Pretty much as anticipated, South Carolina Judge Lawrence Duffy Jnr this week ruled that poker is "overwhelmingly" a game of skill and not chance, adding a third state precedent in as many months to the learned judgements supporting the concept of skill rather than chance in the game.
Unfortunately for the feisty five defendants who took this matter all the way instead of paying a fine like the other citizens arrested in a police raid, the news wasn't as positive. The judge found sufficient evidence to suggest that the alternative charges of running a gambling house held up, and convicted the men of that offence, imposing fines.
"While I am disappointed that the judge found my clients guilty by holding them to a standard that is not defined by the law, there are many positive elements that we can take from this opinion as we prepare for the appeal," said Jeff Phillips, the lead attorney for the five defendants.
"Our solid legal arguments were superbly supported by the expert testimony arranged by the Poker Players Alliance. The testimony of Mike Sexton and Professor Robert Hannum was invaluable and helped explain the skillful essence of poker to the court. We are grateful for their involvement in this case."
In a statement following the case, the PPA applauded the Court's findings that poker is a game of skill, not chance. "Though disappointed with the Court's initial conclusion that the defendants had committed a crime, PPA expects to prevail on further review," the statement said.
"We are humbled by Judge Duffy's thoughtful decision and applaud the effort put forth by the legal team defending these poker players," said John Pappas, executive director of the PPA. "The positive language in this ruling comes on the heels of other key legal victories for the rights of poker players in Kentucky, Colorado, and Pennsylvania.
"It's becoming quite clear the legal community agrees that this great American pastime is a game of predominant skill, not luck, and should not be considered gambling under the law."
The defendants were charged with playing cards in a "house used as a place of gaming" and under South Carolina law, the term "gaming" means "gambling." The PPA argued that the Court should adopt the rulings of other courts that gambling refers to a game in which the outcome is determined predominantly by chance, not by skill.
The game of poker is predominantly about making correct decisions rather than just benefiting from mere chance, which means it shouldn't be considered illegal gambling, the statement emphasises.
The PPA said it plans to work with the defendants to appeal the case.