With our country’s federal government nearing legalization and regulation of online poker, the Supreme Court of South Carolina is embroiled in a debate over the game’s official classification.

Long considered by politicians to be a game whose results are comprised merely of chance, poker has recently begun to make inroads into the territory of skill. This comes on the heals of numerous research studies which prove that, while susceptible to luck in the short term, the winners and losers are often determined by shrewd play and mathematics.

Why South Carolina? The answer lies in an incident which took place four years ago, when 25 individuals were arrested during a raid on a private residence. Their crime? Playing poker for money. Each person was arrested, with 20 pleading guilty to the charges. Five players refused to give in, and were ruled guilty at trial.

This conviction was later overturned by Circuit Judge Markley Dennis, who ruled that Texas Hold’em fell under the umbrella of games of skill. As one would expect, the Poker Player’s Alliance took a special interest in the litigation. John Pappas, the group’s executive director, has spent a great deal of time in the state over recent weeks, preparing to assist in the cause.

Under official state law, it is currently illegal for residents of South Carolina (and most other states) to play poker for money in their own homes. Assuming that the five justices continue on their current course, this stance could change partway through 2011.

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