DiCristina case: Disappointing ruling for poker players

scale and gavel

The poker community was galvanised by the Lawrence DiCristina case, with players and impartial specialists alike presenting amicus briefs. A few months ago, a District Court judge called Jack Weinstein acquitted the man accused of running an unlawful gambling ring. The judge presented a comprehensive argument in favour of poker, by making the distinction between this game and other forms of gambling that don’t require skill and rely exclusively on luck.

These arguments were not repudiated by the circuit court, but for the time being this is the only upside for the poker community who was left with a bitter taste after the recent ruling. In a nutshell, the circuit court made of three judges Chester J. Straub, Denny Chin, and Peter Hall overturned the acquittal and the argument they used is that state laws prohibit the gambling activity. They didn’t make any efforts in distinguishing between poker and other forms of gambling and this means that the case will return to the Eastern District Court of New York.

Despite the efforts of court amicus to emphasise the fact that poker is not actually gambling, the three judges dismissed the arguments. They focused solely on the IGBA regulations and stated that whether poker is a game of skill of luck is inconsequential for this particular case. This decision only reinforces the conviction that gambling must be properly defined at a federal level and it is the mission of state legislatures and Congress to clarify things.

Lawrence DiCristina has the option to appeal but the chances to succeed are remote, despite the fact that interpretation of the law leaves him an open door. His attempt of proving that the poker ring he ran didn’t fall within IGBA limitations is a long shot, but in the absence of better options it is likely that the defendant will take his chances. He can also choose to ask for more judge to hear his case, hoping that some of them will be sympathetic to his cause, but right now the foreseeable future is bleak.

Last but definitely not least there is the alternative of appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court directly, but the numbers are stacked against him. Statistics show that 90% of all cases are declined so the odds of overturning the circuit court’s decision are slim to none. While Lawrence DiCristina is directly interested in a favorable verdict, the poker community stands behind him because it has vested interest in this case and the outcome of the trial can have long-term repercussions.