The Virginia Supreme Court has decided to hear a case arguing poker as a game of skill after a Virginia poker room operator’s argument was dismissed by a circuit court judge who ruled that skill was involved in poker, but the outcome of poker hands is dependent more upon chance.
Charles Daniels ran a poker hall in Portsmouth for a number of years in the mid-2000s and donated a good portion of his proceeds to charities until the Poker Palace and several other rooms were shut down by Portsmouth Commonwealth Attorney Earle Mobley in 2010 for illegal gambling. Daniels filed suit claiming that poker is a game of skill and not gambling as defined by Virginia law which recognizes gambling as wagering on an outcome that is “uncertain or a matter of chance.”
Daniels enlisted the aid of the Poker Players Alliance (PPA) and Greg “FossilMan” Raymer, the World Series of Poker Main Event champion in 2004. Raymer, a renowned patent attorney who found professional poker more to his liking, provided the court with a 15-minute demonstration emphasizing a successful player’s actions involved in increasing his chances of winning. Chief among these are determining various odds instantaneously, reading body language of other players and hiding or subduing your own, and predicting the strategy of opponents to anticipate future moves.
Judge Thomas Shadrick was not fully swayed, ruling that skill does plays a role, but that chance is more predominant. A recent federal judge’s ruling in a New York courtroom that found poker is predominantly a game of skill–U.S. v. DiCristina–may bolster Daniel’s chances before the Virginia Supreme Court. However, the ruling in DiCristina is not binding in Daniels’ case and may face an appeal of its own.
Daniels will again be fortified by PPA attorneys and will argue two specific points before Virginia’s highest court–that Virginia’s law is unconstitutionally vague and not enforceable, and that skill overrides the element of chance.
Daniels ran his poker room from 2006 until 2010 and produced records before the circuit court last year showing that he gave 74% of his proceeds–about $700,000–to charities such as Portsmouth Catholic Regional School and the March of Dimes.