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Poker News: January 12, 2007

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Potential for London case to be a landmark in gambling law

The Times reports that UK poker players will be closely watching developments in a trial that started this week in London under the 1968 Gambling Act.

The accused is Derek Kelly (46) chairman of the Gutshot Private Members' Club in Clerkenwell, Central London, and the charges arise two poker games with allegations of financial charges levied by Kelly as a reward for organising the events.

Kelly denies contravening the Act by organising a poker game in which a levy was charged on the winnings and a second game when players were charged to participate. The Act states that a licence is needed to host games of chance like blackjack and roulette - but not games of skill, like chess and quiz machines.

The jury at Snaresbrook Crown Court has been asked to decide whether poker is a game of chance, skill or a combination of both.

To assist them in doing this, members of the jury will be treated to a free lesson on how to play poker, according to the prosecutor.

Graham Trembath QC, for the prosecution, told the jurors: "This case is all about poker. Now, ladies and gentlemen, I do not know of course whether you, or any of you, are familiar with playing poker, what poker involves, the rules of poker. Some of you may know what it is all about, some of you may not.

"Well, I anticipate during the course of this trial you will have, as it were, a free short tuition in what poker is all about, what poker involves, how it works and so on and so forth."

Trembath said that poker was a game of mixed skill and chance because playing cards that are used are shuffled beforehand. It would, therefore, require a licence.

However, Kelly denies this, saying poker is a game purely of skill.

Trembath said the case concerned the Texas Hold'em, a version of poker that has seen massive growth since the arrival of poker websites.

He revealed that police visited the club on December 7, 2004, and saw a levy being charged on the "prize pot", of GBP 2 165, from which the club kept a cut of GBP 270.

Officers again visited the club on January 27, 2005, when players were charged GBP 22 to enter. He said players were charged the money and given GBP 20 worth of chips, with the club retaining GBP 2 per head.

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