Poker Deemed Game Of Skill

Published on: January 19, 2009 

It's official – at least in Pennsylvania – that poker is a game of skill.  According to a judge in Pennsylvania, the many different variations of the game of poker have been deemed 'a game of skill', and because of that ruling it does not meet the definition of gambling based on statutes of the state of Pennsylvania.  Judge Thomas James, the judge who presided over a court case in the state that involved a bust of a friendly house game of 1-2 No Limit Texas Hold'Em poker, made the decision after reviewing all of the case’s facts and the statutes of the state.

James agreed that poker holds an element of chance in the game, but he went ahead and studied the many different reports regarding poker and how it is played.  He determined based on the studies that good poker players are going to pull ahead of bad players and he stated that "... money flows from the bad players to the strong players."

John Pappas, who is the Executive Director of the Poker Players Alliance, an advocate for legalizing poker both live and online, stated in the Poker News Daily that James established an excellent precedent for future court cases thanks to his diligent work in researching how the statutes were worded.  He also stated that his organization would seek to get the same ruling in other poker litigation states that occur around the United States with the Pennsylvania case as an example.

The defendants in the Pennsylvania case – a gentleman and his girlfriend – were the hosts of the house game.  They did not take a rake from the other players and the girlfriend acted as the dealer.  She did receive tips, as did the host.  Most law enforcement agencies in the United States usually do not mess with games in which the house does not take a profit of the winnings, turning a blind eye to them as most of them could be considered friendly wagers between friends.  However, the state of Pennsylvania has been known for their 'zero tolerance' policy when it comes to any form of gambling other than state offered games.

Roger Ellison, a Texas resident and casual poker player, commented about the case, "It's great that the judge had common sense, and decided that what everyone already knew was the truth. But do I have to get handcuffed, printed, go to jail and spend a fortune on lawyers to get the right to be left alone in my house? Doesn't seem fair."

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