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|British Jury to rule on nature of poker
| A jury has been
asked to consider whether poker is a game of skill, chance, or a combination of
Club owner Derek Kelly,
46, is accused of running unlicensed poker games at the Gutshot Private
Members' Club in Clerkenwell, central London.
He faces two charges of
operating illegally under the 1968 Gaming Act. The Act licenses activities
considered to be games of chance, such as roulette and blackjack, but not those
designated games of skill - such as chess and gaming machines.
has argued that poker is a game of skill and he therefore does not require a
Prosecutors say that
merely shuffling the cards introduces an element of chance into the game.
Mr Kelly denies two counts of contravening the 1968 Gaming Act by
organising poker games at his club in January 2005.
The act says a licence is needed to host games of chance
such as blackjack and roulette but not games of skill, like chess and quiz
Proscecutor Graham Trembath QC told the jury at Snaresbrook
Crown Court it would learn all about poker during the trial.
at Snaresbrook Crown Court must now decide on the status of poker. They will be
given a masterclass in court, including visual demonstrations, in the variety
called Texas Hold'em. Graham Trembath QC, prosecuting, asked the jury: "If I
were to use the words to flop, a pair, are you raising, blind bets, do these
words ring any bells?"
As blank faces stared back, he said Texas
Hold'em involved two cards dealt to each player and five cards placed face up
as a community pool in the centre of the table. Bets are placed by players on
the strength of the hands they can make up from the cards.
poker was a game of "mixed skill and chance", and if the jury agreed with him,
then they should find Mr Kelly guilty.
He argued that before any game
of poker started, the cards were shuffled.
"We would submit that once
these cards are shuffled then you have introduced an element, a significant
element of chance," he said.
In excerpts of his
interview with police he said: "Poker is a game of equal opportunity. If I sat
down to play with you (Det Insp Darren Warner) nothing would detract from who
is the best player other than skill.
"If you do not believe that, I
could produce volumes to show you that the best players in the world continue
to win competitions," he said.
The court heard that when police visited
the club on two occasions between December 2004 and January 2005, they found a
charge was being levied on the winnings. On 7 December for £2,165
winnings, the club kept £270 as its cut. On 27 January players were asked
to pay £22 to enter the game and given £20 worth of chips, netting
a profit of £2 per person, the prosecution said.
In a same
statement, former Ireland national poker player Mr Kelly said: I
dont care how many times I play against Mr Warner, I know I will beat him
Thats not a joke, right. I know I am the better
It cant be luck.
Earlier, defence counsel
Zasheen Dhar spent time establishing that Kelly had never attempted to hide the
nature of the Gutshot and its good character.
He asked DI
Warner: Isnt it right that theres never been a complaint
about cheating at the club? DI Warner said: No, thats
right. Mr Dhar asked: Gutshot is being absolutely transparent about
the type of game being played? DI Warner said: Thats
Later the detective said: Mr Kellys been
nothing but transparent about the transactions, chargings in fact
weve disagreed about nothing but the point of law that this case is
The prosecution called Phillip Brear, head of operations
at the government regulator Gambling Commission which sparked the investigation
into Gutshot. When Mr Dhar, cross-examining, asked Mr Brear to place poker
within a spectrum of games that we know ranging from those wholly
of chance to those wholly of skill, Judge SR Wilkinson stepped in. You
say its a game of chance, in the meaning of the act? the judge
Yes, it is, Mr Brear said.
"Without being ridiculous I think there is a reasonable argument to
compare poker to the game of life," Mr Kelly, a father-of-three said.
"It is a wonderful way of making friends, it is a wonderful way of
making conversation, it is a wonderful way of challenging yourself, so I get a
lot out of poker.
He said once the cards were dealt, they were there as
a tool for players.
"It doesn't happen over one hand, that is like
saying Wimbledon is decided on the first serve, it won't be decided on the
first serve. Poker is about the long game," Mr Kelly said.
evidence was heard from Nic Szeremeta, 63, from Torquay, Devon, who publishes a
poker magazine and is an expert in the game.
He had told the court he
believed the level of skills required to play poker were "far higher" than
bridge. He also said the skills included an ability to assess mathematical
probabilities, strategic and observational skills and psychological skills such
as being able to read the body language of opponents.
"The poker game
is not just playing cards. The poker game is getting to know the strengths and
weaknesses and mannerisms and playing styles of the other people at the table,"
The trial continues.