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Mike Sexton to Appear at South Carolina Poker Trial

Poker Personality Will Be An Expert Witness


Mike SextonCharleston, meet Mike Sexton.

Sexton, the World Poker Tour announcer and an established pro with more than $3 million in lifetime tournament winnings, will appear in Charleston, South Carolina, this Friday morning to serve as an expert witness in the trial of five local poker players, according to the defendants’ attorney Jeff Phillips.

The trial could mark the conclusion of a lengthy poker battle that has waged on in the Palmetto State since April 2006. It was then that nearly 20 poker players were arrested in a weekly home game. All but five of those players plead guilty and paid a fine.

The remaining players — Bob Chimento, Scott Richards, Michael Williamson, Jeremy Brestel, and John Taylor Willis — refused to take a plea, resulting in this week’s court case.

“All we want to do is play in our houses,” said Chimento. “We’re hopeful that we’re going to be able to present enough evidence for the judge to rule in our favor.”
The defendants elected to take a bench trial over a jury trial, meaning the verdict will be decided by Municipal Court Judge J. Lawrence Duffy.

Phillips will argue that Texas hold’em is a game of skill and therefore legal under South Carolina’s centuries-old legislation. The law that the defendants are being tried on was orginally written in 1802.

The law, 16-19-40, technically bans the playing of “any game with cards or dice.” Read literally, it would include popular children’s games like Sorry! and Monopoly.

“The particular law in South Carolina is so antiquated and so garbled that it’s virtually indecipherable,” said Phillips. “At some point, you need to look at the facts. Poker is not like any other game in the casino. Poker is predominantly a game of skill, therefore it should be treated differently.”

The trial will commence Friday,Phillips said that he was bringing in two expert witnesses — Sexton, considered a longtime ambassador for the game, and Robert Hannum, a professor of statistics who testified in a recent Colorado case in which poker players successfully argued that poker was a game of skill in their state.

The five South Carolina men were originally arrested after half a dozen police officers raided their weekly home game.

“All of a sudden, it was like a commandos SWAT team raiding a bunch of crack dealers,” Chimento told Card Player about the night of their arrest. “It was like the SWAT team that you see on TV, busting into your home, guns drawn, ski masks on, full protective gear, and demanding we put our hands on top of our heads.”

While there were approximately 20 players at the game that night, most of them plead guilty and paid a fine of no more than $300.

“Everyone else just decided to plead guilty and get on down the road with it,” said Chimento. “They figured it would be a waste of their time, money, and resources.”

But Chimento and four others were determined to fight the law.

“As I see it, it is a Constitutional right to play cards,” said Chimento.

Bob CiaffoneThe poker players have been assisted by the Poker Players Alliance in their court battle, according to Chimento. The defendant also cited longtime Card Player columnist and poker author Bob Ciaffone as a major asset to their cause. Ciaffone has written a number of columns about South Carolina’s dated gambling laws.

“It’s amazing what’s coming to this little town,” said Chimento. “We’re hopeful that we’re going to present enough evidence for the judge to rule in our favor.”

While the trial is scheduled for Friday, there may not be a ruling until next week, Phillips said.

“The judge could do one of three things,” said Phillips. “He could decide that poker is predominantly a game of chance and that the defendants are guilty. He could decide that it’s a game of skill and that they are not guilty. Or he could decide that that’s not the test that he’s going to apply.”

Phillips said it’s difficult to determine what other test the judge would use.

“I would be surprised if he does not accept the dominant factor test, but it’s up to him,” said Phillips.

The South Carolina lawyer said that the defendants would likely appeal a guilty verdict.

Tags: poker law


over 9 years ago

That is because they like to show the bad beats on the world poker tour. Who would like to see the best hand holds up? It is certainly not as exciting as seeing someone get busted. Remember, world poker tour is the series of tournments, skill factor plays bigger role in cash game.