A New York judge has ruled that poker is not a game of chance, but one of skill – much as many poker players and organisations have said for some years. Currently, those who are accused of running ‘illegal gambling businesses’ often risk jail time if they are unlicensed. However, this ruling could indicate that this may be about to change.
Well-respected senior judge, Jack B. Weinstein, has ruled that the accused, Lawrence DiCristina, is not guilty, after he was charged with operating an illegal gambling business in the back room of a warehouse on Staten Island. Although he did run the business, the defendant argued that the nature of poker meant he should not be prosecuted under the federal gambling laws. This is due to the element of skill which many players and other experts claim is involved in winning poker – setting this game aside from other types of gambling which rely, often entirely, on chance.
Studies of poker have suggested that, in order for a player to win, they will need to have a good numerical understanding, an aptitude for human psychology, and skills in being both observant and deceptive – rather than simply being dealt a high-scoring hand. This, then, would mean that unlicensed game operators should not be prosecuted, as the current federal law does not apply to them.
This is a standpoint which has been supported by The Poker Players’ Alliance for some time. However, the recent ruling went into considerable depth and could now set a precedent for future decisions when it comes to poker. Although this is in no way guaranteed, the poker community are already celebrating what they see to be a significant victory in the battle for recognition for their sport.