Is Poker A Game Of Chance Or Skill?

Los Angeles premiere: 'Charlie's Angels' stars assembled At the Event
Los Angeles premiere: 'Charlie's Angels' stars assembled At the Event

It is a question that has been asked for decades, by players, onlookers and most importantly, lawmakers. If like many people, you don’t know how to play poker, you’ll probably be happy enough to categorize it along with other casino games like roulette and blackjack as a game of chance. This is the case in some forms of the game, such as Chinese Poker, but Texas Hold’em is a little more complex.

In this article, we will definitively answer the question, ‘is poker a game of chance or skill’ as well as discussing the legal ramifications of either conclusion, enjoy.

The Parameters

No game on earth is either purely a game of chance or a game of skill, rather they are a combination of both in varying degrees. To categorize poker, we need to decide if it is more of a game of chance or skill – that is to say, what is the game most reliant on? Sheer luck and chance or tactical nous and skill?

Poker – Chance

Imagine the scenario, you’re waiting for the turn of the final card in the last hand of the WSOP. If the dealer reveals a 10 of hearts, your Royal Flush is complete and you scoop the multi-million dollar jackpot.

However, it is a King of clubs, your opponent will reveal their pocket Kings and beat you with Four of a Kind. In this exact scenario, the game comes solely down to chance, with no room for skill or tactics.

Your fate and future financial prosperity come down to luck and there is absolutely nothing you can do about it.

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This particular example is similar to many used by people who argue that poker is a game of luck and not skill.

Whilst it is true that in this scenario chance plays a greater role than skill, it also ignores the steps made to get to that point. In order to arrive on the final turn with the opportunity of a huge win, you will have had to calculate your odds throughout the entire hand and use skill, knowledge, and tactics to remain in the hand.

If we are to say that poker is a game of chance, it would be reasonable to assert that anyone could find themselves in that particular situation, even complete novices. This could not be further from the truth.

In order to compete against the best and reach the final knockings of a tournament like the WSOP you will need;

Experience: To react to in-game situations

Tactics: To overcome tricky opponents

Brain Power: To mentally calculate probabilities and odds

Luck: For when all else fails

Whilst luck and chance do play a role in poker – as they do in all sports and games – they are merely supporting actors in the main production. Skill and experience are the key facets in a successful poker player’s armor.

This moment relied on skill, knowledge, and experience rather than sheer blind luck

The Definitive Answer

Just like football, poker is a game that involves skill and luck, but not in equal measure. The former plays a far more significant role in the game than the latter, thus making it a game of skill.

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Legal Ramifications

Across many states in the US, online poker is illegal and in a smattering of European countries, the physical version of the game is even outlawed. In almost every case, the lawmakers in these states and countries have enforced a blanket ban on ‘games of chance’.

Where it is illegal, poker has been categorized under this umbrella term, which as we know, is incorrect. In 2012 a judge in New York even ruled that poker is a game of skill rather than chance, tossing out the conviction of a Staten Island man accused of illegally gambling whilst playing poker.

A similar ruling has been made by a judge in Idaho

This ruling set a precedent in New York which has made it more difficult for lawmakers to prosecute poker players or those that organize card games. In many other territories with a similar stance toward poker, there have been no such rulings.

However, if more and more people make the argument to lawmakers that poker is a game of skill rather than chance, we could well see a policy u-turn from many governmental bodies resulting in the widespread legalization of poker. That is an outcome, that is, unfortunately, all down to chance.


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