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Federal Judge Rules Poker A Game Of Skill Not Chance
US District Court Judge Jack B. Weinstein's ruling that tosses out the conviction and indictment of Lawrence Dicristina, a New York resident who was recently convicted of running an illegal gambling business for operating a live poker game. The judge’s ruling states poker is more of a skill game than a game of chance, so operators of these games should not breaking federal law Which prohibits operating an illegal gambling business.
He said "Most skillful poker professionals earn the same celestial salaries as professional ballplayers.” In the 120-page ruling he detailed the history of poker in the United States. It's a big decision becuase no federal court has ruled directly on whether poker was gambling or a game of skill. In conjunction with the Justice Department's opinion last November that The Wire Act does not apply to poker, this decision backs up that there is no federal law that makes poker illegal.
The opinion included the following statement: "Contrary to the government's argument, chance (as compared to skill) has traditionally been thought to be a defining element of gambling and is included in dictionary, common law, and other federal statutory definitions of it. The influence of skill on the outcome of poker games is far greater than that on the outcomes of the games enumerated in the IGBA's illustrations of gambling. While a gambler with an encyclopedic knowledge of sports may perform better than others when wagering on the outcome of sporting events, unlike in poker, his skill does not influence game play. A sports bettor is better able to pick a winning team, but cannot make them win.
"In poker, by contrast, increased proficiency boosts a player's chance of winning and affects the outcome of individual hands as well as a series of hands. Expert poker players draw on an array of talents, including facility with numbers, knowledge of human psychology, and powers of observation and deception. Players can use these skills to win even if chance has not dealt them the better hand. And as the defendant's evidence demonstrates, these abilities permit the best poker players to prevail over the less-skilled players over a series of hands."
The Poker Player’s Alliance, an organization that works to decriminalize poker and that filed an amicus brief in the case, released a statement lauding the decision.
“As we worked for years defending players against vague gambling laws, we have patiently waited for the right opportunity to raise the issue in federal court,” John Pappas, the executive director of the organization, said in a statement. “Today’s federal court ruling is a major victory for the game of poker and the millions of Americans who enjoy playing it.”
With many states deciding whether or not to allow online poker and gambling in their state, this ruling may be what's needed to put them over the hump.