The Poker Players Alliance (PPA) has reported an important positive U.S. decision in the “skill vs. luck” poker debate.
Apparently last Friday Pennsylvania Judge Thomas A. James Jr. of Columbia County ruled that poker’s most popular game, Texas Hold’em, is a contest where skill predominates, therefore removing it from the definition of illegal gambling in the state.
John Pappas, executive directror of the PPA, opined that Judge James’s decision sets a valuable legal precedent.
In his ruling, the judge examined the relative merits of the skill vs. chance argument, summarising the call as: “Simply, if chance predominates, Texas Hold’em is gambling. If skill predominates, it is not gambling.”
In the case of Texas Hold’em, Judge James referred to the extensive literature on winning strategies for the game, and quoted a well known poker author’s dictum that “the money flows from the bad players to the strong players.”
The judge went into considerable detail in explaining the “dominant factor tests” traditionally applied to games of skill before reaching the conclusion that, in Texas Hold ‘Em, “It is apparent that skill predominates over chance.”
Judge James was presiding over a case where one Walter Watkins was charged with running a $1-$2 NLHE game out of his garage, with no rake — and only dealer tips — taken. Watkins and his dealer were arrested and detained after an undercover Pennsylvania State Trooper took part in the game in a “sting” or entrapment operation.
Following the judge’s decision the defendant and his dealer were both discharged.
Watkins subsequently told Associated Press reporters: “It’s unfortunate we had to go through all this. We were arrested, taken out of our home. Shackled and spent a night in prison. All for playing poker.”
Peter Campana represented the defendants, while Thomas Leipold served as counsel for the State of Pennsylvania.