Federal Judge Rules Online Poker a Game of Skill
Get Legal Help Today
Secured with SHA-256 Encryption
UPDATED: Aug 30, 2012
It’s all about you. We want to help you make the right legal decisions.
We strive to help you make confident insurance and legal decisions. Finding trusted and reliable insurance quotes and legal advice should be easy. This doesn’t influence our content. Our opinions are our own.
Editorial Guidelines: We are a free online resource for anyone interested in learning more about legal topics and insurance. Our goal is to be an objective, third-party resource for everything legal and insurance related. We update our site regularly, and all content is reviewed by experts.
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?
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.