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Poker World Series a Forum for Legal Discussion

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In July, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that would ban most forms of Internet gambling. Although the bill's chances of making it through the Senate are uncertain, the issue has been front and central at the 2006 World Series of Poker in Las Vegas.

The poker pros are saying that online poker is legal, because poker is a skill-game.

By some counts, about half of the 8,700 players in the World Series? main event qualified through online satellite poker tournaments. PokerStars.com boasted more than 1,600 qualified on its satellites.

"Online gaming is illegal. Online poker is online gambling. And online gambling, we would say, is illegal," Justice Department spokeswoman Jaclyn Lesch said.

Indictments dating to 1998 have focused on operators of online sports books, not sites that offer only poker. People who make a living playing online poker have joined a group called the Poker Players Alliance to lobby Congress to stop the Internet gambling bill from passing the Senate.

Alliance president Michael Bolcerek warned the bill would "drive the business of poker underground." Jon Friedberg, a 31-year-old business owner who lives in Las Vegas, makes $150,000 a year playing poker mostly on PokerStars.com.

Winning several online poker tournaments earned him a seat at several events at the World Series, one of which he won for $526,185. Part of being a poker player involves just fearing nothing in life.

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