PA jury finds poker a game of chance


A Pennsylvania man whose chief defense was that poker is a game of skill was found guilty of illegal gambling Thursday.

Lawrence Burns, 65, was charged with twelve different illegal gambling misdemeanors in 2007 when authorities discovered he'd been running poker tournaments at two local fire halls in Westmoreland County, PA, just outside of Pittsburgh.

Burns admitted to organizing the tournaments, but argued in court it wasn't gambling because Texas Hold'em is a skill game.

Pennsylvania law defines gambling as something where a payment is made, there is the possibility of a reward and the outcome is determined by chance.

Lawyers for Mr. Burns argued that since the application of learned techniques increases your win rate in poker, it must be defined as a game of skill.

University of Denver professor Dr. Robert Hannum testified in Burns' defense claiming poker is not a game of chance referencing a computer simulation that showed skilled players winning 960 million times out of one billion over non-skilled players.

Dr. Hannum also testified in a similar case in Colorado where the defendant was acquitted.

His testimony was subsequently stricken by a higher court and that decision is currently being appealed in the Colorado Supreme Court.

Susquehanna University professor Matthew Rousu also testified in the Burns trial that poker is a game of skill.

After two hours of deliberation, a 12-person jury disagreed, finding Burns guilty on all counts Thursday.

The local district attorney said he would not seek jail time and Burns is planning to appeal.

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