is important to support this organization as they are truly a voice for poker players in regards to protecting our legal right to play poker."

For more information, or to become a member of the PPA, visit

- Bob Pajich