Poker A Good Bet For Hawaii

Rick Hamada
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Wednesday - March 30, 2011

Shuffle up and deal!

A bill that surprisingly is making its way through The Big Square Building would allow poker tournaments and “peer to peer” play. A parallel aspect of the proposal also would allow for domiciling computer servers to facilitate online poker play, too.

All I can say is, “I’m all in!”


Poker is completely different from other casino-style games. It truly is a game of skill. If you consider traditional casino games such as roulette, craps and, of course, slot machines, the player is subject to the whim and fancy of chance determined by a spinning ball, tumbling dice or an electronic computer chip. Even the most popular table game - blackjack - is governed by rules of play such as when to stand, split, double down, hit or stay.

But poker is totally driven by the skill of the player and each decision is based on strategy, observation and, ultimately, betting.

I understand there will be some who can’t help but cry foul at the idea of any type of gaming for Hawaii. The traditional protests of Hawaii becoming a Las Vegas-sort of destination will ring through the halls of the Legislature with predictions of the incursion of organized crime and decimation of families because of uncontrolled losses by gambling addicts. This argument is akin to saying medical marijuana will lead to kids smoking dope and becoming addicted to more serious drugs later down the line. You may say the sky is falling, but it doesn’t mean it’s so.

The introduction of poker rooms and housing of computer servers does not portend the societal obliteration of our hypocritical community. Yes, hypocritical. According to Steve Budin, president of (a site for sports betting), “Hawaii is, pound for pound, the best gambling market in the country.” We bet on everything, everywhere. No? I guess all those trips Islanders take to Las Vegas are to see Celine and hit the outlet stores. Yeah, right.

We have the unique opportunity to accomplish the following with the introduction of poker into our tourism marketing and promotion strategy.

First of all, it’s a money-maker for the state. The sheer amount of revenue from licensing fees will be borderline obscene. Millions stand to be made from hosting poker site servers alone. The collection of fees from the poker houses will be substantial, too, not to mention revenue generated from ancillary businesses.

I’m also in favor of this proposal because the opportunity for exposure from high-stakes poker tournaments on national/international TV is incredible. As a condition of contract, Hawaii could use advertising inventory from various broadcasts and actually be paid to advertise instead of paying to advertise.

Lastly, how about a little love for the poker fans who live and visit here? As a player, how would you like to have live, head-to-head poker as an entertainment option? I know I would.

Poker is not casino gaming. As a matter of fact, most casinos only offer poker rooms and play as part of being a full service facility, and rarely make any substantial profit from tournament or cash game play. Hawaii operators would do the same by earning profits from food, beverage and concession sales and perhaps an entry fee of some kind.

The idea of having Hawaii host a World Series of Poker or World Poker Tour event would be of substantial benefit, and the revenue generated could stave off more onerous tax increases such as the GET or pensions.

A chip and a chair is all you need.

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