Federal Judge Rules Online Poker a Game of Skill

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Aug 30, 2012

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It’s the age old argument, the one you should never bring up at Thanksgiving gatherings along with politics and religion. Is poker a game of chance or a game of skill? Is it lady luck that decides who will win and who will lose, or is it the most hardened, most experienced poker faces that decide their own fate? Online Poker

While largely a philosophical question representing humanity’s struggle between free will and fate, you might be surprised to know that this is also a question of legal consequence. In addition to making decisions involving money, guilt, innocence, liability and fairness, some unlucky judges have also been tasked with the job of deciding whether or not poker is a game of chance or of skill. And wouldn’t you know it, according to the Washington Post, state courts are split on the answer. If you’re an online poker fan or proprietor, though, you’ll be happy to know that as of August 21st, there is one more judge on your side. Judge Jack Weinstein, a federal judge in Brooklyn, New York, has ruled that online poker is, indeed, a game of skill. As such, it is not “gambling” and therefore does not violate federal law under the circumstances presented in the case, United States of America vs. Lawrence Dicristina.

In tossing out a jury conviction of a man who was accused of running an illegal poker club, Judge Weinstein based his decision on studies, produced by a defense expert, that analyzed millions of online poker games and found that skilled players, by and large, defeat unskilled players both in the virtual and real worlds.

While state judges have had to grapple with this philosophical dilemma for years, this is the first such ruling on this most contentious question in the federal court system and online poker enthusiasts and business owners are hoping that this is a trend. For now, however, this ruling should have little impact on the enforcement of federal laws banning poker games operated by organized crime and state laws that already ban such activities.

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