Poker is back in the state-level Supreme Courts … this time in South Carolina, with five appointed justices set to decide if playing Texas Hold’em in a private residence is a crime.
The decision, which will likely reverberate throughout the Carolina underground and beyond, will rely heavily on matters of skill and chance involved in poker, as gamecock law calls for a “dominate factor test” to determine whether or not a game violates South Carolina gambling statutes. Like we saw in Kentucky and Washington, the SC SC will just be hearing arguments tomorrow, for about 30 minutes from both sides combined, and not issuing a ruling for a few months. But when they do … well read below for what’s at stake beyond a few misdemeanor convictions.
In the meantime … we know there’s skill in poker, but how much is often debatable. Where on the continuum do you draw the lines for these different “games”?
Legality of “G-Vegas” underground in the balance
The case stems from a police raid of a Mount Pleasant “home game” in 2006, where two tables of raked low-stakes action in a private residence constituted a for-profit operation. Five arrested players fought the misdemeanor charges, saying they weren’t “gambling” … they were playing poker! They lost in municipal court, but won on appeal, with the judge ordering convictions thrown out because Texas hold’em was skill-based, he declared, and the state’s anti-gambling laws were “unconstitutionally vague and overbroad.” The state attorney general screamed balderdash — if an underground poker room soliciting players on the internet ain’t illegal gambling then what is? — which brings us to tomorrow’s testimony.
If the high court agrees poker is indeed a game of skill — and therefore violates no law — poker rooms in South Carolina could become as ubiquitous as pot shops in California and Colorado. Gotta think that won’t be lost on the justices when they consider the application of relatively old laws to a 21st-century poker world that couldn’t have been imagined when they were written.