Sam Simon -- co-creator of "The Simpsons" -- plays poker with big money, and he has this instructive story to share.
He says a "nosebleed" poker pro -- one of the best high-stakes players in history -- lost $4 million in online poker.
"He was losing, and losing, and losing," Simon says. Then the "nosebleed" discovered why: Someone had broken into his house, and installed a cheat cam.
"He found a camera stuck in his ceiling, looking at the screen" of his computer, Simon says.
This story is instructive, because Sen. Harry Reid has been attempting to get online poker legalized, taxed -- and regulated, since Reid says there's "no one to turn to if you're defrauded."
Right now, poker sites operate in other countries. PokerStars is awash in cash in the Isle of Man, in the Irish Sea.
Such poker sites do self-regulate -- and Simon says they "keep finding these cheating scandals online" -- such as when two friends sit in the same room with their laptops and gang up on unsuspecting rivals online.
"I just got a refund from PokerStars," after the company ran an algorithm and realized Simon had been victimized by the two-friends-in-a-room scam, he says.
Simon, a one-time Vegas whale, was refunded something like $124, he says.
"I don't play online at all, anymore."
You might think Simon supports Reid's efforts to legalize online poker, but he's critical of it, because Reid wants to continue to banish existing sites, like PokerStars and FullTiltPoker. Reid wants to legalize online poker only for casinos, like MGM and Harrah's (his constituents and campaign donors).
"I think it's the most obvious, corrupt, terrible thing I've ever heard of," says Simon, a Democrat who has so much money, he self-funds his acclaimed Sam Simon Foundation for rescue dogs, which accepts not one penny in contributions.
"The idea the United States could decide that only casinos -- his supporters -- could own online poker sites is beyond belief. America is in big trouble. It's become a banana republic.
"That is giving a monopoly to your friends. That is to the detriment of everyone who wants to have fun playing poker."
Simon says the only reason PokerStars and FullTiltPoker are siphoning money out of America is, "We've made them fugitives."
Simon shared these thoughts while at The Venetian on Saturday to play in a charity tournament for the multiple sclerosis organization One Step Closer Foundation.
Also at the tourney: Poker pro Phil "Unabomber" Laak. Laak says it would be "brutal" if online poker gets a U.S. stamp of approval but shuns existing sites, including his namesake UnabomberPoker.
Laak's wife, the poker pro and actress Jennifer Tilly, says the status quo is "insane."
"What's happening in the gambling world today is like Prohibition in the '20s. Anybody who knew how to get liquor could get it. And anybody worth their salt knows how to play poker online," she says.
"I think the government is trying to take away our civil liberties," Tilly says. "They're trying to protect us from ourselves, which is what you do with children -- childproofing everything."
Laak, who says he's not knowledgeable about this political issue, chimes in that legalizing poker companies could lead to regulation, which could be a good idea:
"All poker players are grown-up children. These casinos are like day care centers for adults. Maybe we do need baby sitters. I don't know," he says and laughs.
There is another, harsher reason these pros, who are sponsored by poker sites, want online poker to be legal on American soil. It would entice more newbies and casual players to play, thereby putting more money in the pockets of pros who beat them.
Tilly would like to collect more of that newbie cash.
"It's all professionals online, so I'm losing (money) as fast as I'm getting it," she says with her movie star smile. "You know, they could let some of those regular people play online, with their Visas and credit cards, and maybe the rest of us could make a decent, honest living."
But one of Tilly's more patriotic points is echoed by Shannon Elizabeth, a fellow actress and poker winner.
"I feel like our government should take advantage of the fact that we could all be playing (online), and they could be drawing taxes from that and helping the country.
"I don't know why they're giving it such a bad rap -- that it's gambling -- when there are so many other vices in the country," Elizabeth says.
PokerStars pro Joe Stapleton, host of "The Big Game" on Fox TV, hopes online poker does get "totally legalized."
"But if they make it legal and PokerStars isn't allowed (to operate in the United States), that would be very bad for me, and very bad for the industry.
"PokerStars, FullTilt and other sites like that are the industry standard," he says. "That's what American players want to play on."
Doug Elfman's column appears on Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays. Contact him at 383-0391 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. He also blogs at reviewjournal.com/elfman.