Online poker industry observers and legal experts are currently watching a key case play out in a South Carolina court, where Municipal Judge Larry Duffy has been hearing expert argument on the skill vs. chance poker issue, critical in establishing whether the defendants in the case committed an offence against state law.
So far the case appears to be going well for the five defendants, with the judge indicating prior to handing down a formal decision that he was leaning toward the skill side of the argument, which would remove the illegality element in the case and potentially short-circuit the prosecution's argument. If the judge rules in favour of the defendants it will be the third American decision in different states recently accepting that skill is a more dominant element in winning a Texas Hold ‘Em game than luck.
The case before the judge had its genesis three years ago when police busted some twenty gamblers after raiding a South Carolina premises on grounds that games of chance prohibited by law were taking place . The majority of those arrested paid minor fines, but five defendants insisted on their right to a trial where the skill vs. chance argument could be more fully explored.
State prosecutor Ira Grossman has tried to sidetrack the skill vs. chance issue by claiming that those arrested had been frequenting premises that he argues fall within the definition of a gambling house in terms of state statutes.
Professional Poker player and WSOP commentator Mike Sexton has been called to give expert evidence, and he has testified that skill is the dominant factor, being composed of elements such as mathematical skills, ability to assess the state of play and reactions of opponents and how to gain best advantage from the rules of the game.
"It's the nation's pastime," Sexton told the judge. "People like to play. They should have the right to play in their homes."
The prosecution made an attempt to neutralise Sexton's evidence by cross examining him on a $5 000 appearance fee he had been paid by the Poker Players Alliance, a pressure group advocating the legalization of poker, but Sexton denied the fee was his motivation, stating: "I'm doing it more for the love of the game than the fee