More than five years ago, poker players like Jason Somerville lost their ability to play online poker at a reputable site from US soil. The actions on and after Black Friday dashed dreams, uprooted lives, and stole money from everyday Americans.
Team PokerStars Pros like Somerville try to steer toward the path of the positive, though. When Nevada legalized online poker, he embraced it and launched a Twitch stream from it. When New Jersey grew its online poker market into one that included PokerStars, he relocated to play there. And of late, he has become a spokesman for regulated online poker. Not only did he appear on a CNBC program to argue the benefits of legalized poker on the internet, he also took to the virtual pages of the PokerStars blog to demand the support of his fellow players.
That, friends, is called determination.
Ready for His Close-Up
Somerville doesn’t seem like the kind of poker player who is a natural in front of the camera, but his charisma and affability came through on his “Run It Up” web livestreams. He and the video camera grew closer over time, though, close enough to attract more than 34,000 YouTube subscribers, 59,000 Twitter followers, and close to 13 million Twitch views.
Cable television channel CNBC focuses on business news, and the CNBC “Power Lunch” program examines market trends. When the show sought a guest to defend the legalization of online poker in the United States – California, in particular – against Reverend James Butler of the California Coalition against Gambling Expansion, they picked Somerville.
He was happy with the segment overall. Somerville told Poker Update, “My primary goal was to be articulate and efficient with my message, given the limited speaking time in any TV segment. I would’ve loved to have had a more in-depth discussion or debate, but this wasn’t the arena for it. The CNBC producers seemed quite pleased with the piece and its social media reach, so I’m optimistic there’ll be other chances to represent our industry on mainstream media platforms in the future.”
Somerville even invoked a current political slogan from the US presidential race and put a poker spin on it. Can’t we make poker great again?
From Suggestions to Demands
To follow up on his television appearance, Somerville took to the PokerStars blog. He clearly had more to say, starting with the title of the post: “I’m Jason Somerville and I demand that you support online poker regulation.” Essentially, he pleaded with American poker players and fans to get involved by visiting the Poker Players Alliance website to find out what communication with elected officials will be most helpful.
Legislators in California and Pennsylvania are still in the process of deciding if the state will join Nevada, Delaware, and New Jersey in the American regulated market. The PPA is monitoring the progress of bills in those states and more, and the public is urged to reach out to lawmakers to show support for the bills.
Like many others, Somerville can see the potential in the US regulated market for internet poker, and he is frustrated by the snail’s pace of its progress. The difference between Somerville and most others is that he is taking steps to facilitate change. His enthusiasm and intensity about the issue is what has caught the attention of many who saw his CNBC appearance.
It is easy for those on the sidelines to criticize and say that Somerville should have worn a suit or tried a different hairstyle for the television segment, but Somerville stayed true to himself and those he represents. He has already done more than most poker players by standing up for a cause in which he believes. With any luck, other players and poker fans will stand alongside Somerville and make their voices heard as well.