Is Poker a Game of Skill or Luck?

Poker: Skill or Luck?

Is poker a game of skill? Or, is it simply a game of luck? The answer is both, but to what exent is the real question.

Here are my thoughts: Poker is a game of luck, which I say is about 10%. The other other 90% is skill. This is why there are poker players who continually, year after year, make a profit from playing poker, and, why there are players that continually loose money money every year playing poker.

Take for example the World Series of Poker. All you do is have to watch and you'll see familiar faces of people are making it "in the money". Are these people that continually cash-in at the World Series of Poker almost every year lucky? Were they deal pocket aces every hand? Of course not! They used their knowledge and experience of tournament poker. The old saying goes something like this: "It's not the cards your dealt, it's how you you play your cards".

Knowing when and how to play your cards is key. There are several factors that affect your decision on how to play your cards. Such factors include-position, knowledge of players in the hand, size of the pot, stage in the game (tournament poker), chip stack, number of players remaining, what cards you are actually dealt, and several other factors. Having experience and a deep understanding of these factors are what truly separate the skilled players from the non skilled players (donkeys).

It's also about bankroll management. One of the biggest mistakes that even highly skilled pokers make is putting all their money in one "basket". They go to a table and use their entire bankroll. This is a poor management of your money because, even if you are the best play by far at the table, there will always be bad beats. If you have $500 in your bankroll, you probably should not sit at a table where you can buy-in with $500. Because you just might be dealt pocket aces and lose to another player with $500 who beats you with their straight on the river. Now, if you sit at a table where the buy-in is for $100, and you are a skilled player, you can probably make money. But, in the even that someone beat your second nuts, you still have a at least $400 in your bankroll.

"Poker is an investment much like buying a stock"

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Comments 10 comments

Online Poker 7 years ago

Game of luck


iwritegood profile image

iwritegood 7 years ago Author

What about the people the win consistently?


myname 7 years ago

they are consistently lucky

your argument is invalid


ahole 6 years ago

Game of Luck..Sorry


Cheap SSL 6 years ago

oh yeah i played the party poker before couple of years ago. Actually i would rate skill vs luck 40:60 , as i didn’t made many more but didn’t lost too. I just enjoyed the game and that was the time for me for fun. Basically when you play with online poker rooms skill makes difference.


kamlesh 5 years ago

I completely disagree.

In Poker "THE BEST HAND ALWAYS WINS" no matter what!

You can have all the skills in the world, if you aint got the best hand in poker then your skills wont save you. Thats a fact.

No having the best hand is completely a whole different story especially in Poker.

Skills play a part yes, but come on your skills aint gonna score you a royal flush only the cards can do that


Bad Luck Bob 5 years ago

This article is wrong. Poker is at least 50% luck.


Bad Luck Bob 5 years ago

I will expand on this -

1. A court has already ruled poker is a game of chance.

2. Pre Flop if you shove all in with any hand, your odds of winning are always decent. You will rarely have less than a 25% chance, often a near 50% chance, and those are not bad odds if the potential returns are high. Even if you have 72 Vs AA you still have a 12% chance of winning (so one in 5 times you will bust the AA). Some people will have a string of good luck (or at least avoid bad luck) and if that lasts you can do extremely well very quickly. That is not skill.

3. I've heard one poker pro compare it to Schumaker in F1, saying "Schumaker is the most skilled, but doesn't win all the time." By this he attempts to make the point that poker is largely skill but, like a real sport, is affected by luck. This is nonsense. In poker a kid who's been playing for 6 months can beat a pro who's been playing for 20 years. So... if a kid who'd been driving for 6 months entered F1, could he beat Schumaker? Clearly not. The ratio of Skill/Luck in F1 is clearly very different to poker. One could argue that this poker kid has played thousands of hands online, having a steep learning curve, but it's still that case that the same kids will beat long term online players sometimes.

4. Let's try to liken it to another skilled sport - Football. In football we can say that luck is a small factor (let's say another player is having a bad day, and plays badly, or the other team's best player is injured. That's luck, or good fortune, even though to a small degree). So Football is MOSTLY skill (and let's not forget, the author here says poker is 90% skill, which is MOSTLY). If you, as an amateur played 'heads up' football against a pro footballer... you'd suddenly find that you had near zero chance of winning, it's inconcievable that you would win. Whereas if you play Phil Ivey heads up, you have a chance of winning, and if you get dealt a lot of great hands (by luck) you have a very good chance of winning. That's luck. The only reason you don't see a non pro beat ivey often is because Ivey plays cash stakes and tournaments too expensive for the average Joe...but I believe he has been beat by amateurs in tourneys who've won a seat.

