Texas Hold'em: skill or luck?

Feb 17, 2009 5:08 PM
by Ray Poirier | No one told these law school graduates that if they ever became judges one of their biggest chores would be to decide whether poker was a game of chance or a game of skill.

But that’s what’s been happening in recent months more and more as the popularity of poker, especially Texas Hold’em tournaments, brings the issue before the courts.

The latest case is in South Carolina where a judge has already indicated that when he issues his ruling on the arrests of more than 20 people involved in a poker tournament he plans to raise some eyebrows by judging poker to be a game of skill.

"I have determined in my mind that Texas Hold’em is a game of skill," Judge Larry Duffy announced at the close of a recent hearing.

That brought the prosecutor, Ira Grossman, to his feet, arguing, "I don’t know how your honor can find this was not a house of gambling."

The defense attorney disagreed, saying that the people involved, "simply love the game of poker. Millions of people like poker. Whey shouldn’t people who love the game of poker have a chance to get together?"

Supporting the position was world-class poker player and television commentator Mike Sexton.

"It’s the nation’s pastime," Sexton told the judge. "People like to play. They should have the right to play in their homes."

However, under cross-examination, Sexton admitted he was paid $5,000 by the National Poker Players Alliance to appear at the hearing. But, he added that "I’m doing it more for the love of the game than the fee."