NY District Judge Rules Poker is a Game of Skill and Not Illegal Under Illegal Gambling Business Act

Judge Jack B. Weinstein

On Tuesday, Senior United States District Judge Jack B. Weinstein stated that poker is predominated by skill rather than chance, with the skillful action of players affecting game play.

The court case involved Lawrence Dicristina, the defendant from New York who was convicted of running an illegal gambling business. His conviction was overturned by this federal court ruling which stated that poker is a game of skill and not illegal gambling under the Illegal Gambling Businesses Act (IGBA).

The Illegal Gambling Business Act criminalizes the running of an “illegal gambling business” defined as one that “(i) is a violation of the law of a State … in which it is conducted; (ii) involves five or more persons who conduct, finance, manage, supervise, direct or own all or part of such business; and (iii) has been or remains in substantially continuous operation for a period in excess of thirty days or has a gross revenue of $2,000 in any single day.”

The Poker Players Alliance (PPA) supported the Mr Dicristina in his defence by writing the principal briefs and presenting the principal oral arguments for the case in coordination with the defendant’s lawyer. Dicristina and two others allegedly ran a poker game out of a New York warehouse on Mondays and Thursdays. Players were given free food and drink by waitresses and a 5 percent “rake” for the house was collected by the dealers from each pot. Other than the games, the judge said, there was no allegation of other illegality or any connection with organized crime.

“The government must demonstrate that it is more probable than not that poker is predominated by chance rather than skill,” Weinstein wrote. “It has failed to do so.”

“Expert poker players draw on an array of talents, including facility with numbers, knowledge of human psychology, and powers of observation and deception,” he wrote. “Players can use these skills to win, even if chance has not dealt them the better hand.”

“Bluffing, raising and folding require honed skills to maximize the value of the cards dealt by Lady Luck,” Weinstein said in United States v. Dicristina, 11-CR-414.





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