Blog
Crime in the Suites An Analysis of Current Issues in White Collar Defense
November 2, 2009

Poker as a Game of Skill

By: Ifrah Law

Whether poker is determined to be a game of chance or a game of skill has tremendous implications for defendants charged under state and federal gambling laws.  This issue was recently litigated by a group of defendants charged under state gambling laws in South Carolina.  The defendants demonstrated to the satisfaction of the trial court that poker was indeed a game of skill.  However, the trial court was not sure whether as a game of skill, poker was immune from prosecution under South Carolina law.  The trial court held that because it was unclear whether the Supreme Court would adopt what is known as the dominant factor test – it is not gaming or illegal gambling to engage in a game where skill dominates over chance  – the trial court punted and convicted the defendants (so much for the rule of lenity!).  On appeal, the Court reversed. See Chimento. In an extremely well reasoned decision, the Court held that the Supreme Court would in fact follow the dominant factor test and as a result, and given the uncontroverted testimony that poker is a game of skill, the Court reversed the convictions.