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The Payoffs and Pitfalls of Poker

POSTED: 07:08 PM ET, 12/ 1/2008 by Derek Kravitz

During an online chat this afternoon, Post investigative reporter Gilbert M. Gaul and professional poker player Serge Ravitch explored the intricacies of the online poker industry, and its pitfalls.

Gaul, who wrote a two-part series about online poker called "Inside Bet," and Ravitch, a former New York attorney-turned-poker player, answered several readers' questions, including who owns some of the more popular Internet poker Web sites (it's hard to tell), whether professional poker players pay taxes (they say they do) and whether online poker is safer than live poker (Ravitch says it is).

Among the highlights:

-- Gaul noted that he's heard of multiple investors being behind some Internet poker sites, adding that it's hard for a reporter to identify who's who.

"It creates potential problems for players who think they have been cheated or have had other problems. Let alone who do you sue and where do you sue if you identify a cheater?" he said

-- Ravitch said he treats his playing as a business and files his income tax return as a "self-employed professional."

"The sites pay us with checks and bank wires that we can show the IRS, and most provide full records of our play; I personally keep a very detailed Excel spreadsheet in case of an audit, and so on," he said.

-- Gaul said he personally thinks it is unlikely that cheating in online gambling could ever be eliminated "entirely, online or on land." But he said government licensing and regulating could net billions of dollars in taxes.

-- Despite instances of cheating, Ravitch said he believes online poker "is much safer overall" than live poker.

"I live in New York, where live poker is clearly illegal; lots of people play anyway, but that attracts robbers and other criminals. Earlier this year, a man was killed at a poker club in Manhattan during such an armed robbery," he said. "I certainly have no fear of that online!"

By Derek Kravitz |  December 1, 2008; 7:08 PM ET Inside Bet
Previous: Obama Releases Transition Donor List | Next: Nuclear or Bio Attack Called Likely, U.S. to Expand Tax Inquiry, Former Detroit Mayor's Aide Pleads Guilty

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