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SC judge rules Texas Hold 'em poker is skill

Last Thursday, South Carolina municipal judge Larry Duffy declared Texas hold ‘em a game of skill despite an 1802 state law that says any game with cards or dice illegal.

But State Attorney General Henry McMaster says a looser, more modern interpretation of the law has been adopted that only concentrates on games with a higher rate of chance and luck—where poker once was categorized.

Duffy commented that the evidence he brought forward for the popular form of poker being a skill game was "overwhelming". But he didn’t have enough support from higher courts or state lawmakers.

As a result, McMaster's office took the hit with cool calculation, saying the ruling was insignificant, but if it’s appealed, the SC Supreme Court may have to declare, in black and white, if Texas hold 'em is legal in the state. At a local level, harmless home games would be immune from police raids that have beleaguered this area recently. Case in point was a game back in 2006 prosecutors said went beyond a fun game, saying that it was a highly organized for-profit game.

"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," commented John Pappas, executive director of the Poker Players Association.

Regardless of the positive momentum for poker players, Duffy's ruling doesn’t change the fate of five of the 20 people arrested in that 2006 raid, who chose not to pay fines to settle their individual cases.

"If an essential element of the criminal charge is not defined, and the court doesn't even know what it is, how can my clients expect to know whether or not they are in violation of the law?" asked Greenville attorney Jeff Phillips, who is in the planning stages plans of appealing to a circuit court.

On the other hand, town prosecutor Ira Grossman defended parts of the ruling, but said that the skill vs. chance finding "has no relevance as it pertains to the law."
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