Poker game of skill, not chance, NY judge rules

Reply Tue 21 Aug, 2012 08:02 pm
The game was Texas Hold ’Em. About $300 bought a place at the table in the back room of a warehouse on Staten Island, where waitresses floated around with food and drinks and the play lasted until breakfast.
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The pot went not to the luckiest among them but to the most deft — the player who could guess his opponents’ intentions and disguise his own, make calculated decisions on when to hold and fold, and quickly decide how much to wager. That, anyhow, is how one federal judge saw it from his chambers in the Federal District Court in Brooklyn.

In a ruling that goes to the heart of what it means to play poker, Judge Jack B. Weinstein tossed out the conviction and vacated the indictment of the man who ran that gambling business. The judge’s reason: poker is more a game of skill than a game of chance, so game operators should not be prosecuted under the federal law the prohibits running an illegal gambling business.

“The most skillful professionals earn the same celestial salaries as professional ballplayers,” he wrote in the exhaustive 120-page ruling that detailed the history of poker in the United States. The decision comes as state courts across the country are grappling with whether playing poker defies the law. No federal court had ever ruled directly on whether poker constituted gambling. The United States attorney’s office, which was reviewing the decision, did not say whether it would appeal the case.

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.”

Lawrence DiCristina ran the warehouse where the games took place — that was not in dispute — taking 5 percent of each night’s pot to cover the cost of his staff and profit for himself. He was arrested last summer, charged with operating an illegal gambling business, of which he was convicted in July. He faced up to 10 years in prison.

But Mr. DiCristina’s lawyer, Kannan Sundaram, a public defender, said poker was not a game of chance and therefore not subject to the law. He called an expert witness, Randal D. Heeb, an economist, statistician and poker player in national tournaments, who testified in a special hearing about the skill involved.

Judge Weinstein put off ruling on the issue until after the trial, allowing the jury to render its verdict first.


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Reply Tue 21 Aug, 2012 08:05 pm
It takes more than luck. Signed, a perennial loser
Joe Nation
Reply Tue 21 Aug, 2012 08:06 pm
If I had only been allowed to wear my balaclava !!!!

Joe(I think they knew I had drawn that fourth seven,)Nation
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Reply Wed 22 Aug, 2012 01:59 am
It takes a knowledge of the odds--don't try to draw to an inside straight, for example. Signed, a perrenial modest winner.
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Frank Apisa
Reply Wed 22 Aug, 2012 04:35 am
@Lustig Andrei,
Glad we are making progress on this, Lustig. I hope the on-line games get back in operation for US users.

It is primarily a game of skill...rather than luck.

The popularity of Texas Hold 'em has changed the game considerably...but ever poker player has to be able to determine if the odds favor making a particular call or draw...or if the odds dictate a drop. Determining those odds can be a bitch.
Lustig Andrei
Reply Wed 22 Aug, 2012 03:34 pm
@Frank Apisa,
If I remember my history, I believe that some judge in California declared that draw poker is a game of skill, while std poker is not about 100 years ago or thereabouts. Maybe more recently than that.
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Reply Thu 23 Aug, 2012 12:03 am
It takes more than luck. Signed, a perennial loser Phil Hellmuth

Totally agree. You may be lucky few times but if you want to win more than you loose you have to have great skills.
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Reply Thu 23 Aug, 2012 11:24 am
I've played online and with live humans. I've done well online and never lost with humans. I don't know nuttin' 'bout odds. Bad at math--assuming that odds are math.

Sometimes you have to trust your instincts.

What other gambling activity have I never lost at? Horse racing? I have to be at the track. And I never bet big. Always come home with more than I left with.

Sometimes you have to trust your gut.

I think with poker (and blackjack) I'm figuring things out without realizing it. Is that possible?
Lustig Andrei
Reply Thu 23 Aug, 2012 02:52 pm
Roberta wrote:
I think with poker (and blackjack) I'm figuring things out without realizing it. Is that possible?

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