Run a quick web search for "Is poker a game of skill?" and you’ll find dozens of sources. This is, of course, a subjective question. But there is also ample evidence to support the proposition that the classic game of poker is unlike many other casino favorites when it comes to the matter of skill, While success at typical casino offerings such as keno and roulette clearly require luck and little more, unique skills and some experience enable talented poker players to be successful even during runs of bad luck.
Great poker pros such as Doyle Brunson, Chris Ferguson, Barry Greenstein and others have years of experience calculating odds and reading their opponents tendencies. And most of these successful pros teach that success at poker is up to 90% skill and only 10% luck. Other knowledgeable estimates put the contribution of skill to success at poker anywhere from 60% to 80%, with luck accounting for the balance.
At www.newscientist.com, the web site for the weekly international science magazine New Scientist, it is clear that answering this question of whether poker is a game of skill with mathematics is difficult if not impossible. New studies, however, do indicate that skill plays a much more significant part in success at poker than was previously thought. Even so, the game is still regulated just like all other games of chance such as keno and roulette.
In Germany, two researchers tracked the play of more than 50,000 players in an attempt to answer the question about skill in poker. After monitoring some 13 hours of online play the researchers determined that skill does indeed lead to greater success in terms of both win/loss percentage and average value of money won or lost. But still the question persists: Is poker a game of skill?
Another study of more than 100 million hands showed that in 75% of the hands the winner was determined before a showdown. This observation again comes down on the side of the argument that skill plays the most important role. Here, one of the players was able to force the other player to fold because of his manipulation of the betting process. Since the actual value of the two hands never came into play, this would seem to be clear evidence of the value of skill in poker.
Some experts, most notably the legendary poker pro Amarillo Slim, don’t believe in luck at all. They believe that, while players may have some streaks where the cards seem to flow in their direction, the skill involved still represents at least 90% of the outcome. Indeed most experts believe that both skill and luck influence the game, but that when playing the same card/player situation over an extended period of time skill and experience will win the vast majority of the time. Again, the people with the most experience continue to call poker a game of skill.
Perhaps the final word on this brief look at whether or not poker is a game of skill should be given to the academics. In Science Daily, an online news source featuring news and articles submitted by universities and other research institutions, Michael DeDonno of Case Western Reserve University writes that the evidence in favor of skill is strong enough to have an effect on the gaming industry as well as on legal cases. His work shows that players with sound strategy and even a basic knowledge about a good poker hand will succeed a vast majority of the time. While most seem to agree that skill plays a bigger part in success at poker than luck, the question of whether poker is a game of skill will continue to be debated wherever players gather. Your best option is simply to play this great game long enough so that you can feel competent enough to answer the question yourself.