Judge Rules Poker Is Game of Skill, Not Chance

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Recently, a South Carolina judge ruled that poker is a game of skill and not a game of chance.  The issue was before him because state police — apparently with little else to do — have been raiding private poker games, based on this extremely well-written 1802 law:

If any person shall play at any tavern, inn, store for the retailing of spirituous liquors or in any house used as a place of gaming . . . at (a) any game with cards or dice, (b) any gaming table . . . (c) any roley-poley table, (d) rouge et noir, (e) any faro bank (f) any other table or bank of the same or the like kind . . . or (g) any machine or device licensed pursuant to Section 12-21-2720 and used for gambling purposes, except the games of billiards, bowls, backgammon, chess, draughts, or whist when there is no betting on any such game of billiards, bowls, backgammon, chess, draughts, or whist or shall bet on the sides or hands of such as do game, upon being convicted thereof, before any magistrate, shall be imprisoned for a period of not over thirty days or fined not over one hundred dollars, and every person so keeping such tavern, inn, retail store, public place, or house used as a place for gaming or such other house shall, upon being convicted thereof, upon indictment, be imprisoned for a period not exceeding twelve months and forfeit a sum not exceeding two thousand dollars, for each and every offense.

S.C. Code of Laws sec. 16-19-40.  Thus are state citizens defended against the evils of cards, dice, and most terrible of all, the roley-poley table.

In the case before Judge Larry Duffy, five men were on trial for running a "gaming house" in which people were "playing at cards."  The state attorney general has taken the position that the law only applies if chance plays a larger role in the "gaming" than skill does, which is why the judge was considering this issue.  But that distinction doesn't appear in the statute – playing "any game with cards or dice" in your house is technically a violation.  (Playing Monopoly in South Carolina?  Go directly to jail.)  So, although the judge found the evidence "overwhelming" that Texas hold'em is a game of skill (establishing that he's never seen me play it), he still found the defendants guilty.

In its previous session, the state legislature considered a bill that would have amended 16-19-40 to legalize in-home poker, "including, but not limited to, games commonly referred to as five-card draw, Texas hold'em, and seven card stud, and which are played for the sole purpose of recreational activity."  HB 3201 (2007-08 session).  This would not have provided any relief for roley-poley players, but the bill did not pass anyway.

Surprisingly, coverage at Poker News Daily was strongly in favor of the defendants.

Link: AP via FindLaw.com
Link: AP via Forbes.com