The tangible action at the World Series of Poker is all the “shuffle up and dealing” inside the Brazilia room at the Rio leading up to the main event beginning July 6. Outside is the Poker Players Alliance booth.
It’s there that you will find John Pappas and Richard Muny fighting the good fight for poker players around the country in getting the word out about making this sport legal for money in all forms on the federal level.
“To see how many rooms they are jamming in here is a testimonial to the popularity of poker,” said Pappas, the PPA’s executive director during a 2-on-1 interview with GamingToday last week.
The other part is Muny, vice president of player relations and member of the board of directors. “I was an engineer who played poker out of enjoyment. I was making more money playing poker online than as an engineer.”
Both Pappas and Muny are fully capable of walking into Brazilia and sitting down with the 7,000 or so players WHO will make up the main event field or just simply looking for any game to bulk up on the greenbacks to endure a month in Las Vegas.
“We come to Las Vegas at this time of year because this is where poker players are,” Pappas said. “Richard and I are based in Washington D.C. representing the PPA and making sure we have a strong voice that will be heard.”
The PPA is an American nonprofit interest group formed to speak with one voice to promote poker and protect players’ rights. It totaled 600,000 members in its first year of existence. The number swelled to a million by 2008 and has exceeded 1.2 million as we speak.
“This weekend has been a slower one because of the big (Daisy) concert going on at the Speedway,” Pappas acknowledged. “It’s drawing some of the poker pros’ attention away.
Come to think of it, there weren’t any “clowns” out and about at the Rio WSOP area, which gets larger each year with vendors looking to pick up some extra coin from the players and spectators who roam around during downtime from the tourney.
So setting up the PPA booth directly across from Brazilia is excellent planning in pushing for more members to the Alliance.
“We’re here to work,” Pappas said. “The WSOP represents the who’s who of anyone in poker. When it’s not going on we get a lot of calls into our office between Twitter and Facebook. Membership is even tighter than a year ago.”
Yes, a year ago. Greg Raymer, past WSOP champ, and active representative for the Alliance, was the featured speaker at a news conference that presented a picture of poker’s determined fight to make online play legal on a federal level. No conference this year, but the movement is very much alive.
“Our members are day-to-day grinders,” Muny said. “Raymer and Chris Moneymaker bring the recognition factor. Linda Johnson, a Hall of Famer, is on the board directors. We go out there as an organization and lobby Congress. Six or seven years ago lawmakers were bashing us expecting to gain votes. Now you don’t see this for political gain anymore. That has been the big difference and it has come from our community.”
Last year as we found out, mentioning the name Chris “Jesus” Ferguson in these hallowed halls was considered blasphemy. Nothing has changed 365 days later.
“Our position against Ferguson hasn’t softened,” Pappas said. “Those associated with Full Tilt Poker are still taking a lot of heat in the community. Players still haven’t gotten their money back. The Department of justice is now responsible for paying back the players. I don’t think Ferguson or Howard Lederer are going to be warmly accepted back with the poker community until the players get their money back.”
While Black Friday continues to be a dark cloud in the sport, there are shining lights such as the WSOP’s long-sustained interest and Station Casino’s Ultimate Poker.com program, which finally cast the first salvo for legal paid games on the Internet in Nevada.
“Ultimate Poker took it beyond the theoretical,” Pappas said. “This is reality, happening in the safe market area of Nevada. It’s no different than in any state that wants to do this. What Station Casinos did has been a very positive thing for us. I’m glad they are up and running.”
Now it’s a matter of the rest of the country joining the party. In part II next week, we’ll cover just how close that is to becoming reality.
Mark Mayer has over 35 years covering sports events and is the sports editor at GT. Reach him at [email protected].