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World Poker Tour goes, er, global

Inks deal with Chinese authorities - just no bets, please

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The China Leisure Sports Administrative Center has tied the knot with World Poker Tour Enterprises (WPT) to promote “the sport of poker, by helping to create, expand and commercialize China’s first ever national poker competition,” the Associated Press reported today.

Well, something like poker, at least.

The Chinese authorities look askance at gambling, much as their soul mates at the American Department of Justice (DOJ) do. As such, no betting will be allowed. Since the stake involved determines much of the strategy and psychology of the game itself, it’s hard to understand how this would qualify as “poker” or, even more importantly for the WPT, just why anyone would want to watch.

Poker is what is known as a game of imperfect information, as opposed to a game like chess where the allowable moves are there for all to see, and as such it is beloved of game theory theoreticians. It also includes an element of active disinformation concerning a number of the 45 unknown cards, which is information communicated by the wager itself. It just is not the same without the stake.

Still, the move gives the WPT at least a toehold in the ever-enticing Chinese market, and does provide the opportunity to promote something resembling the game to a huge new market. The Chinese decided to define the game of poker as a sport a few years back, something resembling the various American attempts, which have generally failed, to define the game as one of skill.

Poker has generally been perceived to be a potential breakthrough in American internet gaming law due to the element of skill involved; as many have observed, there are no professional roulette players. Poker is also something of an American tradition - even the Supreme Court had a weekly poker game until relatively recently.

Of course, with the Presidential election kicking into gear, the shabby state of American law will probably not change anytime soon. Improved regulation at the state level is probably a better bet.®

Burke Hansen, attorney at large, heads a San Francisco office

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