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Apr 6th

Reasonable ruling by the Swedish Supreme Court

Posted by with 6 Comments

Today the Swedish Supreme Court ruled that Texas Hold’em played in a tournament format is to be considered a game of skill while playing it as a cash game is to be considered predominately a game of luck. 
I like that ruling. It makes sense to me and I think this is the first time a court anywhere who’s ruled on the balance of luck/skill in the game mechanics of poker seem to have got it. Essentially they have ruled that in the case of tournaments, it is the mechanics of the tournament, not the individual hands in a tournament, that must be judged as being governed by skill or luck . And it’s not like many tournaments feature random payouts. 
The full implication of the verdict is yet to be known. 
Could be exiting news. I’ve already ordered my first 130 tournament tables.

What I don’t like about the ruling is that  it means that the host of the tournament held in Grebbestad on the Swedish west coast in 2007 which led to the court case after being stopped by police, gets away with a rather weak conviction for his role in arranging cash games. I realize putting a big event together (there was like 370 players there) and then having it crashed by the cops is not a delightful experience. I’ve almost had it happen to me.  But that doesn’t mean you can take off with tons of players’ money and lie for years to follow on the whereabouts of that money from the front seat of your recently acquired sports car.
I also think the conduct of the site that was involved as a sponsor was despicable. Instead of taking the opportunity to stand up for the game and fight it out in the court, they ran for the hills claiming they had nothing to do with it.

  1. Bill Payne
    April 6, 2011 at 3:02 pm

    How is that possible??? After playing both cash and tourneys, I see tourneys as so much more luck based. In fact, if a single hand is more luck based, how can 1000 such hands be less luck based.

  2. Jonas Ödman
    April 7, 2011 at 10:09 am

    The court said that in the legal sense, each cash game hand is a separate game. Bill, I am sure you’d rather play a three-day tournament against weaker players than a single cash game hand.

    I have a chance of beating Tiger Woods over 1 hole of golf, but I sure would have a 0% chance of beating him of 18 or 72 holes.

  3. Kim
    April 7, 2011 at 1:15 pm

    While far from the most air-tight example in the world, I like say that in theory it is perfectly possible to succeed in a tournament (winnings>entry+fee) without actually playing any cards. You can play the field, fold every hand and cash without having left anything directly up to chance. Tournaments rely on a set of game mechanics that doesn’t come into play in cash games. And these added game elements are not influenced by chance.

  4. Zimba
    April 7, 2011 at 10:55 pm

    I’m surprised you agree with the judges logic and ruling. Anyone who plays tournaments or freerolls knows that you can’t fold into the money due to the escalating blind structure established by the poker rooms. I suppose it comes down to your definition of skill, but having your hand forced to make moves in a tournament is what makes cash games with a fixed blind a more skillful environment to overcome the opposition.

  5. Kim
    April 7, 2011 at 11:46 pm

    “Anyone who plays tournaments or freerolls knows that you can’t fold into the money…”

    For sure you can, it’s just very rare that the opportunity arises to do so. In Double or Nothing tournaments I guess it’s happened more than once.

    The entire problem with defining cash games as skill is that the game is limited to one hand.
    Only after one hand can you have any information about how good the other guy is, how he plays, and how to use your skill to beat him. By then, unfortunately, from a game mechanic point of view, the game is already over.

    But it’s obviously a difficult call to make. I think I liked the decision partly because it at least shows that they thought about it and understood the complexities involved.

  6. Jonas Ödman
    April 8, 2011 at 5:53 am

    If you look at ONE cash game hand, who wins the pot will be decided by luck and I’d say that the luck factor is close to 100%. The difference between a good and a bad player is that a good player will win more money on average WHEN he wins the pot (and lose less when he doesn’t), and that will make him a long-term winner.

    The court looked at one hand in isolation, and concluded that the outcome is mainly based on luck.

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