Pennsylvania judge rules poker a skill game

The Poker Players Alliance is reporting that a Pennsylvania judge ruled poker a game of skill in a court hearing on Friday.

The case in question was that of Walter Watkins, who ran a small No-Limit Hold'em game out of his garage. No rake was taken, according to the PPA, but players were encouraged to tip their dealers. One of the dealers, Diane Dent, was also identified in the case as Watkins' girlfriend. The pair was facing 20 charges each.

In the end Judge Thomas A. James Jr. stated simply that if chance was the dominant factor in No-Limit Hold'em then the game should be considered gambling, but if the majority of the game is skill, then it is not gambling.

James Jr. went on to cite numerous poker strategy resources like Mike Caro's Secrets of Winning Poker, Explaining Winning Poker: A Data Mining Approach and various Web sites, which seemed to suggest that skill plays a huge part in the popular card game. At one James Jr. even quoted Secrets of Winning Poker, saying "... the money flows from the bad players to the good players."

Both Watkins and Dent were cleared of all charges as a result of the ruling.

"It's unfortunate we had to go through all of this," Watkins said to the Associated Press. "We were arrested, taken out of our home, shackled and spent a night in prison. All for playing poker."

Many in the poker industry, including PPA Executive Director John Pappas, see the ruling as a positive step toward legalizing online poker.

Although the case was relatively minor, it represented one of the first occasions where poker has been decreed a game of skill by the judiciary branch of the U.S. government.

To learn more about the case check out http://pokerplayersassociation.com.