SC Judge says Texas Hold 'em isn't gambling
1:00 pm
Fri October 2, 2009

SC Judge says Texas Hold 'em isn't gambling

A Circuit Court judge in South Carolina has ruled that Texas Hold 'em is not gambling. Instead, it's a game of skill and doesn't belong in the state's anti-gambling laws. However the case has a long ways to go before it changes the way the state sees gambling.

WFAE's Lisa Miller has more:

Most states say that if a game involves more skill than chance, it's not gambling and is therefore legal. But that's not the case in South Carolina. The 1802 statute that governs gambling is vague, in fact, taken literally it would prohibit any games with cards or dice.

"You're talking about a statute that could conceivably prohibit the playing of monopoly and Parcheesi and crazy eights and anything that has cards and dice and are obviously a staple of every household," says Jeff Phillips, a Greenville attorney.

He's representing five men charged with playing cards in a house of gaming. Three years ago, police had found them and nineteen others playing Texas Hold 'em in a Mount Pleasant home. Police seized nearly $6,000. Earlier this year a municipal court judge found them guilty.

Circuit Court Judge Markley Dennis reversed the decision last month and in an opinion released yesterday detailing his reasons agreed with Phillips that the gambling statute was too vague and that South Carolina should use the difference between skill and chance to determine what's gambling and what's not.

Phillips called in a professor of statistics to help prove his point that a style of poker called Texas Hold 'em depends more on skill than chance. Phillips says he knows this personally because he's a pretty good poker player himself. Five years ago, he won nearly $16,000 in the World Series of Poker.

"I was encouraged to play poker by a South Carolina state judge who told me in my early career as a lawyer that if I want to be a good trial attorney that a lot of the skills employed in poker would help me in my dealings as an attorney," says Phillips.

The Mount Pleasant Town Prosecutor says it's likely he'll appeal the case.

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