Three reasons why poker is a game of skill

Posted by Steve Ruddock on Oct 19, 2011 Posted in Op-Ed | No Comments »

Determining if a game is predominately skill or luck is a tricky endeavor, since even the most skillful players in the “skillful” game like blackjack cannot overcome the house advantage without resorting to card-counting. Poker on the other hand possesses enough of a skill advantage for practitioners to turn a profit –unless the “house” take is so much as to make the game unbeatable.

You can purposely lose in poker

This argument doesn’t get enough lip-service in my opinion, considering it’s the easiest to understand. In Roulette you simply place a wager and the ball is dropped: In craps you place your bets and the dice are thrown: But in poker there are multiple decisions that have to be made along the way and a player (if they so choose) can decide to play poorly and lose all of their money.

There really is no better argument that poker is a game of skill than the capability of losing on purpose.

Statistics don’t lie: Good players win

Even though statistics can be cherry-picked and manipulated (which many opponents of online poker like to do) in the end it’s clearly the better players who win money in poker. Even the losing players know this, and they choose to play not because they feel they are equally skilled, but because they enjoy the challenge poker offers –hell, the Miami Dolphins don’t simply forfeit when they face the New England Patriots!

The great thing about serious poker players is that they keep meticulous records, and even better; in the age of Internet poker it would be possible for sites to release data on players (if the player agreed of course), which could prove that certain players are long-term winners in poker.


Poker is a game of odds and percentages, even the most mathematically deficient person can be shown the chances of making a flush on the river compared to the ratio of the current bet and the amount of money in the pot. These percentages are just further proof that despite the “luck” involved through the use of a deck of cards, skilled practitioners have an edge over unskilled ones.

Many opponents point to the randomness of the cards, but this is the only way the game can be played! Realistically, do these people only want to play card games where all the information is available? Is chess the only “game of skill” in existence?

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