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Contracts and Poker: Reliance

by Scott J. Burnham |  Published: Dec 20, 2017


A player grabs a fistful of chips, extends them at arm’s length over the felt, and then pulls them back. Has the player made a bet? Reliance plays an important part in contract law – some would argue the most important part. We distinguish those promises that are enforceable (“I’ll sell you my house if you give me $300,000”) from those that are not (“I’ll give you a million dollars”) based on which ones are reasonable to rely on. If I breach a contract you made with me, you recover because you were relying on me to perform. Often this reliance is hypothetical, and recovery is allowed even if there was no actual reliance. (I sign a contract for you to build me a swimming pool and two seconds later I tell you I don’t want it. I still have to pay you damages.) In some cases, a promise may ...

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