Poker: Skill or Luck?

I recently found myself in an age-old debate; Is poker a game of luck or a game of skill? Most people would agree it is both. However, when my debate began, an acquaintance who had never played a poker once said that his life was bought into a $ 10,000 poker tournament was no different than buying $ 10,000 worth of lottery tickets. In other words, it is 100% luck.

This is not true. If the poker were the only luck, how could you explain some players winning more than chance? Just folding, the element of skill is added. If I do nothing more than poor starting hands, I should be able to improve my winning percentage. Add to that the ability to influence others by making different betting strategies and poker is clearly a game of skill. But it begs the question; what percentage of poker is skill? pkv games

The problem with this is that it depends. If you are talking about a single poker hand, luck is much more than a factor when you are talking about an entire session or many sessions. In a single hand you have to be lucky enough to have a good starting hand and be lucky enough to have some other deal. If you are lucky enough to be a player then you have to deal with the same hand on AA. However, you could still “get lucky” and hit the flop on a king. Even in a single hand, skill is a factor. One can outplay an opponent. It also takes skill to get the most value out of a winning hand and a losing hand when you know it. But, over longer sessions are where the skill really shows.

In a casino there are many different games played. Poker is the most casinos played now, but it is unique when compared to other casino games. In every other casino game you are playing against the house. In poker you are playing against other players. No one ever claims the casinos are “lucky” to win so much money. Luck has nothing to do with it. Every game in a casino, from slots to roulette, is a set up so the house has a slight statistical advantage. If only the house wins 51% of the time, they are making money. Over many wagers it is a guarantee that the casino will win more than they will.

So it is in poker. A skilled poker player only needs to win more than he loses. No poker player wins every hand, but many win more than they lose. The more skilled the player, the wider the gap will be between winning and losing the amount. Over many hands, luck is not part of the equation; The same way a casino takes the luck out of the equation. It may not be possible to measure exactly what percentage of poker is skill in general. However, over many hands, it is possible to measure the percentage of wins due to the player’s skill compared to his opponent’s. If there was no skill involved the win percentage would move closer and closer to 50% of the more hands that played. Anything over (or under) 50% would then be attributable to skill (or lack of skill). For the well-skilled player, poker may not even be considered gambling.

Joe is a writer and editor for Join the conversation at our poker blog.