The Danish Poker Association is quite disappointed: A lower court had decided that Poker was a game of skill, and hence not subject to gambling laws, but a higher court has now overturned the ruling, deciding that poker is a game of chance (article in Danish). The ruling is likely to continue upwards into the judicial system.
The upshot is that it is illegal to arrange Poker tournaments involving money in Denmark. The underlying legal issue, to the extent of my understanding, is that it is illegal (outside casinos) to play non-skill games for money, so whether a game is considered a game skill is pretty important.
The court even had a mathematician testify that skill is important in Poker, making the ruling even more absurd. I also severely doubt anyone who has actually played poker believes that skill plays no role.
It seems to me that much confusion comes from the dichotomy I used in the headline – skill or chance. In actuality, those are not opposites, but a game can have smaller or bigger amounts of chance, and involve smaller or bigger amounts of skill.
Roger Caillois (who I like to blame) is partially guilty of the same confusion since he has separate categories for agon (contest) and alea (chance).
Here is the interesting logical mind-trick: Chance and skill do not in any way preclude each other, but their absences preclude each other. Games can have any amount of skill and chance at the same time, but you cannot imagine a game with neither skill nor chance, as that would mean the outcome was always the same and hence it would not be a game in any meaningful sense.
The Economist has an article on the rise of Poker, including its status as skill/chance in the US.
The skill-versus-luck debate has crackled back to life because of the passage of a law last year, sneakily tacked on to a port-security bill, which sought to bolster existing legislation against internet wagering by blocking Americans’ access to accounts that can be used to gamble online. All games that are “predominantly” subject to chance were covered by the ban. Poker was included. For reasons best explained by lobbyists, horse racing, fantasy sports and lotteries were exempted. This discrepancy had already landed America in hot water at the World Trade Organisation, thanks to a case brought by tiny Antigua, home to several online gambling sites.
America’s Department of Labour has given a nod to the element of skill, in some eyes, by last year recognising “professional poker player” as an official occupation. Courts, however, tend to view poker as a game of chance. That, Mr Lederer is convinced, is only because the opposing arguments have been botched at the bench.