Lee Davy sits down with Andrew ‘Luckychewy’ Lichtenberger to discuss his role alongside the Poker Players Alliance, his experience in Washington, and what players can do to help fight for the right to play online poker in America.
On March 26, the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA) was introduced to congress. The goal to re-write the Federal Wire Act of 1961 with a view to banning online gambling. If it happens, the progress made by online poker friendly states will be washed down the sink.
Andrew ‘Luckychewy’ Lichtenberger is one of the most important poker players in the world right now. He is one of the only high profile poker players who has reacted to RAWA in a positive way, by joining forces with the Poker Players Alliance (PPA) to actually try to do something about it.
He is the player that most other players were hoping would step out of the shadows so they didn’t have to.
What made you take action and publicly support PPA and their fight against RAWA?
“I was in DC to do some financial planning and while I was in the area I thought I might as well get in touch with the PPA. I was in the right place and I wanted to contact them to see if I could offer something of value?
“During my time with them we have been successful in getting more people on board, and finding other people with similar values who are interested in supporting poker player’s rights to play online poker and having them put out blogs and articles to spread the word.”
Expand on the importance of values.
“Both myself and the people that I met in DC think it’s important that the State reserves the right to rule on whether or not online poker can be played in that particular state. Banning it on a federal level harms the people of my demographic who will no longer have the ability to earn a living playing poker. It also effects the right of choice of the recreational player who wants to play purely for fun.”
Once involved did you wonder why you didn’t get involved sooner?
“I did. But it’s better for me to get involved now than to wait even longer. If, after Black Friday, I would have got the ball rolling, then perhaps there may have been a more positive change. But it is what it is.”
There has been criticism leveled at some high profile poker players for not doing enough to support poker, and instead focusing on personal gain. Phil Hellmuth is an example. Do you think this platform would have been perfect for the likes of Hellmuth to help, and why haven’t they?
“I think anyone who has a following, and can reach the average poker player in America, who doesn’t have the platform to make their voice heard, has a great opportunity to make a positive change. The word isn’t out at a mainstream level. People don’t know what’s happening to online poker.
“I can’t speculate why people like Hellmuth haven’t been more involved. But I certainly think people like Hellmuth could make a very positive impact. I see our main issue being a lack of mainstream awareness. From being in DC, and speaking with working class individuals, they pretty much unanimously agree that this isn’t fair, it doesn’t make any sense, and they were willing to sign our petition to allow online poker players to play poker when they want.”
There is a big difference between choosing the two best players in the Global Poker Index, to lead the charge for poker, and Phil Hellmuth and Daniel Negreanu. I’m talking about platform, and brand exposure, not poker playing ability.
“A lot of poker players don’t understand politics. I don’t have a deep grasp on it myself. Perhaps it’s something that will come in the next few years? I remain optimistic that in the coming years the likes of Daniel Negreanu will continue to engage the community with expressive tweets on the issue. Having played with the likes of Negreanu and Hellmuth I know they have a deep appreciation for poker. I don’t know their life situations away from the table and although they may or may not be politically involved they have helped the game grow to where it is today with their intriguing personalities.”
It seems to me like everyone else is waiting for some else to step up.
“I guess so. Being down in DC I have realized that there are a lot of good people in the world. Aligning yourself with these people is a necessity. I look at it as a survival based thing. If you don’t align yourself with people who have similar goals and values, then there is no guarantee that people with ulterior motives won’t get in charge. That seems to have happened in poker.”
I recently watched the movie Selma where Martin Luther King led the march for the Civil Rights movement. Can you imagine how powerful it would be if hundreds of poker players got together and marched for the legalization of online gambling? I think that solidarity is missing in poker. It is damaging our fight.
“I understand what you are saying. The community has become more unionized through social media, in terms of making positive changes to the game. So I do see progress. How long it takes, and the level of change we will see is unknown? I like what you said about Martin Luther King marching, knowing that violence may occur. In that sense they win when they win, and they win when they lose.”
