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Penn. judge: Poker is a skill game

19 January 2009

COLUMBIA COUNTY, Pennsylvania -— As reported by Poker News Daily: "In a ruling handed down by Pennsylvania Judge Thomas A. James Jr. in Columbia County on Friday, it was ruled that Texas Hold'em is a game of skill and therefore not gambling under state law. The ruling sets an 'excellent bar' for future poker litigation, according to Poker Players Alliance (PPA) Executive Director John Pappas.

"The basic question, according to Judge James' ruling, is whether poker is dominated by chance or skill. He commented 'Simply, if chance predominates, Texas Hold'em is gambling. If skill predominates, it is not gambling.'

"In Pennsylvania, video poker machines are not allowed because their outcomes are primarily due to chance, not skill. In the case of Texas Hold'em, however, Judge James explained that extensive literature exists that describes winning strategies to play the game. He even cited Mike Caro's 'Secrets of Winning Poker' by saying, 'the money flows from the bad players to the strong players.'

"In his ruling, Judge James explains that the 'dominant factor test' has traditionally applied to games of skill and cites multiple mathematical studies that prove it, including one linking 'poker and economics.' An included study even explained that players receive equal amounts of premier and lackluster starting hands. However, 'Beginning poker players rely on big hands and lucky draws. Expert poker players use their skills to minimize their losses on their bad hands and maximize their profits on their big hands.'

"In the end, Judge James asserts, 'It is apparent that skill predominates over chance in Texas Hold'em poker...'"

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