We may not know when to hold ‘em or when to fold ‘em when playing poker, but a South Carolina judge laid all his cards on the table when he ruled in favor of poker being a game of skill rather than a game of luck or chance.
In a case that might to be shuffled from court to court, and has more faces than a deck of 52 cards, the ruling by Mount Pleasant Municipal Judge Larry Duffy did not help the 20 people who were arrested in a raid in 2006, and have yet to pay their fines.
What Duffy left open for further speculation was whether his “skill” over “chance” ruling matters in the case, because under a South Carolina law passed in 1802, literally read, makes any card or dice game illegal. That includes board games, such a Sorry and Monopoly.
Duffy said there is “overwhelming” evidence that poker is a game of skill, and higher state courts hadn’t dealt out enough guidance on the issue for him to know if his ruling makes a difference according to state law.
Adopting a looser interpretation of the law, State Attorney General Henry McMaster, said his office considers games more reliant on chance than on a player’s skill as illegal gambling, and that includes the popular poker game Texas Hold ’em, the game in question in this case.
McMaster’s office called Duffy’s ruling “insignificant,” and said it may eventually have to go to the South Carolina Supreme Court to decide whether Texas Hold ‘em is legal or not.
"It's becoming quite clear the legal community agrees that this great American pastime is a game of predominant skill, not luck, and should not be considered gambling under the law," said John Pappas, executive director of the Poker Players Association.
The Poker Player Association, based in Washington, D.C., estimates that 55 million Americans play some form of poker, and they are watching the case closely.
Under a separate ruling, Duffy found the 20 defendants in the case guilty of operating a gambling house.
All bets are out on how, if and when the state’s Supremes will put their cards on the table and rule whether poker is a game of chance or skill.