Poker, ‘A game of chance or skill’?

Wed / April / 2017


“The thing itself was no misfortune at all; to endure it and prevail is great good fortune” the words of Marcus Aurelis from the Lessons from Meditations are apt for the good poker players. Someone has rightly said that two kinds of players exist in the game of cards, Poker ‘Winning and Good’. Adequate time and number of hands are needed to be a ‘winning player’ whereas a good one is always trickier and dwells over the game, the way others are playing and tries to evaluate his or her position at the table. A winning player might not always be a good player and at the same time, it is not difficult to spot a performing player who is great at the table. The key question is whether chance overpowers skill or the latter overpowers the former.
Out of all the works submitted by great scholars the work of Robert Hannum, “Economics of Poker: The Effect of Systemic Chance” (2012) is one of the most extensive researches made to understand what matters more in this game, chance or skill. Hannum is a professor of risk analysis and gambling at the University of Denver, who conducted a study on one billion online hands of Texas Hold’em and found that 85.2% hands were freezed upon without showing the cards. The rest were won by players who did not have a good hand but convinced their opponent that they have through deception. Hannum clearly concluded that “Skill is the driving force behind the economic outcome of Texas Hold’em rather than chance”.
Apart from this another survey was steered by Rogier J. D. Potter van Loon , Martijn J. van den Assem and Dennie van Dolder, which got published in PLOS One with the header; Beyond Chance?The Persistence of Performance in Online Poker. The research was done by observing the hands of 600,000 million online players. They just considered No Limit Texas Hold’Em as it is the most popular variant of Poker. The study clearly showed that skill dominates over chance in Poker. After analysing the yearly performance of a set of players it was found that the ones who ranked higher in profitability continued to perform well consistently whereas bad performers hardly ever made up to the top rounds.
Levitt and Miles analysed a set of data, which contained the detailed rankings of the players in WSOP Tournament. (World Series of Poker,2010) The report proved that a priori skilled players performed better than the rest.
The above-mentioned reports testify that in this game of cards, skill matters more than chance. Victory in this game does not happen with the flip of cards but the decisions made by the players in the game.