If 20 people playing poker in a private residence can be defined as house gambling, then what about five older women playing bridge with a few dollars tossed in a pot?
The nuance was part of the debate Tuesday as lawyers for five Texas Hold 'em players convicted earlier this year in a Mount Pleasant municipal court went to state court, asking that their convictions be set aside.
Though there are multiple prongs to their appeal, the hearing in front of Circuit Judge Markley Dennis largely focused on what some say is the state's ill-defined law covering a house of gambling.
Lawyers for the five players say the state's definition is so poorly written that no one could possibly know if they are breaking the law depending on location.
"If an essential element of a crime is not defined, then how could a person know if they are violating it or not?" Greenville attorney Jeff Phillips said after the hearing ended.
Mount Pleasant town prosecutor Ira Grossman, however, argued that no law can be completely defined to a "finite degree."
The fact that the occupant where the Mount Pleasant game was played took a "rake" — or a cut of the pot — and that strangers met to play a game advertised on the Internet that involved quantities of cash, all combined to show the residence adequately met the house of gambling definition, Grossman said.
Police officers "have to be able to use their discretion," he said.
The case began in April 2006 when an estimated two dozen people were cited after police raided a home on Glencoe Street.
Authorities discovered two poker tables in operation, drawing up to 20 people twice a week.
About 20 players opted not to fight the charges by pleading guilty. The others were convicted of gambling-related charges following a trial in February.
Judge Dennis did not immediately rule on the arguments or merits.
Also helping the players in their appeal is former 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Chief Judge William Wilkins of Greenville, who said the case involved multiple legal issues, including matters of due process.