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Real Poker LLC is a member-owned and controlled, not-for-profit, 501c7 co-operative. Our membership is comprised of Arizona poker players, industry professionals and constitutional freedom fighters who have joined together to speak with one voice to promote the sport of poker and protect players’ rights. Club membership is $40 per year, and includes eight event vouchers ($40 value) for future Real Poker events.

Real Poker brings competitive poker tournaments to neighborhood venues throughout Arizona. The Club leases private event space at third-party venues so Club members (and their guests) can take advantage of discounted food and drink, entertainment, music, TVs and other amenities, while enjoying a traditional poker tournament.

To non-members, Real Poker may look like a “free pub poker” event, which is one of the reasons why we differentiate ourselves with our Club name. Real Poker uses casino-quality, 9-seat ovular tables with custom felts and padded armrests, composite clay chips with custom inlays, and professional-grade plastic playing cards. We retain a group of professional, non-participating, hourly-wage event staff (dealers, directors). Club founders and interim managers have been serving the Arizona poker community since 2009.

Real Poker events are excluded from anti-gambling statutes as intellectual amusement contests. Poker is a “mind sport”, and since 2015, the Club has successfully registered our carefully-structured poker tournaments as an entertainment event product with the Arizona Attorney General’s office pursuant to ARS 13-3311.

Real Poker’s (May 30, 2017) registration with the Arizona Attorney General can be viewed here.

Amusement Gambling and Exempt Organizations

The amusement gambling exclusion does not prohibit nebulous “benefit”, as the social gambling exclusion does. “Benefit”, under Arizona law, means “anything of value or advantage, present or prospective”. The “lure analysis” and “no increment” language of the amusement exclusion merely prohibits “profit” or “private benefit or personal inurement”. The “lure analysis” fails for a not-for-profit, member-managed social club such as Real Poker. Our books are open and our operation is completely transparent. We obtain all necessary state and local licenses and permits, and pay all taxes, including amusement tax when available. Real Poker operates with full disclosure, from the Attorney General, to the Gaming Department, DPS, Liquor Board and municipal authorities. All have been provided civil notice, primarily to ensure that our activities are not mistaken for “social gambling”.

Amusement gambling poker tournaments under the intellectual exclusion aren’t new. The first recorded registration we know of for an amusement gambling poker tournament was actually made by Mesa Alcoholics Anonymous as a fun, non-alcoholic $1,000+ New Year’s Eve event.

Real Poker’s exempt purpose is “the proliferation of poker throughout Arizona”. All events are conducted by, and for, the recreational entertainment and commingling of Members. All activities are conducted in furtherance of the Club’s exempt purpose, including our singular membership drive and annual freeroll event we call “The ‘Real’ Arizona State Poker Championship”.

Why Real Poker?

Real Poker is the first step in reclaiming the sport of poker from the gaming BIA tribes in our State. Notwithstanding a constitutional violation of our freedom and liberty, tribal poker rooms only generate about $1.3M annually for the State (FOIA data). If Arizona mirrored California’s cardroom policies, the State would very quickly see about $20M for the General Fund (adjusted for population/saturation) from an industry that always has existed, and isn’t going away any time soon. Forcing poker underground, as ADoG has done with demonstrative raids, only allows the criminal element to win. The State spends at least $1.3M per year prosecuting cardrooms under the “social” gambling exclusion, where 12 clubs (out of 64+) have been raided since 2008. These investigations and prosecutions have been initiated by a privatized and conflicted “State” Gaming Department, to which all other public authorities and enforcement agencies seem more than happy to deflect all gambling-related questions and complaints.

Real Poker was created in direct response to the allegedly unconstitutional use of the citizens initiative to execute the 2003 standard-form, tribal-state gaming compact. That compact includes a poison pill clause that effectively prohibits the State from regulating any and all gambling from 2003-2027 outside of Indian Country. Prop 202 also effectively privatized the “State” gaming agency, which appears to serve and preserve the tribal oligopoly over the international sport of poker. In addition to the removal or reversion of the poison pill clause from the present-day gaming compact, we may also consider a remedy for the obvious conflict of interest Prop 202 created for the Arizona Department of Gaming. Using poker to reclaim poker is pure poetic justice, but we’ll also be opening the door for amusement gambling daily fantasy sports, online casinos and poker, and all future forms of gambling that the State has the sovereign authority to license, tax, and regulate.

Real Poker events use the same intellectual amusement gambling exclusion that allowed the United States Chess Federation to conduct their 116th US Open Chess Championship (featuring a $190 registration fee plus a prerequisite $49 annual USCF membership, with a $40,000 guaranteed cash prize pool projected to $50,000 with 500 entries). When we asked State and local authorities if the US Open chess-for-cash tournament was legal in Arizona, DPS, Phoenix Police, and the Arizona Attorney General’s office took no umbrage, and all deferred the question to the Gaming Department. It seems that all gambling-related questions and complaints made to local authorities are routinely deflected to ADoG, which issued a public statement after engaging (arguably) the State’s top BIA lawyer to ask the USCF three rather inane questions. The answers to those questions provided the Department enough exculpatory evidence to proclaim “the USCF championship and conference do not fall under Arizona’s statutory definition of illegal gambling”.

Real Poker provides the genesis for a federation of affiliated poker clubs throughout Arizona. Our Club is similar to a non-profit chess club, offering regular tournament events with an entry fee and cash prize pool. Chess clubs routinely promote the fact that “85% to 90% of entry fees are returned to players”.

A typical Real Poker event looks like this: $60 entry fee includes dinner and a club meeting (if scheduled) followed by a 5K poker tournament with a guaranteed prize pool of $1,000, projected to $1,800 with 36 entries.

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Real Poker offers legally regulated poker tournaments throughout Arizona. The enabling laws required by A.R.S. § 13-3306(b)(i) and A.R.S. § 13-3302 consists of the statutory requirements and obligations regulating intellectual amusement gambling under in 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 legal opinions expressed herein are the opinions of private individuals, not an attorney.

Buffalo Wild Wings provides an excellent, pre-existing network of venues for Real Poker’s “Arizona Poker Tour”. BW3 is just one example of the types of third party, arms-length venues that Real Poker is in the process of negotiating private party event space agreements. Unlike free pub poker events, Real Poker members can legally receive bonus starting chips for food/drink purchases. There also doesn’s appear to be a minimum age requirement for amusement gambling, as there is for social and regulated gambling in Arizona. Other potential franchise venues include Peter Piper Pizza, Chuck E. Cheese’s, Dave & Busters, and Tilted Kilt, which all provide an existing network of venues.

“Real Poker is great news for Arizona poker players of all skill levels... especially players living in any of the seven [of 15] counties that don’t have a regular game (by virtue of no tribal poker rooms). Real Poker creates a transparent shift for poker conducted under the “amusement” gambling exclusion, not the ill-fated “social” gambling exclusion.

— Former three-term Arizona magistrate
and poker advocate Harold “Judge” Lee


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