Federal Appeals Court Says Poker Is a Crime After All


Today the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit overturned a federal judge's 2012 determination that poker, as a game in which skill is more important than luck, is not covered by the Illegal Gambling Business Act (IGBA). The 2nd Circuit's decision reinstates the conviction of a Staten Island poker room operator named Lawrence DiCristina, who argued that IGBA applies only to games of chance like those mentioned in the statute. U.S. Judge Jack B. Weinstein found DiCristina's argument plausible enough to enter a post-verdict judgment of acquittal. He said that result was dictated by the rule of lenity, which requires that ambiguous criminal statutes be interpreted in the light most favorable to the defendant. Where Weinstein saw ambiguity, however, the appeals court saw clarity. The 2nd Circuit rejected the idea that IGBA is based on a special federal definition of gambling that is distinct from New York's, which includes any game "in which the outcome depends in a material degree upon an element of chance, notwithstanding that skill of the contestants may also be a factor therein."

IGBA criminalizes the operation of any "gambling business" that "(i) is a violation of the law of a State or political subdivision in which it is conducted; (ii) involves five or more persons who conduct, finance, manage, supervise, direct, or own all or part of such business; and (iii) has been or remains in substantially continuous operation for a period in excess of thirty days or has a gross revenue of $2,000 in any single day." The law says "'gambling' includes but is not limited to pool-selling, bookmaking, maintaining slot machines, roulette wheels or dice tables, and conducting lotteries, policy, bolita or numbers games, or selling chances therein." Although that list is not exhaustive, Weinstein said, it can fairly be read to imply that the law's targets are similar to these activities, all of which are dominated by chance. The 2nd Circuit disagreed, concluding that "the question of whether skill or chance predominates in poker is inapposite." Hence it instructed Weinstein to "reinstate the jury verdict" and "proceed with sentencing DiCristina," who faces up to five years in prison for one count of violating IGBA, plus five more for conspiracy

According to the Poker Players Alliance, Weinstein's ruling was "the first federal court decision on whether poker is a game of skill rather than gambling." The appeals court saw no need to question Weinstein's judgment on that score.

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  1. We always look at future elections in terms of probabilities. Can we ban elections, since they depend on randomness?

    1. Randomness?? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!


    2. You mean like how we should ban Social Security because it’s a pyramid scheme? Good try, but I don’t think you’ll win.

    3. We did force that place where you could bet on elections to close.

  2. Well, this certainly makes everyone’s life better, safer, and more fulfilling.

    Good job, 2nd Circus!

  3. But the state has its own gambling ring they call “The Lottery.” How can these two opposing concepts be reconciled?

    1. Gambling isn’t bad, when you’re allowing poor people to pay for their children’s education.


    2. I believe the legal explanation for that is found in Article F, Section Y, Paragraph T, Line W of the federal code.

    3. Look here, peasant. When your masters in the government do something, they are properly credentialled and have only the best intentions. Therefore, their actions legal but yours are illegal.

      Got it?

      1. Oh, I see. So basically, buying stocks in the “stock market” is illegal since it involves “chance” or “luck” that I might win or lose. Right?

        1. Nope, that’s also legal because the stock market is regulated by the SEC. However, you may not act on insider information in your trading. Members of Congress may trade on insider information because, well, fuck you, that’s why.

  4. The second circuit of the federal court of appeals should stick five corroded railroad spikes up their own asses, and the dipshit prosecutors who actually appealed this should shove ten more. And I mean the clerks, janitors, and everyone who gets a paycheck through these fucks.

    1. So you support the decision then

  5. The NY gambling definition comes from NY Penal Code Art. 225.00, and reads as follows:

    Penal ? 225.00 Gambling offenses; definitions of terms.
    The following definitions are applicable to this article:
    1. “Contest of chance” means any contest,game,gaming scheme or
    gaming device in which the outcome depends in a material degree upon an element of chance, notwithstanding that skill of the contestants may also be a factor therein.

    How does that not include every single professional sporting event within the state of New York?

    I know, I know; after me, everyone: Fuck You, That’s Why.

    1. Sounds like every election to me.

    2. Agreed — golf in particular depends in a material degree upon an element of chance. Wind, lie, and bounce are all outside the golfer’s control.

      Of course, the best overcome those vagaries of chance and often end up at the tops of leaderboards, just like in poker.

      1. Golf is played in a tournament structure. No gambling is involved.

        1. The same is true of poker.

    3. So any game or contest that involves chance falls under New York’s gambling statute?

      Overbroad, much?

