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Poker pro James "Jim" Caporuscio doesn't see a problem with online poker. In fact, it is how he supports himself. Caporuscio, 25, used online gambling to sharpen his poker skills, which he then took to Atlantic City last October to win the U.S. Poker Championship. He used the $831,532 payday to buy himself a four-bedroom home in Oakdale.

"There are people who can make a decent living from it," he said. "If you're good at it. "

But that chance at stardom, Caporuscio and other poker enthusiasts admit, has drawn millions of people to gambling websites, many of them minors, and most of whom end up losing hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars. But rather than shut down poker by making it illegal to use credit cards to bet online, as proposed federal legislation that passed the House yesterday seeks to do, the government should get in on the action, said John Baerlein, 40, owner of Long Island Poker & Casino in West Babylon.

"They should regulate it and tax it, but not close it down," said Baerlein, whose company sells poker products and caters to private parties.

After all, it is hardly the government's place to regulate morality, said Ralph Pecorale, 37, a real estate attorney from Head of the Harbor who plays on-line poker about twice a week. Pecorale, who has two children, ages 6 and 3, said he would rather have his kids play online poker when they are a little older rather than have them go out and drink alcohol or use drugs.

"I think the government should concentrate its efforts on more productive means," he said. "If you do it responsibly, you shouldn't have a problem."

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