Skill or chance - North Carolina revisits poker issue

Howard Fierman, a businessman in Durham, N.C., is challenging a ruling made by a Durham judge that classifies poker as a game of chance and therefore illegal according to state law. The case is now in front of the state Court of Appeals.

Games of chance where betting is involved are currently illegal in North Carolina. If Fierman succeeds in his bid to have poker declared a game of skill, it would be legal, and he could open a poker parlor in Durham.

Fierman's attorney, Whit Powell, gave media the example that if he played a game of poker with a bunch of experts, he would lose. Not because they're luckier than him but because they're more skilled at the game.

The issue came up last May when the Joker Club, of which Fierman is a member, sued the Durham district attorney after he said poker was illegal, blocking the opening of a local poker parlor. The Superior Court judge ruled in favor of the district attorney, and the case has now made its way to the Court of Appeals.

On Wednesday it came up for oral argument in front of the three-judge panel that will decide the case. Judges Ann Marie Calabria, Martha Geer, and Barbara Jackson will preside over the case and could take months to give a ruling. Even then the issue may not be decided because it could end up in the State Supreme Court.

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