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Top Swedish judges to decide Poker Skill Or Luck
Posted 2/28/11 : A Swedish police raid on a live poker tournament in Grebbestad three years ago resurfaced in the country's Högsta Domstolen (Supreme Court) this week as judges wrestled with the perennial question: is poker a game predominantly of skill, or one of chance?
The court is reviewing the case of four men convicted of arranging an illegal poker tournament in 2007, in which the multi-million-kronor poker tournament, involving 700 entrants, was raided in a town in western Sweden, reports the English language Swedish newspaper The Local.se.
In April 2008, the Uddevala District Court sentenced two of the men to six months and eight months in jail, respectively, whilst two others were fined the equivalent of 80 days pay.
Just over a year later, the Court of Appeal for Western Sweden reduced the charges and sentences for all four men, reasoning that the game of Texas Hold 'em was one where skill played a significant role rather than chance alone. The decision to overturn the original sentence led to the case being reviewed by the Supreme Court this week.
The duration of the tournament was a significant factor in the court's decision, reports The Local, noting that legal argument had stressed that over the course of several days a player's skill and judgement was generally considered to be more important that the cards dealt.
Some impressive technical arguments are being considered by the judges, who were given a briefing on poker playing by an experienced poker expert using audio visual aids.
The expert put forward the proposition that skill is a critical element in the game, and that a combination of talents are usually demonstrated in successful players, who often develop their skills over time. And it was usually successful players who consistently did well in tournaments, he opined.
"Courage, patience, experience, mathematical and psychological knowledge are some important characteristics," said the witness, who added that an ability to predict an opponent’s next move or reaction was important.
More expert testimony from Erik Broman, a doctor of mathematics from Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, was also considered. He noted that Texas Hold'em - the game offered in the Grebbestad tournament - epitomised a game built on skill.
Random chance only comes into play when the first card is dealt, claimed Broman. "After the first card, skill is what matters. It's about how one reacts in different situations, bets, and calls," he said.
He went on to explain that talented players employ something akin to the principle of moments. "A little advantage in the start of the game can lead to greater dividends in the end," he said, adding that the chances of winning money in poker without having some knowledge of the game are non-existent.
Broman summed up his view by saying: "A talented player has a greater chance of winning than a less talented player."
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