In the end, good fortune had the stronger hand. A jury decided yesterday that luck, not skill, played the greater part in poker in a landmark ruling on the status of gambling in Britain.

Derek Kelly, the chairman of a private members’ club in London, lost his fight to make poker exempt from gambling legislation on the grounds that it was a game of skill.

He was found guilty of breaking the 1968 Gaming Act, after hosting two poker games at the Gutshot club, bar and restaurant in Clerkenwell, Central London. The jury at Snaresbrook Crown Court found him guilty of breaching the Act on December 7, 2004, when a levy was charged on the winnings, and on January 27, 2005, when a fee was charged to take part.

The Act states that a licence is needed to host games of chance such as blackjack and roulette, but not games of skill, such as chess and quiz machines. The trial was seen as a test of whether poker should fall under the remit.

Kelly, 46, from Greystones, County Wicklow, said that he was very disappointed. “We still will be playing at the Gutshot tonight. We may have to change the way we do it.”

A date for sentencing has been set for February 16.

Click here for more news from Europe.