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Pennsylvania Judge Rules Poker is a Game of Skill, not Luck
Mon, Jan 19th, 2009 @ 12:00am
Texas Hold'em has been ruled a game of skill by Judge Thomas A. James Jr. in Columbia County Pennsylvania last Friday, which means poker is not gambling under Pennsylvania state law. It could help other cases in the U.S. arguing for the legality of poker as a game of skill, and signal the willingness of the legal system to perceive poker in a different light- one which the Poker Players Alliance (PPA) has been pushing for since they formed.
Judge James' ruling came in a case involving two defendants, Watkins and Dent, who were arrested for holding a house poker game that an undercover State Trooper attended. They faced 20 charges each. The defendants claimed poker is a game of skill and is therefore not illegal in Pennsylvania.
Judge James summarized the question at hand as: "Simply, if chance predominates, Texas Hold'em is gambling. If skill predominates, it is not gambling."
Judge James explained his rational for ruling that poker is a game of skill. He noted there are extensive poker-related books, studies, and websites describing strategies how to play to win the game. He even quoted from Mike Caro's book "Secrets of Winning Poker" which says: "the money flows from the bad players to the strong players."
The judge also noted a number of mathematical studies that link "poker and economics", including one where players received equal amounts of premier and lackluster starting hands. The study showed that "Beginning poker players rely on big hands and lucky draws. Expert poker players use their skills to minimize their losses on their bad hands and maximize their profits on their big hands."
All this evidence lead Judge James to say, "It is apparent that skill predominates over chance in Texas Hold'em poker."
PPA Executive Director John Pappas commented about the ruling to Poker News Daily, saying, "Clearly, the judge had an understanding of how poker is played. Coming to this decision, to him, was not a far leap. The decision sets an excellent bar for us in the future."
Following the judge's decision the defendant and his dealer were both discharged.
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