People talk about Sheldon Adelson and his billions of dollars. A unified online poker industry is not short on cash. Why haven’t our online poker organizations come together to fight back?
“I think PokerStars was stuck between a rock and a hard place during Black Friday. Recently they partnered with Caesars/Harrah’s to fight for our online rights in whatever way they are choosing to do so. It’s hard for me to speculate. I know that for these large organizations it’s not as simple as just getting on a plane and going to DC like I have. Seeing that they have partnered with one another certainly seems like a positive change.
I think there is progress, but I think it’s finally arriving because these organizations are suddenly realizing that their bottom line is going to be affected in a big way. I believe profit is the reason they haven’t unified sooner. It’s the same with player unity. What do you think about that?
“I definitely see that side of things having played poker for many years. It’s a game where you have to look out for yourself first, otherwise you won’t be a successful player. On the same token it’s the community that sustains your ability to be successful over a long period of time. Also, without the platform there is no opportunity to create wealth.
“I agree that it’s too orientated toward profit. The big picture is not being seen enough. It’s hard to say too specifically what people should or shouldn’t do? Everyone has different financial and family related issues. I acknowledge that being a full time poker player is a draining job and lifestyle. I don’t blame poker players who haven’t gotten involved. If they were more educated on the topic they could make more educated decisions.”
What did you learn during your trip to Washington for the CPAC?
“I would say the most insightful things I was able to absorb and experience were just seeing how many that were in DC looking to make positive change. Not having experienced that, it’s easy to think there is no point in getting involved. It was Plato that said, “lesser men will rule those that don’t get involved in politics.”
“I don’t see myself going down this path because I want to. It’s a necessity. I will regret it if I don’t. I will be stripped of the opportunities that I have taken for granted all of my life.”
Who is Avi Rubin and why is he important for the fight to protect online poker?
“Avi was a gentlemen who reached out to me on twitter after I tweeted about what we were doing in DC. He loves poker and is a expert witness for cyber security and a professor at John Hopkins University. He has created technology that shows that the issues of security with online poker are very similar to those of the banking world. By allowing online poker into the market it allows people with his ability to make the framework even more secure.”
How can people help you in the fight?
“I think it’s really a grass roots effort, getting involved with the PPA and spreading the word to friends and family. Make it a talking point. Don’t make it out to be an issue of pity but an issue of it never having been ruled on in court as unconstitutional.”
You have gone through a lot of change in the past few years. How do you balance the emergence of your new values and the profit side of poker?
“I see poker for what it is. I love and appreciate the strategy that goes into it. It’s a fascinating game. I truly love the game. I also see it as a vehicle to create wealth for myself and people around me, and use that wealth to create offerings for people who may not be in my direct circle of community at this moment, but allowing for other individuals who do see things similarly to come together and enjoy their lives together.”
Can poker exist as a game without the money?
“I have thought about this a lot. I wonder whether I would play poker if there was no money involved and I think I would. We are so used to playing for money, we don’t think about what it would be like if we didn’t need that monetary gain to benefit our lives. I look at it like chess or basketball. It’s like any other activities where you can engage with other people and enjoy the challenge of the game.”
What are the sorts of things that go through your head when it all goes quiet?
“When I am contemplating my life I tend to over intellectualize things. If you think of a pond. Let that pond be still and see what issues rise to the surface. Those are the issues I tend to deal with. Unless there is a particular issue in my life that I want to meditate on, I tend to ease myself into a quiet sense of mindfulness and allow my awareness to perceive what’s coming in and see what I can take from that.”
What are you working on internally?
“An important thing to be aware of in life is everyone is fighting a hard battle. All fears and struggles are justified. This is how life is for us. We all have obstacles we are trying to overcome. I see life like a pattern. The way you deal with problems impacts the way you will deal with them next time.
“I think it’s the quiet contemplation, and taking a step back, that allows us to most positively deal with those situations. Being reactionary allows our emotion to take too big of a part in our response, and doesn’t allow our wisdom to create a compromise, or a solution for both parties.”