The "is poker a game of skill or chance?" debate scored another victory today, albeit of the somewhat Pyrrhic type. A judge in South Carolina ruled unequivocally that poker is a game of skill. Unfortunately for the five men who were before him on charges of illegal gambling, that determination was not enough to acquit them of the charges.
Citing testimony from poker pro Mike Sexton and University of Denver Professor of Statistics Robert Hannum, Judge Lawrence Duffy found the evidence overwhelming that poker was a game of skill. However, that was not dispositive in this case.
Referencing the public policy of the state of South Carolina to suppress gambling "in all forms" the judge noted that the statute under which they were charged prohibits the playing of "any game with cards or dice." There was nothing in the statute to counter the clear, all-encompassing language.
In other states, a "Dominant Factor" test is used under which the determination of whether an activity is considered illegal gambling is based on whether the dominant factor in the outcome is luck or skill. The judge in this case ruled that South Carolina does not use the "Dominant Factor" test and that he could not consider the skill factor of poker in his decision.
Accordingly, the judge found the five defendants guilty of violating South Carolina statue 16-19-40 and ordered them to pay the required fine.
According to a press release by the Poker Players Alliance, the defendants will appeal the case, hoping to get a ruling from a higher court that the "Dominant Factor" test (also referred to as the predominance test) should be used.