On February 14th, 2009, the 5 defendants in the South Carolina poker gaming case can look forward to a decision on their case next week, but for the meantime, they can have the satisfaction that the Judge recognized the game of poker as a game of skill. Testimony was heard in the Mount Pleasant courtroom on February 13th, 2009 and the thorough effort of presenting the skill against chance argument with regards to the existing gaming law may have worked to the advantage of the 5 defendants.
Although it began on April of 2006 with a police raid on a home poker game, it had taken years for the defendants-Bob Chimento, Scott Richards, Michael Williamson, Jeremy Brestel and John Taylor Willis to bring their case before the court. Instead of pleading guilty to the charge of playing illegal poker and paying a fine, as did other players arrested at the same game, the five decided to fight the charges that they have broke the state law by hosting a poker game in their own home.
The trial saw Attorney Jeff Phillips, the lawyer for the five defendants presenting evidence and supporting testimony that poker is a game of skill so it cannot be considered gambling under the state law. Phillips argued that the poker games in question were played for entertainment, not for money, although the organizer of the game accepts some money in exchange for food and beverage. Phillips said that the defendants just love the game of poker. He added that why should South Carolina poker lovers be different from other poker players all over the US who just love playing poker.
Phillips also called in experts to testify in the trial including poker pro Mike Sexton, who told the court that there are a lot of skills needed to win a poker game like mathematical calculations, timing and the knowledge of your opponents in the game and their succeeding actions. Sexton added that this is the reason why some players win more compared with other players.
During the cross examination, Sexton admitted under oath that received $5,000 from the Poker Players Alliance to appear on the hearing on behalf of the defendants. But Sexton said that he is doing it more for the love of poker than the fee. State prosecutor Ira Grossman argued that the line of reasoning that poker is a game of skill is irrelevant, saying that the five defendants were apprehended at a house utilized for a gaming operation where games were held in a regular basis and advertise on the World Wide Web. When both sides rested their case, Municipal Court Judge Larry Duffy said that he have determined in his mind that Texas Holdem is a game of skill.