18th of January 2009 Author: Glo Wood
Texas Hold 'Em gains a legal advantage in Pennsylvania
The Poker Players Alliance 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
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
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
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.
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