A French court ruled against professional poker player Rick Salomon, who sued wealthy Saudi Arabian Raad al-Khereiji for $2.8 million in unpaid poker debt. The poker game in question took place at the Tiara Miramar Beach hotel in Théoule-sur-Mer, France in 2014.
Gambling law goes back to start of Napoleon’s reign
The court made its decision based on an antiquated law that dates back more than 200 years. The law states that only debts incurred in games “involving weapons, foot or horse racing, chariot races, tennis and other games of the sort which involves physical skill and exercise” enforceable.
As such, the court found that poker was a game of “chance” and did not require any “physical skill and exercise.”
Salomon’s attorney, Ronald Sokol, said that it was easy to prove that poker was a game of skill, but it was much more difficult to convince the court that poker “involved the exercise of the body.”
Those of us who play poker certainly understand that while poker does not take the sort of physical skill that traditional sports do, it does require stamina. Sitting for long sessions, especially in poker tournaments, can be exhausting. This is one reason why bots are such a threat in online poker. They never get tired. People do and thus see their decision making skills fade over time.
Silver lining for Salomon?
According to the UK newspaper, The Telegraph, it was not a totally lost cause for Salomon and his legal team. The court did agree to see Khereiji’s gambling records, obtained via court order.
Sokol said that they “show he spent $34 million in 29 months in the Ivey Room (at the Aria Resort and Casino and since renamed Table 1) where the minimum bet is $100,000.”
This is likely important because of the story of the poker game presented during the trial. A number of players who participated in the game testified that Kherejii was on a massive downswing and promised Salomon that his lawyer would be in touch to arrange payment of his poker losses. Seven months later, that lawyer told Salomon that he would not see the money, as Kherejii thought the game was a “friendly part with no financial stake.”
While I am not a lawyer, it seems to me that by showing that Kherejii was no stranger to the world of high stakes poker, Salomon’s legal team aimed to shoot down the defense that Kherejii thought they were just playing for shits and giggles. An avid poker player, especially one who played for millions upon millions at Ivey’s Room, would know better.
Kherejii’s lawyers may have figured out that the 1804 gambling law would work in his favor, thus his changed story on payment.
Salomon’s attorney said they are considering appealing all the way to the French Supreme Court, if necessary.
Rick Salomon has a short live tournament resume, but nearly $10 million in cashes. He has been married four times: to voice actor Elizabeth Daily (Rugrats, The Powerpuff Girls), actor Shannen Doherty, and twice to actor and model Pamela Anderson. He also gained fame for a 2003 sex tape in which he appeared with then-girlfriend Paris Hilton.