The District Court of Zurich ruled that an unemployed 57 year old Turkish-Swiss dual citizen, Mr. Hassan, is permitted to continue collecting welfare benefits for being completely mentally disabled despite being a featured analyst at a well known Turkish poker portal, winning over 1000 francs daily in Swiss poker rooms, and being ranked by Baden Casino Director of Poker to be a semi-professional poker player.
Swiss prosecutors presented compelling evidence that Mr. Hassan is capable of explaining the smallest nuances in the game of poker as well as provide complete analysis of complex maneuvers within a variety of different poker games; make rational choices based on incomplete information; being able to remember past reaction of opponents during games from years before and respond accordingly; knowing mathematical odds of hundreds of combinations of cards; ability to instantly analyze, dissect and provide the reasoning behind every poker bluff, or raise with clear, well thought-out eloquence worthy of a professional live sports analyst.
Such evidence, according to prosecutors, clearly demonstrates that Mr. Hassan is not mentally disabled but has lied, and defrauded the government out of hundreds of thousands of franks in mental disability and welfare benefits over the past ten years. Mr. Hassan was originally charged after welfare fraud investigators received an anonymous letter containing links to a Turkish language poker news portal, where numerous articles, tutorials, strategies, and interviews with Mr. Hassan were located. It was determined that Mr. Hassan was one of the featured writers and analysts of the poker portal. The owner of the website, and fellow Turkish-Swiss poker player, submitted evidence indicating that Mr. Hassan has never been paid for his services.
Mr. Hassan emigrated from Turkey to Switzerland in 2001, as prescribed by the Family Reunion Act, as he had a recently divorced niece who was living in Switzerland. According to government records, within eight days of arrival, Mr. Hassan filed for welfare benefits and mental disability benefits claiming that due to a head injury he can no longer think clearly nor able to work and that he is impoverished. His niece, who is also considered disabled due to a back injury, testified on Mr. Hassan’s behalf, and he was quickly given standard benefits including a generous stipend and a rent-free flat. Mr. Hassan almost immediately began playing at Swiss poker rooms up to 18 hours per day, consistently winning large sums of money.
The district court ruled that Mr. Hassan must repay 95,000 francs he received over the years in welfare benefits for being impoverished. However, the court agreed with the defense, and allowed Mr. Hassan to keep 330,000 francs he received for being completely mentally disabled and ordered the disability payments to resume. The court judgment summary explained that according to Swiss gambling laws, poker is a game of chance and not skill, thus it is not possible to prove whether an individual is mentally disabled or not even if they win daily playing poker.
“If a person pulls a lever on a slot machine and wins more frequently than nearby players only means that they were lucky. Drawing a correlation between a series of random events demonstrates faulty logic. It is possible to throw a coin one hundred times, and for the coin to always land on the same side. Does that mean that the person has a gift of tossing coins? This court thinks not. Evidence that Mr. Hassan believes that he has abilities to connect, predict or analyze a series of random and meaningles events, does not indicate a healthy state of mind in the view of the court, and in fact further demonstrates a delusional thought process which is consistent with mental disability,” wrote the District Court.
In June of 2010 the Swiss Highest Court ruled that poker is a game of luck and chance, placing the game in the same category as that of the state lottery and slot machines. Mr. Hassan who during a brief interview mentioned that he frequently places a bet on sports in Switzerland, was extatic about the verdict, departing from the courthouse with the words ‘justice has been served.’