Poker, Law are Both Skill Games

PA attorney convinces court that Texas Hold’em is not “unlawful gambling”

by , Jan 21, 2009 | 8:21 am

Pete Campana, esq.

We clearly have our first finalist for Best Poker Lawyers ’09: Pete Campana of Williamsport, PA, successfully defended two clients caught up in an undercover police investigation into a $1/$2 NL game held in a garage (a dealer and a garage operator) on the grounds that they couldn’t have been engaged in any sort of gambling under Pennsylvania law — because poker is a game of skill.

Click here to read the complete ruling. (via PPA-premium.)

But in a nutshell, what Campana convinced successfully convinced the courts:

Commonwealth and Defendant both agree the controlling issue is whether Texas Hold’em poker is “unlawful gambling” under the Crimes Code.

… the controlling sub-issue is whether Texas Hold’em is a game of skill or chance, or, if both, does skill trump chance or vice-versa. Simply, if chance predominates, Texas Hold’em is gambling. If skill predominated, it is not gambling.

… Pennsylvania courts have not specifically addressed the issue … Our courts have found that poker is gambling within the context of the Liquor Code.

… With the advent of internet poker and tournament poker has come a spate of very intrusive law review analyses of gambling law and poker.

… Using the predominance test, in conjunction with analyzing skill versus chance using the four prong dominant factor test, it is apparent that skill predominates over chance in Texas Hold’em poker.

… Skill comes with varying degrees of competence, but that is the case with any competition involving skill.

The academic studies and experts generally agree that a player must be skillful to be successful at poker. At the outset, chance is equally distributed among the players. But the outcome is eventually determined by skill. Successful players must possess intellectual and psychological skills. They must know the rules and the mathematical odds. The must know how to read their opponents “tells” and styles. They must know when to hold and fold and raise. They must know how to manage their money.

This court finds that Texas Hold’em poker is a game where skill predominates over chance. Thus, it is not “unlawful gambling” under the Pennsylvania Crimes Code.

2 Comments to “Poker, Law are Both Skill Games ”

  1. Marvin C

    Back in the early 90s, the Missouri Supreme Court declared poker and blackjack games of skill.

    When casinos opened in Missouri, no one read the constitution. It outlawed games of chance. The Ill. casinos financed a lawsuit to close the Missouri casinos. For several years, until the the Constitution was ammended, the only games allowed in the Missouri casinos were live blackjack and live poker and poker and blackjack machines.

    For poker players it was a big plus since the casinos didn’t originally intend to have poker rooms. This was a few years before the poker boom, which I fear is going south.

  2. DanM

    >>the poker boom, which I fear is going south.<< you mean "has gone", right? The poker BOOM has been gone for a while.