Frustrated Writer SmallThey were instrumental in introducing poker to thousands of players, even before the internet changed the game forever. Now it seems three of poker’s most esteemed authors have played a not insignificant part in one of the most important legal rulings in the game’s history.

Earlier this month Senior US District Judge Jack B Weinstein dismissed an indictment against Lawrence DiCristina who was charged with operating an illegal poker game, in violation of the Illegal Gambling Business Act of 1955.

The defence argued that poker was in fact a game of skill, backed by the findings of Dr Randall Heeb, and therefore exempt from the bill. Judge Weinstein agreed.

The 120 page ruling, which makes for compelling reading, presents the entire case, including the welcome case that skill plays a key part in the amount of money won or lost in a poker hand. Emphasising key points, it also refers to excerpts of three books which have become classics of the poker cannon, those of Anthony Holden, Jim McManus, and Al Alvarez.

Bigger Deal: A Year Inside the Poker Boom in which Holden, President of the IFP, recounts his year on the poker circuit amid the online poker boom, was referenced in part to explain just how significant internet poker had become by 2006. That year some 44,500 players took part in that summer’s World Series of Poker.

In Cowboys Full: The Story of Poker, McManus, an IFP Ambassador, added a further layer of legitimacy to the case, describing how past presidents, politicians and public figures have been poker players – far from the seedy underworld of illegal gambling.

There was also reference to Al Alvarez’s 1983 masterpiece The Biggest Game in Town, in which Alvarez described how poker players bet on their own skills, in contrast to sports bettors who put their faith in the skill of others.

The document is well worth the read, if not for the legal jargon then the simple fact that it has a happy ending. Judge Weinstein’s ruling could prove to be a turning point in the game. If that proves true the likes of Holden, McManus and Alvarez will have played a small but crucial part.