Poker – A Game of Skill in the Courtroom


July 10, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

As the battle continues to protect the rights of poker players in the United States to enjoy the game they love, much of the controversy surrounding the game has landed in court. States continue to arrest poker players, attempting to “protect” citizens from games of chance. Increasingly, however, poker’s biggest victories have come in the courtroom, where fighting for the right to play has shown the skill of poker and those defending it.

A ruling in a Dutch court last week proved to be another win for poker when players at an organized poker game in 2006 were found guilty of gambling. Four years later, the defense attorney in the case argued, “Poker has become a different game, depending on tactics, experience and psychology.” Agreeing that poker should no longer be considered gambling, the case was dismissed against the players and another win for poker was recorded.

The South Carolina Supreme Court will soon be hearing a case that has similar implications in the US. Seventeen people there were arrested in 2006, also for a private poker game. Originally all plead guilty, but 5 changed their pleas, only to be found guilty in the municipal court.

This group was later acquitted on appeal when the appeals judged overturned their convictions, saying that Texas Hold‘em is a game of skill and playing poker in a private home does not violate the state’s gambling laws. The state Attorney General has appealed to the South Carolina Supreme Court, saying that it is a constitutional issue.

It is likely that skill and luck will be on trial again, with the state claiming the game is luck-based and the defense explaining why it is a skill. “To lump poker in with every other game in Las Vegas demonstrates a lack of knowledge about gambling,” defense attorney Jeffrey Phillips said. “The central point is that skill determines the outcome in poker.”

While each state determines its own interpretation of these laws, such rulings help to galvanize poker’s claim to being a game of skill. So far, poker’s biggest skill has been to force discussion on the topic and to win over judges in the courtroom.

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