Poker is a game largely dependent on luck, the Court of Appeal ruled yesterday.
Derek Kelly, the former chairman of a private poker club, had argued that it was a game of skill, meaning that he did not need a licence under the 1968 Gaming Act, which required it only for games of chance.
But a jury at London’s Snaresbrook Crown Court last year found him to have breached gambling laws in a test case prosecution that has caused considerable difficulties for a number of tournament organisers.
Kelly, 46, a financial analyst, of Greystones, Co Wicklow, was conditionally discharged for two years and his subsequent appeal over his conviction was rejected yesterday.
The 1968 legislation requires a licence for commercial games of chance such as roulette but not games of skill such as chess.
Without a licence, it is forbidden to impose levies on winnings and charge participation fees to players hoping for a fortune from the world of flops, pairs, blind bets and Texas Hold’ems.
Kelly was convicted in January last year of illegally doing both after a jury decided that poker and chance went hand in hand.
The five-day trial – which came amid the game’s growing popularity in Britain – centred on the Texas Hold’em version of poker in which players are each dealt two cards with a „community pool“ of five more on the table.
The court heard that investigators visited his club – Gutshot Private Members Club in Clerkenwell, central London – in December 2004 and found that it was retaining a GBP 270 cut on the GBP 2,165 „prize pot“. The next month they discovered players being charged for a game.