Joker Club, L.L.C. v. Hardin

643 S.E.2d 626 (2007)

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Joker Club, L.L.C. v. Hardin

North Carolina Court of Appeals
643 S.E.2d 626 (2007)

  • Written by Brett Stavin, JD

Facts

Joker Club, L.L.C. (plaintiff) filed an action in North Carolina state court against the state attorney general, James Hardin (defendant), seeking a declaratory judgment that poker is a game of skill and, therefore, not illegal under North Carolina law. At trial, Joker Club put on four witnesses. The first, Roy Cooke, was a professional poker player; he testified that chance might defeat a poker player in a single hand, but over time, more skilled players will prevail, because they can develop certain strategies to improve their mathematical odds of winning. Joker Club’s second witness, Frank Martin, was a consultant who ran poker tournaments; he testified that players could improve their long-term odds of winning by developing the skills of patience, memory, and statistical analysis. Joker Club’s third witness, Anthony Lee, was a casino manager; he testified that successful players must develop skills of patience, statistical knowledge, and the ability to read people. Joker Club’s fourth witness, Chris Simmons, was a poker player; he testified regarding his own experience as a player and how his skills improved significantly after studying the game and certain books on poker strategy. Simmons explained that in his experience, skill prevails over chance. The witness for the state of North Carolina was Richard Thornell, a state alcohol law-enforcement agent; he testified that although skill is involved, luck predominates. Thornell noted that he once saw a tournament in which a hand with a 91 percent chance of winning lost to a hand with a 9 percent chance of winning. The witnesses all agreed that chance can predominate in a single hand of poker, but that over a longer game, the skilled players would likely win the most chips. The trial court ruled against Joker Club, and Joker Club appealed. Joker Club argued that poker is akin to golf because although an amateur player might defeat a professional on a single hole by sheer luck, the professional will win over the course of a full 18 holes.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Calabria, J.)

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