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Sweden’s Two Way Ruling on the Legality of Poker

7 April 2011 by admin

To my thinking poker is a game of skill. It takes time, practice and study to make a strategy work to its fullest, like how it takes those three things to improve a skill. To my mind strategy is a skill, and strategy is used in poker because it allows the player to have an impact on the outcome of a hand. Sum that up, and poker is a game of skill.

When it comes to the legality of poker based on skill or chance, countries will sit on one side of the fence or the either; it is either a game of skill or a game of chance. But is there a middle road? Can it be both? In Sweden it apparently can, but it all depends on the format.

If poker is being played in a tournament, then it is a game of skill and legal; but if the poker game is not a tournament then it is merely a game of skill and not legal. The ruling came from the Swedish Supreme Court, the judges of which were given poker lessons in addition to being presented with mathematical evidence as to the nature of poker. When speaking on the ruling, Judge Göran Lamberth said, “We have found that the main tournament and its side tournaments were not random chance games, but that skill does come in to it.”

So wonderful that at least poker tournaments have been ruled to be games of skill. We can call it a half step. But Lamberth continued in his explanation that an ordinary game of poker was “a game of pure random chance.”

Now I do not quite get all of that. To my thinking the rules poker are the same regardless of whether you are playing in a tournament or not. Strategy can be applied to both a tournament and a non-tournament game. So how a tournament game is a game of skill and a non-tournament game is a game of chance I to not quite get.

The ruling on poker in Sweden is a result of a court case from a couple of years ago. Two men were arrested for organizing and running a poker tournament on the grounds it was illegal because it was a game of chance. This exploded into a new case to rule the merits of poker. Their sentence was reduced in an appeal that brought speculation that the court would rule in favor of poker. Poker player and author Dan Glimne believes that the appeal was the beginning of a change in Sweden towards poker.

And indeed it did. With the new ruling on poker, it is now possible for professional poker tournaments to be organized, even though it will be direct competition to the poker tournaments offered by Casino Cosmopol, the Swedish state-run operator. Still this is a small step in changing the way the world looks at poker.

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