News Poker's Continued Popularity

Top tips on how to deal with poker games in the correct way

  • Date: 17 October 2016
  • Author/Solicitor: Nick Arron

We recently made an application for a new poker club, which reminded me of the continued popularity of the game, not only in club environments, but also in pubs. It’s a good way to attract custom on those quieter evenings in the week.

You can have poker in your pub as long as you have:

  • An on-licence which contains a bar; and
  • The poker is played at a time when alcohol can be supplied.

There are a number of limits which you must adhere to:

  • The maximum stake per person per game is £5;
  • The maximum aggregate stakes per premises per day is £100; and
  • There is a maximum prize of £100.

You cannot deduct, rake or levy any amount from the pot, there can be no participation fee, no linking to other premises and you must exclude under 18s from participation. The limits must be strictly adhered to.

Exempt gaming as described above, within the limits, is how the Government envisaged poker would be played within pubs.

There are however, operators who wish to exceed the low stake and low prize limit within exempt gaming, by arguing that poker is played in pubs as private gaming under the Gambling Act 2005. You should be wary of any approach to play this type of gaming within your pub. Private gaming was envisaged to permit poker at home or privately.

The rules on private gaming are relatively simple:

  • There can be no charge for participation; and
  • It must not occur in a place to which the public have access, whether or not this is by payment.

If the landlord invites his friends into a back room for a game of poker, with no charge then this would be fine.

The appeal is that private gaming has no limit on stake or prize and there are some who have sought to play private gaming and benefit commercially. Any rake is a payment which takes the game outside of private gaming and makes it illegal, punishable by a fine, imprisonment or more realistically a review of the alcohol licence. If players must buy food or a pint to play then they are paying a participation fee. If they offer a voluntary contribution, say £10 for facilities, they may also be paying a participation fee making the game illegal.

If you are approached by a poker operator then we suggest you steer away from private gaming and ensure that any poker played in your pub strictly follows the exempt gaming limits.