Coeur d’Alene tribe in Idaho, USA, claimed in official documents that Texas Hold‘em poker is no different than golf, as per local laws. It was a response to the lawsuit filed by the state in federal court against the tribe, when it opened poker room in its casino.
The tribe made it into the gambling news with its opinion that poker is like golf, a game of skill, in which players pay fees to enter tournaments and win prizes based on their performance.
The legal arguments said: “As the statute provides, even if the game of poker is prohibited, that prohibition does not apply if the game can be shown to be a ‘contest of skill.’”
The trial was initiated by the state of Idaho after it was found that the tribe in question opened poker room in its casino around Worley. The state argued that poker is against US gambling laws in Idaho.
Coeur d’Alene tribe continued its defense by saying that Texas Hold‘em tournaments are widely popular in Idaho: “As long as the state permits a single person, organization or entity to operate a game at any location in the state, whether for charity purposes or otherwise, the tribe is entitled to operate such games in its gaming facility.”
The tribe argued that the game is Class II gaming, and not Class III, under federal law, therefore if anyone else can offer it in the state, tribes legally can do the same.
Another reason the defendant used was the existence of various charity events and contests supplemented by the Idaho State Lottery scratch game “Idahold’em”, which operates since 2007, promoted by: “Are you ready for some high-stakes poker? Deal us in!”
The tribe also used as evidence the decision of Idaho magistrate court judge in Ada County from May 15, in which he took down the charges against two men who previously had illegal gambling charges for playing Texas Hold‘em.
Magistrate Judge James Cawthon wrote about the case: “It is a very perplexing picture of sometimes you can play Texas Hold Em, and sometimes you cannot. The state cannot explain with any clarity when you can and when you cannot, or how one would know when you could or when you could not.”
Attorney Michael Bartlett, who was defending the two men in question, used the opinions of national experts who testified that Texas Hold‘em is actually a game of skill.
He gave examples of pool tournaments, rodeos, golf tournaments, etc, during which participants pay entry fee to join and show their skills, and with the help of some luck perform good and win prizes based on their results.
More reasons why poker is a game of skill
Regarding the case of the tribe Bartlett commented that the lower-court ruling has “little or no” legal precedential value in the case against the tribe, but it could have “persuasive authority.”
Tribe claims that poker is like golf
• This was a response to the lawsuit filed by Idaho state
• The State insists the tribe’s newly open poker room is illegal
• The tribe offered various research and cases, which prove that poker is a game of skill
He added: “I think the tribe has it right. The word ‘poker’ in there, I think, is ambiguous as it comes to Texas Hold‘em, because poker is a broad term that involves a number of card games, some of which are primarily games of chance. Texas Hold ‘Em clearly is a game of skill.”
The attorneys for the tribe also used studies, which find that skill primarily define the winners in Texas Hold‘em game.
One of them claimed that 76% of games are determined by the player’s betting strategy, and only around 12% of games were won by the player who had the best hand. Furthermore, techniques like position, psychology and bluffing were used by skilled players to improve their results.
The final say
The two sides of the conflict will meet in the federal court in Coeur d’Alene on 3rd June and after that it will be decided if the state will manage to win restraining order to shut down the tribe’s poker room.
Naturally, the tribe argued that the state’s lawsuit should be completely dismissed, as it violates the state-tribal gaming compact, by sidestepping an arbitration process in favor of litigation. The state had no comment so far on the latest court filings.
Helo Hancock, tribal spokesman commented: “Anybody who’s played Texas Hold‘em knows that it’s a game of skill. Those that are good at it consistently win at it.”