Virginians to decide if poker is game of skill or luck

Mar 11, 2013 6:38 PM

Virginians were left to make their own decisions on whether poker is a game of skill or luck when the state’s high court refused to rule in a case brought against a poker tournament operator.

The case involved Charles P. Daniels, proprietor of the Poker Palace in Portsmouth, Virginia, who shut down his charitable Texas Hold ‘Em tournaments when threatened with prosecution. His view was that since the outcome of a poker hand is determined by skill, not luck, it was not illegal in Virginia.

When Atty. Gen. Earle Mobley threatened prosecution, Daniels took the matter to court, seeking a legal settlement in the matter.

As writer Larry O’Dell described in his Associated Press report, Portsmouth Circuit Judge Thomas Shadrick heard testimony from math experts and from Greg Raymer, who wears a championship bracelet form the World Series of Poker. Shadrick then ruled that Virginia’s anti-gambling stature does cover Texas Hold ‘Em because “the outcome of any one hand is uncertain” making it a game of chance.

Daniels appealed that ruling to the state supreme court.

Rather than rule on whether poker is skill or luck, the state’s top jurists ruled that Shadrick had no business even entertaining the case, saying he did not have the authority to consider the issue because no one was charged with a crime.

The threat of prosecution, the judges ruled, was not enough to permit Shadrick to consider the matter.

Said one jurist: “Declaratory judgment actions are not ordinarily available to collaterally impede threatened criminal prosecutions.”

Thus, Daniels and his fellow Virginians must await prosecution before the legal fraternity can finally decide whether poker is skill or luck.

Ray Poirier is the longtime executive editor at GamingToday.

Contact Ray at [email protected].

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