The Washington Times - July 15, 2009, 08:26AM

People who want to play poker for money online should be rooting for Phil Ivey to win the World Series of Poker’s no-limit Texas Hold ‘Em main event in Las Vegas this week. As of Wednesday morning, Ivey was in 4th place with just 27 players remaining alive. The field started with 6,494 entries.

Ivey, for those of you not up on the poker circuit, is one of the most successful poker players in the world. There are all kinds of stories about the money he’s made in cash games, and he’s won seven different WSOP events in the last decade.


Poker enthusiasts might say he’s got skills.

Under current U.S. law, however, poker is considered a game of chance, not skill. And so it’s basically illegal to play online for real money.

(Lawmakers have made it illegal for U.S. banks or other financial firms to process winnings from poker sites, so if you play poker online you have to go through all kinds of manuevering to collect your winnings.)

An Ivey win wil surely resume the debate over whether poker is a game of chance or skill.

One of the knocks on the WSOP main event is that it’s been kind of a crapshoot in recent years. Many of the winners have been relative unknowns.

But here we have Ivey, a hugely recognizable name, who has managed to bet and bluff his way past nearly 6,500 people. If he wins, it might bolster arguments that poker is not just about the luck of the draw. Pro-poker folks could point to Ivey’s previous accomplishments and say he has clearly shown that good poker play is a repeatable skill that can be demonstrated over time.

It should be noted that Ivey is an investor in Full Tilt Poker, one of the more popular online poker sites. Full Tilt has steadfastly argued that poker is a game of skill and has remained operational even while other poker sites have shut down due to the legal climate in the U.S.

Ivey’s probably not going to change the mind of anyone on Capitol Hill overnight. But a victory in Vegas this week would be one more piece of information to help the pro-poker crowd.