Hastings Communications and Entertainment Law Journal


In California, while it is legal to gamble at the game of draw poker, it is unlawful to play other types of poker, including stud and hold'em. The source of this curious distinction is an 1885 amendment to California Penal Code § 330, which specifically forbids the game of "studhorse poker." One hundred years later, the courts are wrestling with the scope and meaning of this statutory prohibition of a game which is undefined and no longer played by that name. The focus of the dispute is whether the popular game of hold'em poker is outlawed. The author traces the origins of poker in America and the evolution of California's gaming law. The author also examines contemporary newspaper accounts and shows that "stud-horse poker" is nothing more than five-card stud. In conclusion, the author contends that hold'em poker is not prohibited by § 330.