Judges rule that poker is a game of chance - Friday 15th of February 2008

Poker is a game largely dependent on luck, the Court of Appeal ruled yesterday.

Derek Kelly, the former chairman of a private poker club, had argued that it was a game of skill, meaning that he did not need a licence under the 1968 Gaming Act, which required it only for games of chance.

But a jury at Londons Snaresbrook Crown Court last year found him to have breached gambling laws in a test case prosecution that has caused considerable difficulties for a number of tournament organisers.

advertisementKelly, 46, a financial analyst, of Greystones, Co Wicklow, was conditionally discharged for two years and his subsequent appeal over his conviction was rejected yesterday.

The 1968 legislation requires a licence for commercial games of chance such as roulette but not games of skill such as chess.

Without a licence, it is forbidden to impose levies on winnings and charge participation fees to players hoping for a fortune from the world of flops, pairs, blind bets and Texas Holdems.

Kelly was convicted in January last year of illegally doing both after a jury decided that poker and chance went hand in hand.

The five-day trial - which came amid the games growing popularity in Britain - centred on the Texas Holdem version of poker in which players are each dealt two cards with a "community pool" of five more on the table.

The court heard that investigators visited his club - Gutshot Private Members Club in Clerkenwell, central London - in December 2004 and found that it was retaining a £270 cut on the £2,165 "prize pot". The next month they discovered players being charged for a game.

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