Colorado Supreme Court Could Decide Skill vs. Luck Issue

by , Aug 12, 2009 | 9:38 am

The defendant, Kevin Raley, has already been found not-guilty … but the state’s appeal succeeded in getting the testimony of Robert Hannum, Professor of Statistics at the University of Denver, thrown out on the grounds that Colorado law had already put poker in its gambling place. So now Raley is moving forward, even though he’s already — and still — in the clear.


Poker Players Alliance Supports Appeal to Colorado Supreme Court

Washington, DC (August 12, 2009) –The Poker Players Alliance (PPA), the leading poker grassroots advocacy group with more than one million members nationwide and more than 13,000 in Colorado, today expressed its support for efforts to appeal a ruling in state intermediate court that poker is predominately a game of chance as part of Colorado v. Kevin Raley.

The defendant, Kevin Raley, will file a petition in Colorado Supreme Court requesting an appeal of the intermediate court’s ruling that poker is gambling under Colorado law.

“The PPA is going to do everything in its power to support Mr. Raley’s efforts in order to protect PPA members and all poker players in the state of Colorado,” said Gary Reed, PPA’s Colorado State Director. “I am especially alarmed because this ruling ignores the abundance of research that proves poker is a game of skill and confuses rather than clarifies the matter for law enforcement that may use their scarce resources to raid and arrest poker players instead of investigating real unlawful activity in the state.”

In the original case, the county court allowed the jury to hear expert testimony by Professor Robert Hannum, Professor of Statistics at the University of Denver, that poker is a game of skill. Based on this testimony, and other evidence presented, the jury found Kevin Raley not guilty of illegal gambling. The Weld County District Attorney appealed that ruling, claiming that the testimony of Professor Hannum should have not been allowed because Colorado courts have already concluded that, as a matter of law, poker is gambling. Unfortunately, the district court overruled the trial judge’s determination to allow Professor Hannum to testify. The district court’s decision does not overturn the jury’s “not guilty” verdict, but it does put the future of poker in Colorado in legal limbo.

“Given the Weld County District Court judge’s ruling that poker is gambling because of the small element of chance in the dealing of cards, one could easily presume that any game that depends even a little on chance – from Monopoly to Yahtzee to Candy Land – is gambling and therefore illegal in the state of Colorado,” said John Pappas, executive director of the PPA. “We clearly think this is the wrong interpretation of the law, especially in regard to poker, and the PPA is committed to helping demonstrate to the Colorado Supreme Court the broad academic research that exists showing that poker is indeed a game of skill.”

PPA has been involved in similar cases across the country, such as South Carolina, Kansas and Pennsylvania, where the question of skill versus chance is being reassessed in the courts in order to clarify existing law.

“The choice to petition the Colorado Supreme Court is about more than me or my friends, it’s about all poker players’ opportunity to ensure that current Colorado law recognizes that poker is a game of skill and is based on much more than the luck of the draw. So much has changed regarding poker and how the game is perceived publicly, it is disheartening to see this great game treated as a crime because of a misapplication of the law,” said Kevin Raley.

3 Comments to “Colorado Supreme Court Could Decide Skill vs. Luck Issue”

  1. pinkerton

    Just to stimulate conversation and not negate the validity of the overall argument, Candy Land does not belong in the conversation of games that depend even a little on luck, it’s entirely luck.

    Yahtzee and Monopoly involve decisions, whether to buy a property, if one should put down 66656 in four of a kind or the 6’s row in order to make the top section bonus. These may seem like trivial decisions, but making the wrong decision could cost you the game. Theoretically there could be some world class yahtzee players or a Monopoly team that travels the underground circuit.

    My suggestion for team names:
    Yahtzee: Yahtzee Nazis
    Monopoly: Free Parking, Community Chest, You Won a Beauty Pageant

    The bottom line is there is no decision to make in Candy Land other than choosing a piece color. Apparently someone agrees with me =):

    Although I think it could be argued that the point they make on Battleship isn’t exactly accurate, it’s not a total blind guess if you figure out what size ships they have left and whether they can fit into the space in which you’re guessing… *shrug*…

  2. edA-qa mort-ora-y

    The division between games of luck and games of skill is not clear, nor will it ever be clear. There are some games at both ends of the scale, pure luck, or pure skill, but generally those games lack appeal. Either they are totally chaotic, or totally predictable.

    Now in the middle I’ve seen a lot of games, particularly in mass market board games, where luck plays a factor, but there are also a great deal of decisions to be made. Quite often however these games are manufactured to not let somebody fall too far behind. This usually means tempering good players with a lot of luck based decisions. That is, there are games in which luck is the predominant factor but it is masked behind skill-like decisions.

    I think people might be trying to push this argument on poker. The, “you guys just think its skill argument”.

    But let’s face it. When it comes right down to it governments aren’t opposed to gambling, they are simply opposed to gambling in which they don’t take the largest rake. Consider that almost all lotteries are government sponsored and are pure luck. So this “game of chance” label is just utter misdirection.

  3. Vinny B.

    Poker is a game of luck and skill. As I guy who has played for 20 years, I know that. As much as we like to think it is pure skill, it just isn’t.