Poker “Predominantly a Game of Chance” Says Pennsylvania Judge

by , Apr 3, 2010 | 9:49 am

As Stephen A. Murphy over at CardPlayer suggests, this news perhaps comes as a bit of a head-scratcher. But then again, poker players have come to expect high variance when it comes to state courts’ attempts to decide the issue of whether poker is a game of skill or chance.

Reversing a ruling from early last year, a Pennsylvania appeals court this week ruled that poker was more chance-based than skill-based, thus making it a form of “unlawful gambling” according to the state’s predominance test. The court voted 2-1, with Judge Robert Freedberg authoring the opinion. “While the outcome of poker may be dependent on skill to some degree,” wrote Freedburg, “it is predominantly a game of chance.”

The ruling thus goes against the January 2009 decision in the case concerning a private home game of $1/$2 no-limit hold’em. In that one, Judge Thomas James explained that “in conjunction with analyzing skill versus chance… it is apparent that skill predominates over chance in Texas Hold’em poker.”

The Poker Players Alliance chimed in to express “disappointment” in the ruling. The defendants’ lawyer has suggested the case will likely be headed to the state’s Supreme Court.

Read more about the Judge Freedberg’s decision over at CardPlayer.com.


  • DanM

    I’m forgetting the details about this case. was it really a “private home game” we are talking about, or was it a for-profit poker room?

  • http://hardboiledpoker.blogspot.com/ Short-Stacked Shamus

    Not quite a “private home game,” I guess, but apparently not exactly a “for-profit poker room” either. Tables set up in rented garage, no rake, dealer tipping encouraged (not required).

  • John Smith

    Great article, I will for sure be back to read more that you write.

  • DanM

    you can always find more Short-Stacked Shamus at http://hardboiledpoker.com.