A local sports bar has recently started a Texas Hold-'em poker tournament, to be held twice a week over a couple of months. The tournament is delivered to the bar via satellite, from NTN Communications–the same folks who also deliver trivia games to a few thousand bars and restaurants in the US and Canada.
The NTN poker game is fun, challenging, and most importantly, free–in fact, there is a disclaimer displayed on the TV monitors at the start of the game that expressly forbids the bar from charging players any fee to play, as well as disallowing any wagering of real money on the game itself. Players use play money to play the game with–useless for anything except keeping score and providing something to brag about ("Sure, I won $160,000 Monday night, but sadly, it wasn’t real cash.).
Anyway, I’ve been playing in the tournament, and I’ve been doing not too badly, if I say so myself. I managed to win everything one night, and have held on long enough in other games to (I hope!) make it clear that I can be a force to be reckoned with.
But in addition to the regularly-scheduled tournament games, it has not been unusual for players who happen to be at the bar at other times to request that the management set up a non-tournament game; just to have a little bit of fun without the tournament pressure, and to get some practice. In these “fun” games, a few side bets involving real money have been known to have been made quietly–most often between a couple of guys who are betting between themselves for a couple of dollars–in spite of the game provider’s prohibition of wagering. But nobody has been prevented from playing any game because they refuse to bet real money.
Until, possibly, recently. Yesterday, while I was killing a rainy Saturday afternoon at the bar, a “fun” game was suggested. While we were getting ready to play, another player asked if I’d be interested in “kicking $20 in the pot, just, y’know, to make it a little more interesting.” I declined to contribute, he said, “Okay,” and we began the game.
As it turned out, the game went down to another player and myself (out of eight players), before the other player finally won it all. Sure, I lost, but it was a good game, and I enjoyed myself immensely–until the player who asked if I wanted to contribute to the pot earlier approached me. “You know, we’re not happy that you didn’t contibute money to the side pot and you nearly won,” he said. I asked him what he meant, and he replied that if I didn’t want to bet real money on the game, they didn’t want me playing at all. Next time, I was welcome to play only if I bet real money in the side pot.
I was somewhat shocked. Not only is wagering real money on the game expressly disallowed by the game operator (NTN Communications), NTN also has a clause in their contracts that stipulates that no money is to be charged to play any of their games. Moreover, this bar also has a sign on the wall by the pool table stating that gambling on pool is not allowed–I’m sure the same policy would extend to any other games occurring on their premises as well. And in addition, I have a feeling that the provincial gaming and liquor licensing authorities would have some sort of law against this.
Understand, I’m no prude when it comes to gambling; and frankly, I don’t care if a couple of guys have a side bet on anything: pool, the poker game, or which raindrop will reach the bottom of the window first. Indeed, I myself have played many casino games for real money, and made any number of horse racing bets in my life. But I choose not to bet my money on some things–NTN’s poker game among them–and to be told that I couldn’t play, in spite of the contractual and legal prohibitions against such a policy, unless I bet real money, I found to be surprising.
In fairness, this policy came from another player who was, like me, just a bar patron. There was nobody in authority to clarify the bar rules on this–the manager wasn’t there yesterday afternoon, and the Saturday afternoon bar staff have only so much say in house policy. Since I’d like to stay in the tournament, and play any “fun” games that might happen at other times, I’d like some Dopers’ opinions on what I should do. Should I:
A) Let the manager know what happened, and ask him for clarification of his house policy on this issue. I don’t care if a bunch of guys want to reserve a time for a game to which only selected players are invited to play (and wager in a side pot), but I would like some clarification as to who can participate in a supposedly open-to-all “fun” game, and how much (if any) must be contributed in order to play.
B) Shut up about the whole thing, remain in the tournament, but forego any supposedly open “fun” games where I see Mr. Bettor and his friends participating. The bar has plenty of other things to do: pool, Golden Tee golf, the daily newspapers, yakking with other patrons, and more satellite TV sports than you can imagine. I need not be bored there if the other poker players don’t want me in their game.
Or is there another option that you can suggest?
Note that one option that I will not consider is to reporting this to NTN or the provincial authority. I like the place too much–I like the manager, the staff, and the other patrons (well, most of them; Mr. Bettor isn’t in my good books any more); and I don’t want to get this bar in any trouble.
Anyway, Dopers, I leave it to you. What should I do?