A federal court has finally ruled that poker is not a game of chance after all, it is a game of skill. Jubilant advocates for the legalization and regulation of US online poker say that this 120-page ruling could help their cause in a big way. Jack Weinstein, US District Court judge, acquitted a man charged for conducting high-stakes poker games at a warehouse in Staten Island in New York.
On Tuesday, Judge Weinstein ruled that, according to a federal gambling law of 1970, the bi-weekly Texas Hold’em games run by Lawrence DiCristina cannot be called “gambling.” Although this law criminalizes roulette and games of dice, it does not state clearly that playing poker is illegal.
Weinstein wrote, “The government must demonstrate that it is more probable than not that poker is predominated by chance rather than skill. It has failed to do so. Expert poker players draw on an array of talents, including facility with numbers, knowledge of human psychology, and powers of observation and deception. Players can use these skills to win, even if chance has not dealt them the better hand.”
He also said that the New York law could have been used to prosecute DiCristina as this law calls poker as an illegal game of chance, but the local prosecutors did not charge DiCristina under state law. The defendant had made an attempt to stop his case from proceeding by getting experts to testify that poker players can bend the odds in their favor by employing skills such as deciphering poker tells and choosing their hands carefully. But the case went to trial in July and DiCristina was convicted by a jury. His legal representative then appealed against the verdict, owing to which Judge Weinstein considered the above arguments of poker being a game of skill.
Judge Weinstein’s ruling has saved DiCristina from spending 10 years of his life in prison. Poker Players’ Alliance (PPA) Executive Director John Pappas said that he has filed the case for future reference and calls it “a major victory for the game of poker and the millions of Americans who enjoy playing it.” He further said, “Judge Weinstein gave the government an opportunity to prove that poker was a game of predominant chance, but even federal prosecutors could not provide an expert of any kind that could conclude that chance predominates over skill in poker.”
Meanwhile, the office of the US attorney at Brooklyn is reviewing the court ruling.