Real Poker LLC represents a paradigm shift in the way poker tournaments are conducted in Arizona. Since 2015, our entertainment events have been successfully registered with the Arizona Attorney General’s office as intellectual amusement gambling, and our events are modeled after the $50,000 U.S. Open Chess Championship conducted at the Arizona Biltmore Resort in 2015.
Real Poker is an extension of our collective home games and leagues, using the best “man cave” tables, felts and chips available. Under the amusement gambling exclusion, the Club can hire professional dealers and managers to conduct our activities, games and contests in popular, neighborhood establishments where members can take advantage of food and beverage service and not have to worry about street parking, or sleeping kids, or players who can’t deal or don’t pay attention when its their turn to act. Granted, poker is a social game – some have even dubbed it “the new golf” – but a dedicated, non-participating dealer is essential to keep a slow game moving, even among the best of friends.
Operating as a not-for-profit, member-managed Arizona limited liability company, Real Poker is a 501c7 membership social club, with the exempt purpose of “the proliferation of poker throughout Arizona”, including those seven (of 15) counties that do not have access to a professionally-dealt, traditional poker tournament. Real Poker allows members to enjoy regular, competitive poker tournaments utilizing professional, non-participating dealers – a crucial element missing from our social home games and leagues. Our entertainment events typically include a pre-game meal and a general club meeting prior to a traditional poker tournament with a guaranteed minimum cash prize pool, and projection based on the number of entries ($60 registration, $500 guaranteed prize pool projected to $800 with 18 players). The “missing” $280 is a lot less than the “missing” $45,000 in the US Open, and is used for event overhead such as staff, meals, and equipment. Unlike the social gambling exclusion, which prohibits benefit, the amusement exclusion only prohibits profit or personal/private inurement.
• Intellectual gambling tournaments aren’t new. Every photography, art or essay writing contest with an entry fee and prize is logically conducted under the intellectual gambling exclusion. US Chess Federation clubs throughout Arizona routinely promote competitive tournaments with $20-40 entry fees touting “80% returned to players” via the prize pool. In 2005, the U.S. Open Chess Championship promoted a projected $50,000 cash prize pool based on 500 entrants ($185 at the door). The Gaming Department issued a public statement edited and approved by ADoG’s in-house council (an assistant attorney general): “the USCF conference and championship does not fall under Arizona’s statutory definition of illegal gambling”. Arizona doesn’t define illegal gambling per se, but does make all gambling illegal unless specifically excluded. Of course, to tell us exactly which gambling exclusion applies, or how, to allow the USCF to escape ADoG’s considerable umbrage, would constitute “a legal opinion” which ADoG cannot provide to private citizens.
• Amusement gambling poker tournaments aren’t new. Mesa Alcoholics Anonymous successfully registered a $1,000 amusement gambling poker tournament as part of a fun and alcohol-free New Year’s Eve party in 2014. After two previously (failed) attempts, we received our first “green light” letter from the Attorney General’s office for an gambling poker tournament mid-week during the US Open Chess Championship.
• Poker is a mind sport. Poker takes a day to learn and a lifetime to master. Poker was inducted into the International Mind Sports Association in 2010. In the NY vs. DiCristina case in 2012, federal judge Jack Weinstein issued a 120-page formal opinion explaining how and why poker is predominantly a game of skill, citing an array of intellectual skills that can be attributed to successful poker players (math, psychology, acting, deception, negotiation).
To outsiders, Real Poker may look like “free pub poker”, which is one of the reasons why we differentiate ourselves with our name. We do not want Real Poker to be confused with social gambling, so our tagline proclaims amusement gambling in a social atmosphere. Every year, we continue to provide civil notice to the Attorney General’s office of our operation and regulatory compliance with the annual amusement registration of the Arizona State Poker Player of the Year contest featuring the REAL Arizona State Poker Championship.
The Club manages a points-race with monthly and annual prizes, and tracks player ratings and provides statistical reports. Real Poker conducts an annual freeroll championship tournament, which also serves as our annual membership drive. We call this event the “REAL Arizona State Poker Championship“, not just because Real Poker is the title sponsor, but also because the event is conducted on Arizona soil – not federal BIA land. The Club hopes to encourage other non-profit poker clubs throughout the State to join us in our grassroots efforts to enact change in public policy that reflects the social consensus that not just poker, but cardrooms in general, and daily fantasy sports, and other national sweepstakes and contests can, and should, be properly licensed and taxed as an amusement under Title 5, not confusingly excluded from the criminal code under Title 33 as they are now.
As a private, membership Club, Real Poker keeps member’s tournament poker bankrolls “in house”, where money just changes hands between members participating in a morally neutral mind sport. The true reward is bragging rights for winning the monthly and annual points races or the year-end freeroll Championship. The club awards handsome trophies and cash prizes for the winners of these annual titles.
As a democratic co-operative, the members collectively own and operate the club. Retained earnings, if any, are donated to qualified charitable organizations and for the public benefit at large through our annual freeroll event, where we disburse all retained earnings, if any, to maintain a zero-balance as a civil and social, exempt organization. Real Poker operates with open books and complete transparency.
Real Poker is “your home game away from home”.
RANDOM POKER QUOTE:
Real Poker Membership Brochure (PDF) or click JPG images below for larger image in new window.
Real Poker paves the way for a federation of non-profit poker clubs throughout Arizona conducting amusement gambling poker tournaments as entertainment events under the intellectual (mind sport) gambling exclusion. The enabling laws required by A.R.S. § 13-3306(b)(i) and A.R.S. § 13-3302 consists of the rules and statutes regulating intellectual amusement gambling pursuant to A.R.S. § 13-3311 and A.R.S. § 13-3301.1(d)iii. Real Poker’s books are open to inspection and all required taxes are paid. All opinions expressed herein are the opinions of private individuals, not an attorney.
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