The court battle between the Israeli Poker Federation and the police continued before Justice Edmond Levy in Tel Aviv Monday. Despite having signed off on applications to hold poker tournaments in previous years, the police have this year decided that the game is prohibited and refused to sign a permit.
That left the IPF in a quandary and under pressure, with the tournament due to start next Sunday, and it appealed to the courts for guidance.
However, the Jerusalem Post reports that such a decision has not yet been handed down, although the judge has opined that there are exceptions to the rules.
According to the Penal Law, there is an "exception" article which allows betting, lottery and "forbidden games" to be played on condition that they meet three criteria included in Article 230. These criteria are that:
* the game be restricted to a specific circle of people,
* that it not go beyond amusement or entertainment, and
* that it not be held in venue where forbidden games were played.
IPF lawyers have contested the police's "prohibited game" classification as well, raising the contentious skill vs. chance argument. The Penal Law defines a "prohibited game" as one in which "a person may win money, valuable consideration or a benefit according to the results of the game, those results depending more on chance than on understanding or ability."
However, IPF legal representatives pointed out, "….the game is substantially different from gambling games such as bingo, whose results are determined solely by luck. In Texas Hold'em as played by Israel Poker Federation rules, the player who demonstrates expertise, knowledge, understanding, skill, integration, timing and strategic thinking will win."
The federation denies that poker is primarily a game of luck and filed, along with the petition, an opinion by Prof. Ehud Lehrer, head of the statistics department at Tel Aviv University, who supported that contention.
The tournament does not involve gambling; anyone wishing to participate pays an entrance fee of NIS 1 350. Seventy-five percent of the fee is set aside for prize money, and no other money changes hands during the tournament. The format is a round-robin tournament, with the player winning the most games coming in first and receiving 20 percent of the prize money. The rest is shared by the next 59 players to finish.
It looks as if the IPF will be leaning heavily on the judicial opinion that there is nothing stopping it from holding the tournament as long as it sticks to the conditions outlined in the exceptions, and that it does not need a police permit to do so.