Many years ago, outlaws were often found huddled around with cards strewn upon the table. These cowboys would regularly accuse other players of cheating and nearly all of the players had some sort of weaponry. In fact, players would sometimes wind up dead at the hands of an angry opponent. The smoke filled saloons were usually packed with degenerates with little or no impact on society. Poker today has morphed into a cleaner, more modern game that can often be found at many local bars and restaurants around the country. At a poker table in today’s society, you may find scientists, politicians, engineers, fast food workers, or even police officers. Unfortunately for its residents, Knox County (TN) Sheriff’s Office has recently begun shutting down many of these free tournaments around town.
Please keep in mind, this article is not referring to illegal underground operations. This article is referring solely to freeroll tournaments.
What is a freeroll?
No Limit Texas Hold’em itself is only a game. A freeroll Texas Hold’em game was designed to allow players the opportunity to enjoy a night out by playing a game at a local establishment… otherwise known as entertainment. According to T.C.A. 39-17-501, it is illegal to gamble in the state of Tennessee, minus the state mandated lottery. Thus, no buy-in poker tournaments were birthed in areas where people were not able to play. The hosting venue pays the operating league an entertainment fee to set up and run the tournament. Therefore, the establishment and the poker league enter a business partnership. T.C.A. 39-17-501(1) states: “…gambling does not include: (A) A lawful business transaction…” The entertainment fee is paid to the league regardless of what the bar makes that night. Players will sign up and will be given a stack for the tournament. Players play until there is one person left. The winner receives a gift card from the establishment to be used in house. According to Knox. County Sheriff’s Office, free poker is illegal.
Who does it affect?
Often times, we see things one way without considering other possibilities. A complete shutdown of poker in Knox County affects many people. Some of the bigger games in the city would regularly draw 30-60 people. This many players would incredibly boost sales within the establishment. The key point to remember is that players are not required to spend money. Many players do, much like they would at a trivia night or at a pool tournament. Not allowing players to play free poker at bars and restaurants affects establishment owners, wait staff, independent leagues and their respective owners, and players looking to hone their skills for when he or she makes the trip to casinos. Most importantly, prohibition of poker in Knox County affects our county. We are constantly losing money to other areas due to players traveling to play… a game they love.
Numbers don’t lie
It is understandable that some people may have misconceptions of the poker community. Many uninformed people will say that poker is a game of luck. There is a hint of luck in the game. There is a hint of luck in anything you do. However, in poker, you make a lot of your own luck. People spend multiple hours studying and learning the game to better themselves. Poker has become a very real career choice. Just like any career you choose, you must continue eliminating your weaknesses and polishing your strengths. A bad poker player may win 1 out of 20 tournaments, but a good player may win over half of those tournaments. Poker is much more than luck.
With this being said, how can poker be outlawed but pool tournaments, trivia, and karaoke events still be allowed?
The first freeroll games in town were shut down over a month ago. The more recent games were shut down the week of October 28th. Is it likely this will change anytime soon? I’m uncertain, but a solid, educated reasoning behind the shutdowns would be appreciated. Up to the date of this publication, local players have been given multiple excuses as to why playing poker is illegal, apparently even when it is free. Is it possible that this has all been a simple misunderstanding of an archaic law? There is one thing certain, Knox County poker players will not fold.