Expert to speak to skills in poker

Poker pro Mike Sexton will testify that Texas Hold 'em is a game of skill.

TV poker fans know his face, and Friday he's scheduled to testify inside a Mount Pleasant courtroom about the skilled nuances of poker.

Mike Sexton, host of the "World Poker Tour" and a 30-year poker pro, will be called as an expert witness in the illegal gambling trial of five players busted during the police raid of a home tournament three years ago.

Sexton, of Las Vegas, will contend that their chosen game of Texas Hold 'em relies more on skill to win than on illegal gambling chance, which is at the heart of the players' defense.

Sexton has a long resume in the poker world, helping to coordinate corporate endorsements and sponsorships behind broadcast poker tournaments. "The success of the World Poker Tour can largely be chalked up to his credit," according to the Poker Listings Web site.

Also scheduled to testify is Robert Hannum, a statistics professor at the University of Denver.

Both men recently gave affidavits, filed this week at Mount Pleasant's

Municipal Court, defending the merits of Texas Hold 'em and the need for skill in mathematics, money management, bluffing, card play and reading an opponent to be successful.

"One of the reasons that many analyses of poker are incorrect is because the object of poker is grossly misunderstood," Sexton said in his affidavit.

"The object is not to win the most hands, but rather to make correct decisions which will allow you to win money no matter whether you have won more hands than the hands you lost."

In his affidavit, Hannum said poker differs from other gambling pursuits, such as craps, roulette, lotteries and keno, which rely totally on the fall of a number or dice.

For poker, "I am of the opinion that the more skilled player will win over the less skilled player over time," he said.

The trial covers the final cases out of about two dozen people cited when police raided a game in a private home on Glencoe Street in April 2006. Their tournament had been advertised on the Internet, and players paid a $20 buy-in. Police saw it as an illegal gambling crime scene, with drugs being found as well, they said.

Most of the players involved pleaded guilty earlier and paid small fines. The remaining players are seeking to challenge South Carolina's anti-gambling laws.

Mount Pleasant Town Prosecutor Ira Grossman has declined to discuss specifics of the case ahead of time, but prosecution evidence is expected to include items seized that night, including poker chips, cards, the dealer button and videotapes of the crime scene.

The case will be decided in a bench trial in front of Municipal Court Judge Larry Duffy.