Poker player wins battle to not pay child support

A poker player with chips Image copyright PA
Image caption Tony Hakki's earnings were not from "gainful employment", the appeal judges ruled

A professional poker player who refuses to support his children has won a legal fight to keep his winnings.

Court of Appeal judges agreed that Tony Hakki's winnings were not from "gainful employment" and so did not meet the regulations governing the payment of child support.

Devrise Blair, the mother of his children, had argued that gambling was Mr Hakki's "trade or profession".

The ruling was the latest stage in a dispute of more than four years.

Ms Blair asked the Child Support Agency to order the father of her children to pay maintenance, comparing him to a professional sportsman.

In a written ruling Lord Justice Longmore said: "(Mr Hakki) is a professional poker player in the sense that he supports himself from his winnings at poker.

"He declines to support his children and the mother has made an application to the Child Support Agency for an order that he pay child support maintenance."

Image caption Three Court of Appeal judges said there was not enough "organisation" in Tony Hakki's poker playing to deem it a profession

The 'Hitman Hakki'

The judge said this depended on the "true construction of the Child Support (Maintenance Assessment and Special Cases) Regulations."

He added: "On the facts found, I do not consider that it can be said that Mr Hakki had a sufficient organisation in his poker playing to make it amount to a trade (or a business), let alone a profession or a vocation."

Appeal judges Lord Justice Patten and Lord Justice Pitchford agreed with the ruling.

The former financial broker was made redundant in 1998 when in his mid-40s and has been playing poker for many years.

He is known in the poker community as "Tony the Hitman Hakki", the ruling added.

It did not say how many children Mr Hakki and Ms Blair had together.

Mr Hakki asked appeal judges to analyse the case after a tribunal judge decided that he could be said to be "gainfully employed" as a "self-employed earner".

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