5. Rush Poker highlights this - When you remove most of the 'people reading' side of poker, as in Rush, the luck element is very clear. The bad-beat stories and talk of rigged online poker confirm it. You can get your money in good everytime and lose everytime for a long period (or win everytime, which if you happen to be an experienced player confirms in your own mind that you are a fantastic skilled player...not just lucky...but that's actually sadly just human nature).

6. How many players have complained "My Aces always get bust!"? It's absolutely fact that you can lose repeatedly over extended time periods by having 'donks' 'suckout' on you when they shove with 'rags' pre flop and you call with AA, KK, AK etc. So if the non-skilled player can beat the skilled player, in ANY sport or game, it can no longer be considered a game of skill.

7. How many poker pro's have commented "You have to win races to win tournaments"? I've heard it over and over. That translates to, "you have to be lucky to win tournaments". Basically you have to show skill by always getting money in good and reading other players, but that is NEVER enough to guarantee a win. Full Tilt actually (cleverly) press this point in their TV ads , actually stating that sometimes playing your best is not enough...so you, as a 'noob' can beat Chris Ferguson.

8. In what other game of skill could it be true to say "Even if you play better than everyone else, and make zero mistakes, you will still very often be beat"?

9. The constant comments of "Poker is skill, that's why you see the same people winning over and over..." is utter nonsense. Every year (pretty much) a NEW face wins the WSOP main event, and it's incredibly rare for them to win again. We see the same faces in big tournaments because A)pro's are bankrolled, they're bought in, and B)there are a lot of them! And we recognise them, we notice when one pro makes yet another final table, but we fail to notice all the pros who didn't. It's actually very rare to see a final table of any big tournament with a lot of the 'BEST'. The skill factor does come in of course, so if you are a good player you should often get deep, but only if you are lucky. Otherwise why do we see Phil Ivey get knocked out of a big tournament before the money? Surely if he is considered one of the most skillful, we should see him pretty much always at least cash, even in big fields. How on earth can he be finish lower than so many supposedly lesser skilled players?

10. Let's also look at 'variance'. If you follow the progress of a player like Durrr, who is considered to have a larger degree of skill than an amateur, you'll see he wins huge amounts but also loses huge amounts. He's constantly at risk of losing everything...or so it would seem, except that as a pro he is earning huge amounts outside of actual poker winnings, and he will always be fine because he's a 'poker celebrity', he's a character who generates interest in the game and in his sponsors. So let's move on from that point to ....

11. Anyone can win. Potentially even someone with next to no experience. (One winner of a $1M tournament prize had previously only won $28). Now, if you play A LOT of tournaments, and you show some small degree of skill, sooner or later you will win something...and if you are lucky you will win a big event. If you win a big event you are NOTICED, if you are lucky enough to win TWO big events close to each other, and they were televised...You are going to be sponsored. Suddenly your chances of winning more money improve, partly because you are bankrolled so you will play pretty much every big tournament increasing your odds of making the money in at least some of them, but also because you have a hugely increased level of confidence and table presence. Which brings in something missing...That confidence and the way others view you is an advantage which is neither skill nor luck.

Summary - Poker is MASSIVELY down to luck (more than 60% but I don't think anyone can say how much exactly), a lesser % is skill (yes it's very important to know when you are ahead and how to increase your odds by playing right), and a big factor is image/reputation.

The entire reason for the poker boom, the Moneymaker effect, is - ANYONE CAN WIN! And if that's the case, how on earth can the game be 90% skill unless that skill is so easy to achieve that it becomes unimportant. For this reason, to say it's 90% skill is utterly ridiculous.


Robin 4 years ago

For the short term, poker is 90% luck and 10% skill.

For the long term, poker is 90% skill and 10% luck.

Poker is the middle way between bingo and chess

Cheers


rod 4 years ago

No, Poker is 90% luck all the time, long term or short term. Have you ever heard of other people just being luckier than others? And what is long term? 5, 10, 15 years? I know somebody on a 3.5 year bad streak! A skill is like Golf or Tennis and the only reason why amatures can play with Pro's is just because the have the money for the buy in, it's not like they had to do qualifying wins to get into the tournament. I think that is sad actually that anybody can play against the Pros. Plain and simple, Poker is just how lucky you are against the other guys luck for that tournament.

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