Jaime Staples says Twitch should stop treating poker as "gambling"

Jon Pill
Posted on: July 19, 2021 11:04 PDT

Jaime "Stapes" Staples has a real problem with Twitch's gambling policy. In a recent Twitter thread, Stapes laid out what he views as unfair about the streaming platform's attitude to gambling.

"I am so tired of poker getting grouped in with other casino games. There are so many redeeming qualities about poker," he wrote at the start of a multi-Tweet rant.

As a prominent Twitch streamer, Staples has had to deal with Twitch's various uneven-handed policies. He was among the many poker streamers who had to delete enormous amounts of content from the platform, after long unenforced DMCA violations came home to roost. This issue raised its head again in the last few months.

But it wasn't Twitch's music policy that had Stapes riled up this time.

He continued his explanation. For him, the player-v-player nature of poker should put it in a totally different class than casino games like roulette and slots.

Staples also lists a number of reasons to draw a soft line between Twitch streamers who play slots or blackjack and the poker-Twitch community.

"It totally isn't fair we as a community get vilified because the activities happen in proximity to each other in person," he writes.

Slot streamers and other casino game players make up a popular group on Twitch. Some of these casino streamers cross over into the occasional poker session from time to time. These crossovers create additional mud in the water.

"The financial and societal risk is WAY different. The community is WAY different [...] Poker community on Twitch is tight-knit, respectful, responsibility, and imo the contributor to a lot of positive growth both twitch and poker side. Don't group us with crypto dice."

The gaming language language-game

The question of whether or not poker is "gambling" is a semantic debate that the poker community has gone back and forth on since the first card shark took a bullet after taking too many silver dollars.

It is a problem with the way English discusses vice. Both poker and craps are considered parts of the same parcel together. The English language does not distinguish between wagers on an outcome based on skill and based on chance. Language might not draw such distinctions, but the law can.

In India, skill-based games like rummy and poker are legal in states that outlaw other forms of gambling. A similar law allows poker, but not blackjack, to be played in pubs in the UK.

Without getting all Wittgensteinish about it, the important point is that even where the language does not distinguish between two categories, the law can and does. More importantly, the Ts and Cs of Twitch can too.

The debate continues

Not everyone agrees with Stapes on this though.

One sarcastic Twitter user replied: "Yes…. One of the great injustices of our time…. So unfair #stillgambling."

Other users had more nuanced takes on poker as gambling.

"It's amazing where poker is, strategically, and the old perception that is held from outsiders," wrote one. "A beautifully strategic and unfathomable complex game that's still held in the same regard as slots or roulette."

The argument is as the heart of most legalization debates. And it's why it's so frustrating to the poker community when people like Jonathan Duhamel argue that poker is just luck in order to dodge Canadian taxes. Perceptions have shifted in the last fifteen years or so, but there is still work to do.

Featured image source: Flickr by BrickinNick