If you’re an avid Texas holdem poker player and a
Tennessee native, you undoubtedly will be
disappointed that no live poker venues operate in the state. This is due to the
restrictive laws that are in place which disallow any casinos to operate, which
includes standalone card rooms as well.
You still have a few options in respect to playing poker in this state, as
well as some other forms of gambling that may satiate your appetite for poker in
between trips to the felt elsewhere. We’ll cover these options here and delve a
bit deeper in to the specific laws that operate in the state.
The Moneymaker Effect
First off, it’s important to note that one man from Tennessee was almost
solely responsible for the poker boom in the United States and across the world.
That man is Chris Moneymaker.
He won the World Series of Poker main event in 2003 after winning his seat in
a $86 satellite on Poker Stars. His last name is almost poetic in its
brilliance, and it’s his actual real name. This along with the fairy tale story
of an amateur winning the WSOP main event through a small buy in online made
everyone realize just how meteoric your rise could be playing poker.
Obviously, there were some other big players responsible for the poker boom,
but Chris Moneymaker will go down forever as the man that started it all. He’s
from Tennessee, but unfortunately, this fact hasn’t resulted in the state being
any more flexible in the way it goes about restricting poker and other forms of
Horse Racing and Lottery
Only two forms of gambling are permitted in the state of Tennessee. These are
wagering on horse racing, specifically using pari-mutuel systems, and buying
tickets in the state run and regulated lottery. Aside from this you can spend no
amount of money on a game where the outcome is determined by chance.
This encompasses poker, even though many die-hard players will argue it’s a
game of skill. It even is in place for fishing tournaments, which were deemed to
be illegal as they involved wagering money on the outcome.
If fishing isn’t considered skillful then poker certainly won’t be. Once
again, because horse racing wagering and lottery are permitted, the state is
quite hypocritical in its approach to gambling. This is a real shame, but it
does mean the door might be slightly ajar for changes in the future.
The state run lottery allows residents to purchase tickets to major draws
like Powerball and Mega Millions. On top of this they also run pick 3 and 4
draws as well as some state specific events.
You can also buy scratch cards and some other forms of instant win games. All
profits from the lottery are directed into a fund that provides scholarships and
tuition for residents to attend college and universities.
Charitable organizations can also register to try and get a slice of the
action. This is wholly decided by the state though, and it will be quite tough
for an everyday charity to get in on this money. It’s a good initiative though.
On top of the fact that charities can gain some proceeds from the lottery,
they can also apply to the local authorities to get a permit to run a bingo
game, or some other game of chance, to raise money. They can’t make any money
out of this operation in a commercial sense, but they can raise funds this way
to help their cause.
Although usually only bingo games will be approved for these purposes,
sometimes a charitable poker tournament could run. So, keep your eyes open for a
poker game running to raise money for a charity in your area.
If you decide to run the risk and run a poker tournament or home game, you’ll
be in danger of being charged with a misdemeanour. If you go all out and try to
run a commercial operation that offers poker you’ll be charged with a felony.
So, as you can see it’s not a good idea to test the authorities in this
respect. Not many states have such harsh penalties and restrictive legislation
when it comes to gambling, so it’s best to be very careful in this respect.
If you want to run the risk and run a home game, or participate in one, or
even abide by the law and participate only in charity tournaments or games, the
main game will be no limit Texas holdem. This is by far the most popular game in
the United States and Tennessee is no different in this respect.
You may be able to find the odd limit game from time to time, or even a
spread limit game, but all the charity tournaments will be no limit Texas
holdem. It’s just easier to run a poker tournament in this format and most
people participating will be well versed in this form of the game.
Online play is also not regulated in the state so you won’t find any online
poker rooms for Tennessee players. This also extends to online casinos. You can
still access and play on these through sites that accept US players, but you may
end up in trouble at the federal level for doing so.
The state doesn’t have specific legislation relating to online play, but they
do apply live play to online play in the same way. This is how they have chosen
to address it and implement the law. So, proceed with caution if you try to play
online poker or at an online casino through an off-shore site.
Aside from lottery, horse racing, and charity games, you won’t have many
other options when it comes to finding a live poker game and you may need to
travel to do so. Thankfully, some neighbouring states offer poker action and
depending where you are in Tennessee you may not have to travel too far to take
advantage of these.
Mississippi, Indiana, and Arkansas all have poker options available and
aren’t located too far from most places in the state. If you’re in the east of
the state you may need to do a little bit more travelling because North Carolina
and Virginia don’t have much in the way of poker rooms available.
This isn’t including Harrah’s Cherokee of course, but that’s quite a distance
from Tennessee even as the crow flies, let alone driving. So, while you do have
some good neighbouring options it will still take quite a bit of effort before
you’re sitting down in a poker room at a casino and getting some action.
The future for poker and casinos in Tennessee doesn’t look that great.
Although gambling laws are softening across the entire United States, Tennessee
has yet to make any progress in this respect.
While some of the laws and rules around gambling are hypocritical, lawmakers
and authorities don’t seem to care too much about this and seem quite content
with how things are.
This may change as we see future generations move through government, but it
will still be quite a ways off. So, if you live in Tennessee and love Texas
holdem poker, you’re probably better off making a move to another state that has
truly embraced poker as part of its culture.
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