    4. Does New York allow betting on pro sporting events?

      1. Nope, just how the police and the bookies like it.

      2. Well, except of course state sponsored sports like horse racing (NYRA).

    5. Contests of chance are not illegal; betting on them is.

      (I don’t condone that; just sayin’.)

      1. Actually, in this particular case, it’s not betting but running a gambling business that is illegal.

  6. Sure there’s a lot of skill involved in playing poker, but to say it’s not gambling is just silly.

    1. You’re a hooker.

      1. More likely, I’m a john.

        1. Well at least you’re not a tulpa.

          1. Or a butt plug.

      2. You’re a towel!

    2. In a cash game, sure.

      In a tournament, money isn’t at stake in the hands. The money is prizes for the top how ever many players remain in the tournament.

      1. The funny thing is, I’d argue that tournament play involves much more “gambling” than cash play. Even though you could make the argument that one would need a bigger edge in a tournament situation than in a cash situation. ICM can be a bitch. Provided your bankroll can handle the variance, in theory you should be taking every single positive EV decision.

        The ROI for top tournament players vs. top cash players though couldn’t be more different. If you’ve a 25% ROI, you’re crushing. Who wins a tournament is often a matter of who won the 10 or more preflop coin flips during the tourney.

        I just find NY’s definition to be silly, that’s all. I guess what they’re trying to say is that luck plays more of a role in poker than it does in, say, pro golf or the NFL, even though all pro sports depend on luck to one degree or another.

        Hard to write that in a statute though. Which means they shouldn’t be making laws against it, but I digress.

        1. Provided your bankroll can handle the variance, in theory you should be taking every single positive EV decision.

          Maybe, but seems there are Sharpe Ratio considerations too.

          1. I realized you are correct.

            “Provided your bankroll can handle the variance” is a very key assumption that doesnt really apply in investing. You cant invest in every possible +EV situation, so the Sharpe Ratio is there to help make choices.

          2. Interesting. I had never thought of the Sharpe Ratio in the context of poker or other gambling expectation value problems. For one, I wonder what a benchmark risk would be in those contexts? I had thought of the Kelly Criterion though, mainly as a way to help determine the necessary bankroll vs. buyin in order to have an acceptably low risk of ruin.

            You might find this discussion relating the SR to the KC interesting. Or trivial, I dunno. I admit I’m way out of my depth mathematically, reading those types of discussions.

    3. This is s stupid argument unsupported by facts.

  7. Why would there be a federal gambling law in the first place?

    1. commerce clause, duh

    2. BFYTW – duh

    3. You think Uncle Sam is going to let you peons gamble and exchange money without wetting his beak?

  8. It occurs to me, looking at the picture of those dogs, that the police could just bust in and shoot ALL of them. Cause

    1) Dogs and
    2) Illegal activities (maybe, maybe not, but OFFCER SAFETY)


  9. They hate us for our freedom.

  10. What about the game of life?

  11. Imagine a place where people put money on things and hope that their choice pays off by compounding their investment by returning them higher value.

  12. The online poker ban is what really pushed me over the edge to stop calling myself conservative. There is nothing worthy about a ban on gambling, ever: it’s regressive, it destroys traditional norms of entertainment in lower-income groups, it diminishes human happiness, is entirely ineffective (and consequently destroys law and order), and is an obvious and cynical attempt to maintain state monopolies on gambling.

    Fuck conservatives for their insistence on pleasing “Christians” who have never cracked open their Bibles to see what it says about gambling and government, but who nonetheless insist that they are qualified to run my life for me.

  13. Lady in front of me at 7-Eleven this morning holding up the entire line was about 2 more lotto tickets away from a lecture on statistics and meaningful returns on investment. It was like, “I don’t know you, but I know you’re poor.”

    1. But they’re not poor because they blow their money on stupid shit like the lottery, they blow their money on stupid shit like the lottery because they’re poor. Thus, if you give them free money, they’ll spend it wisely! Don’t you see?

    2. Even if they blow what, $20 a week on lottery tickets, that’s what, $1000 bucks a year?

      Clearly that $1000 is keeping them from being poor.

      The lottery is the only hope that most poor people in this country have of being rich. People can live with being poor, but living without hope is hard to do…

  14. I have come to the conclusion that, it is not the terrorists that hate us for our freedom (not that I ever really believed that), but the government politicians that do. They, true to heart, hate us for our freedom and at every politically convenient opportunity will act to restrict them.

    1. They are terrorists, so in that respect, I guess BOOOSSHHHH!!!!! was right about something.

  15. Kidna crazy when you think about it man.

  16. It occurs to me that this case would have a bearing on whether (or would bear on) same-sex marriages recognized by the state would be recognized federally.

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