Montana Lawmaker Proposes Bill To Lift Card-Game Prize Cap

Written By J.R. Duren on January 16, 2023
Montana lawmakers seek to lift prize cap on live card games

If you play live card games in Montana, then you probably already know you can’t take down more than $800 from one hand.

But, if a Montana legislator gets his way, then that prize cap will increase. Rep. Ron Marshall has submitted a bill that, if passed, would remove the state’s $800 cap on live card-game pots.

Titled “An Act Removing the Limit on Prizes for Individual Live Card Games,” the bill lifts the cap on prizes for all live hands and requires immediate payment, except for large-stakes tournaments.

Marshall told the Helena-based Independent Record that the bill is about freedom and said:

“This would allow a card room owner to successfully have a true no-limit game. Meaning, table stakes. The money on the table is what’s being played for. This is more of a freedom bill when it comes to that.”

The bill would also remove the cap on prizes for non-profit casino nights.

How would the bill change card games in Montana?

At face value, the bill seems like a no-brainer. Generally speaking, card players like no-limit games. The stakes are higher. And with those higher stakes comes the possibility of huge payouts.

For deep-pocketed players, an $800 cap can be frustrating. So, many card players in the state will likely welcome this bill.

However, Marshall’s proposed changes don’t sit well with everyone.

No caps on pots could run smaller players out of games

Shauna Helfert, a member of industry advocate Gaming Industry Association of Montana, told the Independent Review she doesn’t like Marshall’s bill. Her reasoning? Removing the prize cap makes live card games unfair.

“Regulation is a necessary evil. It creates an equal and fair playing field,” Helfert said. “Montana gaming regulation, over time, has evolved and we believe that it’s come to a sweet spot.”

For example, if a player has $1,500 to spend on a live cash game, they may be able to get more for their money if pots are limited to $800.

Say a table of eight people are playing Texas Hold ‘Em. Five people pay to see the river. Each player’s max investment in the hand will be $160, not including blinds from players that folded. That’s just over 10% of $1,500.

Marshall’s bill could radically change that scenario. Without a cap, the player with $1,500 may have to bet all their money just to see the flop or turn. For Helfert, that scenario is not in the best interest of the player.

Additionally, Helfert is worried that removing the cap may lead to players betting more money than they can afford to lose. Even with card rooms limiting bets to table stakes, some players may not be able to control themselves.

That being said, the bill doesn’t require card rooms to implement the cap lift. So, a card room could reserve a couple of tables for card games with pot limits.

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J.R. Duren

J.R. Duren has covered the gambling beats for more than a dozen states for Catena Media since 2015. His past reporting experience includes two years at the Villages Daily Sun, and he is a first-place winner at the Florida Press Club Excellence in Journalism Contest.

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