Poker: Is it Luck or Skill?

Poker: Is it Luck or Skill?

According to a federal judge in New York, it’s more of a game of skill, which is why a man on trial for running an illegal gambling business is off the hook. He was charged after authorities discovered his warehouse poker club, where players paid $300 for a seat at a table and he kept 5% for business overhead and profit, according to a New York Times article.

The jury found the guy guilty. He was convicted in July and looking at 10 years in prison. The judge, however, considered the defense attorney’s argument.. The attorney didn’t deny that the warehouse poker business existed or that it was run by the defendant. Instead he argued that it was not illegal under the gambling law because that law simply did not apply.

It’s not a new argument. Legal experts have debated the issue of how to classify poker in the world of gambling. Some say it’s luck, which puts it within the definition of gambling. Others, including the judge in this case, have ruled that it’s mostly a game of skill.

The defense attorney called an expert witness to testify about the skill involved in playing the game of poker. According the article, the witness was an economist, statistics expert and someone who played in national poker tournaments.

The federal judge explained that being a poker player was like being a professional ballplayer Both, I suppose, use their skills to earn income. The U.S. Attorney’s Office could appeal the judge’s decision. And the decision was just about federal law. State laws might be more prohibitive, and the poker business in this case could very well be illegal under New York law.

The supposed purpose of the law behind this case is to prevent organized crime families from heavily profiting from gambling. And it seems like shutting down private poker clubs meets this goal. I’m no Judge worthy lawyer, but I would still argue that this is nothing like being a ball player.  That is an athletic act.  You can’t take someone off the street and have them hit a homerun.

But I could play poker against the best in the world and beat them.  It’s part of the reason that you don’t see the same players winning the World Series of Poker or even in contention year after year.  There is certainly skill involved, but poker still has to do so much more with luck and chance. 

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